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The best of 2013's books for kids

Simply add a bit of imagination and you've got an unforgettable Christmas present for every age group

 (© Rob Greig)
1/13
© Rob Greig

Blown Away

Rob Biddulph. HarperCollins, £12.99.
Age 3-6

This debut picture book packs a mighty graphic punch, as you might expect from an author whose day job is art director of the Observer Magazine. Told in captivating rhyme, with plenty of jokes sprinkled through the text and illustrations, Biddulph’s tale is a travelling adventure. A gang of Arctic pals is swept away to a tropical jungle, where wanderlust is soon replaced by longing for home comforts (an igloo, a hot water bottle and a lava lamp, in Penguin Blue’s case). Their new fair-weather pals help them get back, but is that a cheeky stowaway in the dinghy?

Taster ‘‘Oh what a fix! Oh my! Oh me! The gang are flying out to sea!’

Buy 'Blown Away'

2/13

When I Grow Up…

Patrick George. PatrickGeorge Books, £8.99.
Age 18 months+

An interactive book which features a clever trick between adjacent pages: a sheet of transparent acetate printed with a design that transforms the picture when it is flipped back. In the double-page spread above, the acetate is printed with the stripy bag, which folds back to become an apron for the girl.

Taster 'When I grow up, I want to be… a pilot… a tennis player… a zoo keeper.'

Buy 'When I Grow Up...'

 (© Rob Greig)
3/13
© Rob Greig

Peck Peck Peck

Lucy Cousins. Walker Books, £11.99.
Age 3+

Once his papa shows him how to peck, the little woodpecker goes into overdrive practising his new skill. Bold outlines, primary colours and the large format make the pages pop, and little fingers can trace the bird’s destructive trail in tactile cut-out holes.

Taster ‘I peck the soap, the blue shampoo/I peck the sink, I peck the loo.’

Buy 'Peck Peck Peck'

4/13

Zubert

Charlie Sutcliffe. Tate Publishing, £11.99.
Age 3+

Inspired by the author's fascination with the Savoy Hotel, of all places, this tale of the discovery of a zoo hidden behind the scenes at the exclusive address features an extravagantly realised secret world with madcap creatures and unique illustrations. A visually distinctive book with cartoonish situations that will delight young imaginations: monkeys gone bananas, buffalos in the lobby and an octupus in the swimming pool.

Taster '"Oh me!" gasped Zubert. "Oh my!" cried Frank. "On no!" shouted the rest of the Spinglefranks, "what can we do?". Zubert knew a thing or two about monkeys. "Bananas!" he crried, "monkeys love bananas!"

Buy 'Zubert'

 (© Rob Greig)
5/13
© Rob Greig

Where Do We Go When We Disappear?

Isabel Minhós Martins & Madalena Matoso. Tate Publishing, £8.99.
Age 5+

Socks, the sun, and people too have a tendency to disappear – the question is where do they go? Raising more questions than it answers, this intriguing gem taps into kids’ natural curiosity about the world and comes up with a whimsical primer in philosophy. Irresistible illustrations by Madalena Matoso draw the eye on a parallel graphic journey through the book.

Taster ‘And where does everyone go at night-time? Some people go home to sleep. Others go out to dance. Others do a little dancing in their sleep. It’s better than nothing…’

Buy 'Where Do We Go When We Disappear?'

 (© Rob Greig)
6/13
© Rob Greig

The Big Book of Anorak

Cathy Olmedillas. Anorak Press, £18.99.
Age 5+

Sandwiches with faces? Wacky drawing projects? Awesome adventures in alliteration? This compendium of stories and activities from Anorak magazine has them all. Children aged five and upwards will get hours of creative fun from it, and the dynamic design will appeal just as much to adults.

Taster ‘Anorak’s new words include Flimpypop – Something that makes you crazy. Now invent your own. Start using them and see if they catch on.’

Buy 'The Big Book of Anorak'

 (© Taschen)
7/13
© Taschen

The Fairy Tales of Hans Christian Andersen

Noel Daniel (Ed). Taschen, £24.99.

This beautiful cloth-bound collection makes for a gift that the whole family will treasure. Assembled by art book publisher Taschen, the tome would be just at home on the coffee table as by the bedside. All the classics are here, from 'The Snow Queen' and 'The Little Mermaid' to 'The Ugly Duckling' and 'The Emperor's New Clothes', accompanied by a sumptuous variety of illustrations dating from the 1840s to the 1980s. One that will be cherished for years to come. (Note: Fairy tales can be dark, so adults are advised to read them in advance to decide whether they are suitable for their children.)

Taster 'It was so beautiful out on the country, it was summer – the wheat fields were golden, the oats were green, and down among the green meadows the hay was stacked. There the stork minced about on his red legs, clacking away in Egyptian, which was the language his mother had taught him. Round about the field and meadow lands rose vast forests, in which deep lakes lay hidden. Yes, it was indeed lovely out there in the country.' (From 'The Ugly Duckling'.)

