Plenty of books for your kids to cherish this Christmas

Child-friendly characters and superb artwork combine to ensure there are loads of books on offer for younger children this festive season, writes Mary Arrigan

BOOKS for younger children just get better and better. Child-friendly characters, affectionate storylines, superb artwork and, above all, a mixture of adventure and fun. This Christmas kaleidoscope of books will be cherished and read again and again, featuring adopted and lost cats, music, poetry and the world of super trains. For preschoolers to eight-year-olds.

Lulu Gets A Cat by Anna McQuinn and Rosalind Beardshaw. (Alanna Books €13.40 HB)

A toy cat was never going to satisfy Lulu who wants to care for a real one. At the shelter she falls for a little black cat and heads home to prepare for her arrival. The cat easily settles down in her new home, helped by Lulu’s excellent care and soon the pair are inseparable. Lulu is a delightful creation and a fitting vehicle for children to emulate her wholehearted approach in preparing a suitable cat habitat. Adopting Makeda, called after an African Queen, has been a blessing for both Lulu and the cat.

The Little Lost Cat’s Big Adventure In Kilkenny by Carol Ann Treacy (www.carolann €10)

In this new and exciting debut Carol Ann has created lovable characters, and brought a sense of magic to the medieval city of Kilkenny. A lost cat seeks safety in the branches of a tall tree where she immediately falls asleep. An owl inadvertently sends her tumbling to the ground, and full of apologies offers to help. The ensuing flight over Kilkenny is a masterpiece of design and colour, with lovely little asides from other creatures of the night. Preschoolers will love this adventure story with its tale of an unlikely friendship between polar opposites.

The Night Gardener by The Fan Brothers (Frances Lincoln €15.30 HB)

This is an atmospheric blend of magic and realism, mysterious but not dark. Young William wakes one morning to find a tree sculpted in the shape of an owl. Soon new shapes appear — cats, rabbits, elephants, and even a terrifying dragon. When William spots an unfamiliar figure walking near Grimloch Lane he follows him and soon strikes up a friendship. The mysterious Night Gardener teaches William about topiary so that when spring comes round again William will be ready to carry on his work. The illustrations changing from grey graphite to full colour mirror the change in the neighbours’ attitudes to one another.

There Is No Dragon In This Story by Lou Carter and Deborah Allwright (Bloomsbury €7.80)

This is a clever, hilarious take on traditional fairy tales as a dragon attempts to catapult himself as hero into any story. He is rejected by the Gingerbread man, The Three Little Pigs, Goldilocks, and even Hansel and Gretel. No place for fierce dragons in those stories he is told. He interferes once too often, though, and is captured by the Giant at the top of the beanstalk. When the giant’s sneeze blows out the sun, maybe Dragon could now be in a story!

Lindbergh. Sceal Luchoige a D’eitil by Torben Kuhlmann (Futa Fata €14.95)

A brave, adventurous, well-read mouse in Germany notices the decline in mouse numbers and unsuccessfully tries to stow away on a liner to America. Mouse then constructs a primitive aircraft drawing on his encyclopedic knowledge of engineering and flightcraft, and after a few hair-raising encounters with owls finally reaches America. He is lionised by the press and in a lovely touch a young boy called Lindbergh sees a photo of the mouse and ironically is inspired himself to become a star aviator. The sepia-toned illustrations are masterful.Though the Irish text would be suitable for age 7, the story can be followed from the illustrations alone.

The Story Orchestra: The Nutcracker by Jessica Courtney-Tickle (Frances Lincoln €16.70 HB)

Two aspects of this book will enthral young readers: the beautiful warm Christmassy illustrations, and the music itself available at the press of a button. Uncle Drosselmeyer brings presents of dolls and a nutcracker and the rest is history. But hearing the music of the dance, the battle between the mice and the soldiers, and the dance of the reed flutes is pure magic. All is explained in the glossary with a note on Tchaikovsky and a reminder where the sounds happen in the story.

A Sailor Went To Sea. Favourite Rhymes From An Irish Childhood, O’Brien (€16.95 HB)

In Giraffe, by Aislinn and Larry O’Loughlin, an owl explains that ‘a giraffe’s head is so far from his body that he has to have a long neck.’ Now we know! Other animals feature prominently, with some dire warnings that a crocodile is always ‘ready for his dinner’. We learn that the beetle an old lady is using has no connection with an insect as it is a mallet which she uses to pound her meal into shape. A ghost’s sandwich from Beware The Ghouls’s Lunchbox by Lucinda Jacob, is made from ‘barely there bread.’ An ideal introduction to poetry.

Legendary Journeys -Trains by Mike Goldsmith and Sebastian Quigley (QED €20.50)

A pullout of Robert Stephenson’s Planet, which was chosen to make the first journey on The Liverpool and Manchester line, creates a sumptuously illustrated panorama over two feet wide. The Orient Express is featured in all its glory stopping at Milan on its 300 kilometre journey. Lift-flaps reveal the comfort and the luxurious restaurant. Electric trains and Japanese speed-merchants also feature.There are interesting information bites on each page: the earliest carriages used in American trains were designed like stagecoaches; the speed of early freight trains could only be controlled by brakes.This iconic interactive non-gadgety book would be for keeps.


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