Buy 'The Fairy Tales of Hans Christian Andersen'

 (© Agnese Sanvito)
8/13
© Agnese Sanvito

The Super Book for Superheroes

Jason Ford. Laurence King, £9.95.
Age 6+

Acting as a jumping off point for children's drawing projects, this bright book provides ideas to spark their imaginations and space for them to create their own superhero sketches. There are also two pages of stickers, two masks and a cardboard mascot to assemble.

Taster 'Draw a superhero's sub-aquatic HQ on the ocean floor. How would it look?'

Buy 'The Super Book for Superheroes'

 (© Rob Greig)
9/13
© Rob Greig

Captain Nemo

Dave Eggers. Pushkin Children’s Books, £14.99.
Age 7-10.

For the Save the Story series that this title is part of, contemporary authors were asked to reimagine their favourite classic adult tales for young readers. Ideal for reading aloud to children aged seven to ten, this tome transplants Jules Verne’s ‘Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea’ to modern times, with a 14-year-old narrator who is called upon to help his oceanographer uncle hunt down a mysterious sea-monster. Other titles in the series that is an accessible way to introduce kids to literary classics, include Sophocles's Ancient Greek drama 'Antigone' retold by Ali Smith, and Swift's 'Gulliver's Travels' adapted by Jonathan Coe.

Taster ‘When we reached the [underwater] forest, the seaweed was as high as redwoods. The stalks were a hundred feet high, the fronds twenty feet long. I'd never seen seaweed longer than ten feet, and if regular seaweed was home to tiny fishes, what did this mean? What kind of fish would make its home in such an enormous forest?… I worried that at any moment a mouth would pop out from the fronds and swallow me in two gulps.’

Buy 'Captain Nemo'

10/13

Architecture According to Pigeons

Speck Lee Tailfeather. £12.95, Phaidon, www.phaidon.com.
Age 7+

This book reveals that our feathered city dwellers, who could arguably be London's mascot creatures, are quite the connoiseurs of the buildings they perch atop. Flying across the globe, our grey guide introduces the architectural features of structures from the Sydney Opera House to Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater.

Taster '[The Shard] was designed by Renzo Piano, who describes it as "almost like a kaleidoscope, a mirror of London", and its pyramid shape is intended as a modern answer to the many church spires in the city.'

Buy 'Architecture According to Pigeons'

 (© 2013 Les Editions Albert Rene)
11/13
© 2013 Les Editions Albert Rene

Asterix and the the Picts

Jean Yves Ferri and Didier Conrad with Albert Uderzo. Orion Books, £10.99.
Age 8+

Everyone's favourite Gaul is back is back roaming the Roman world, with his trusty sidekick Obelix and a flask full of magic potion. A new writing team have taken over the gauntlet from the original creators, Albert Uderzo and the late René Goscinny. This latest adventure, which takes our heroes to Scotland, is the thirty-fifth in the comic book series that draws kids (and nostalgic adults) into action-packed historical worlds with characteristic puns – the druid who dispenses the legendary brew is called Getafix, the village elder is dubbed Geriatrix.

Taster 'By Toutatis! Nessie is going under… Taking Getafix's elixir with her!

Buy 'Asterix and the the Picts'

 (© Rob Greig)
12/13
© Rob Greig

The Future King

Tom Huddleston. David Fickling Books, £14.99.
Age 11+

An Arthurian adventure set in a dystopian future, Time Out Film writer Tom Huddleston’s YA novel should keep the 11-plus contingent absorbed through the holidays with its epic storytelling.

Taster ‘They called it the Moon of the Wolf. It was rising now, over the crest of the ridge beyond the river, gleaming silver-grey through a fast-closing gap in the clouds. The third new moon after Exmus, the dying days of winter. The most treacherous time of all.’

Buy 'The Future King'

 (© Rob Greig)
13/13
© Rob Greig

How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

Dr Seuss. HarperCollins, £12.99.
All ages

The wacky verses of this Christmas classic have cross-generational appeal – the rhythms entrance the youngest of tots, older kids get a kick out of the humour and it's entertaining enough that adults won't mind reading it aloud again and again. This hardback version has a striking embossed cover that makes it perfect for gifting.

Taster 'The Grinch hated Christmas! The whole Christmas season!
Now, please don't ask why. No one quite knows the reason.
It could be his head wasn't screwed on just right.
It could be perhaps that his shoes were too tight.
But I think that the most likely reason of all
May have been that his heart was two sizes too small.'

Buy 'How the Grinch Stole Christmas!'

Festive fun for your young ones

Outdoor ice rinks

Get your skates on: London's outdoor ice rinks Popular events this week Lord Mayor's Show and Fireworks 2013 The flamboyant procession involves thousands of people from a huge variety of London organisations and hundreds of horses, along with marching bands and floats. Starting from Mansion House at 11am, it winds its way through the historic streets of the Square Mile to the Royal Courts of Justice on the Strand. At 11.45am the State Coach leaves Guildhall and travels to Mansion House to pick up the new Lord Mayor, joining the procession near the back. Going out, the parade travels past St Paul’s Cathedral, where the Lord Mayor will pause to receive a blessing. On the way back, between 1pm and 2.30pm, the route goes via Embankment. It’s not Boris who’s the centre of attention on this occasion. The new mayor being celebrated is the annually elected ambassador of the City of London. In 2013 the incumbent is leading lawyer Fiona Woolf, only the second woman ever to hold the post (the first, Mary Donaldson, served from 1983 to 1984). What began as a reassuringly public way for the Lord Mayor to swear an oath of loyalty to King John had become a popular pageant by the sixteenth century. It featured in Pepys’s diaries and in works by Canaletto and Hogarth. Originally, the mayor travelled by river; later he rode on horseback – until 1711, when Sir Gilbert Heathcote fell off and broke his leg. The magnificent State Coach subsequently commissioned from

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By: Time Out London Things To Do

Santa's grottos

Christmas in London Discover all the festive activities to be enjoyed in London this Christmas, including markets, Christmas lights, pantomimes and carols. What could make Christmas more magical than an encounter with Father Christmas himself? Find out where to meet the man in red this winter with Time Out's guide to Santa's Christmas grottos in London. Santa's grottos in London The London Zoo Christmas Journey What sets this grotto apart from the rest is that your little ones can actually meet Santa’s reindeer – adding that extra touch of magic and wonder. In the daily keeper’s talk, you’ll find out why the critters all have to be of the female persuasion. Of course they’ll also meet Father Christmas, and carousel rides and other animal demonstrations complete the experience. Make sure to book your tickets in advance. Harrods Christmas Grotto Christmas shopping while dragging grumbling children behind is hardly going to put you in the festive spirit. Luckily, Harrods Christmas Grotto is back this season to give your little ones magical memories – and give your shopping schedule a little breathing room as you take a break with your kiddies. New this year is the 'Pre-School Experience', specifically for tots under four: just like the 'Classic Experience' for the bigger kids, the sessions give toddlers a chance to meet Father Christmas and take home a Harrods book, badge and Christmas chocolate (Mon-Fri 10am-11:30am, throughout November). You ca

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By: Time Out London Things To Do

Christmas theatre for kids

Help make Christmas even more magical while they're still gullible with a festive theatre show created especially with small people in mind. Christmas in London Discover all the festive activities to be enjoyed in London this Christmas, including markets, Christmas lights, pantomimes and carols. See our guide to Christmas in London Christmas shows for kids (5-8 years) Alice's Adventures in Wonderland When she falls down the rabbit hole, Alice discovers a strange fantasy world, with Cheshire cats and mad march hares. Simon Reade's thrilling adaptation of Lewis Carroll's classic features original songs. Ages 6+. Cinderella: A Fairytale Travelling Light and the Bristol Tobacco Factory's fiesty take on the story of Cinderella gave the St James Theatre an enchanting 2012 Christmas show, which was nominated for an Olivier Award. Lisa Kerr was wonderful as Ella, a young girl who takes solace in her woodland bird friends after her father remarries. She's not named in the current publiicty, so presumably a cast change is likely, though the fact she performed here earlier this year in Complicite's 'Lionboy' gives us some hope. Ages 6+. Christmas Claytime Encourage your kids to make up theatre of their own by taking them to this show from Indefinite Articles. Sally Brown and Steve Tiplady perform this Christmas treat which is created with the help of audience members who share their ideas. Ages 7 and under. Dickens Abridged This fast-paced musical comedy sprints through Charles Dicken

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By: Andrzej Lukowski

Christmas lights in London

We're still hearing which 'celebrities' and pop 'artists' will be flicking the switch to light up London's high streets this Christmas and when they'll do it, and will continue to add to this page as we receive news. In the meantime, satisfy your festive decoration cravings with our gallery of lights from Christmases past. Christmas in London Discover all the festive activities to be enjoyed in London this Christmas, including markets, Christmas lights, pantomimes and carols. See our guide to Christmas in London More festive features Ice skating in London With the advent of winter, atmospheric ice rinks pop up all over London. Get your skates on!Read more Christmas shows and pantos Pantomimes, family shows and something a little more alternative for theatrical delights this DecemberRead more London's Christmas lights See London at its dazzling best as it reveals its decorations for the festive periodRead more Christmas markets and fairs Wrap up your festive shopping with London's Christmas markets and fairsRead more Santa's grottos What could make Christmas more magical than an encounter with Father Christmas himself?Read more Christmas carol concerts Get into the seasonal spirit with a rousing chorus or two at one of these festive carol concertsRead more Christmas party venues London venues that are ready and waiting to help you have a good time this winterRead more Where to buy a Christmas tree Will you be going for real fir? Here's our guide to getting the perfect tree

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By: Time Out London Things To Do

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