Christmas is fast approaching so If you are still looking for last minute presents or ideas for keeping children occupied over the festive period, here are a few children’s non-fiction, young adult books that might fit the bill plus some adult titles that you might enjoy.
How to Draw Nativity
Written and Illustrated by Steve Smallman
Lion Hudson £8.99
A series of clear, step by step visual instructions, show how to draw different nativity
characters so that by the end, a child will have created a complete nativity. The book
includes a sketch pad and the nativity story itself. I had a go and produced some very
passable pictures. A great gift for a child who loves to draw (7+)
Written by Matt Oldfield
Illustrated by Ollie Mann
Wren & Rook £6.99
A fascinating compilation of true stories about the game of football. It includes well known stories like the Christmas Day truce when German and English soldiers stopped fighting and shared Christmas and a game of football to lesser known stories like the goalie who saved two crucial goals with a broken neck. Divided into six story sections, each contains a Weird and Wonderful story and there is a good references section to enable children to explore each story further. (9+)
A Giant Dose of Gross
Written by Andy Seed, I
llustrated by Claire Almon,
QED Publishing. ISBN: 978-0711243507
A follow on from The Clue is in the Poo, this time the king of fun and disgusting facts looks at some of nature’s most disgusting creatures. From puking vultures and farting goats to stinky opossums who pretend to be dead, this title includes disgusting but enlightening facts exploring each animal’s unusual skills and how they use them to survive.
It has been a very strong year for Young Adult fiction and here are just a couple that I’ve really enjoyed.
That Asian Kid
Written by Savita Kalhan
Troika ISBN: 978-1909991972
What do you do if you witness your favourite teacher kissing and in a compromising position with the teacher that you dislike the most and the one you think treats you unfairly and gives you really low marks because of racism. Fifteen-year-old Jeevan films it and then facesthe dilemma – should he post it on social media even though to get Mrs Greaves in trouble might also get Mr Green in trouble too. A fantastic read, which shines a light on the impact of social media, makes some thought provoking points about racism, has a great cast of characters and is both humorous and cranks up the tension. For ages 14+
I will not be erased
Written by gal-dem
Walker Books ISBN: 978-1406386370
An incredibly powerful collection of essays, reflecting the stories of women of colour
growing up in a world that made them feel erased. Written by members of gal-dem, an
award winning online and print magazine, created by and for women and non-binary people of colour, this book reflects some of their stories. Featuring fourteen stories about identity, sexuality, family, love and power, each is written from that authors perspective of looking back, reflecting and writing to her younger teenage self, offering an adult perspective on life then and now and the journey in between. The essays are re-assuring, powerful, emotional..
Some of the themes covered are hard hitting e.g. drug taking, virginity, sex and sexuality but they are very relevant to all young people. The book begins with a letter from two of gal-dem editors explaining that the book was written because it’s one they wishes they could have read when they were growing up and struggling to cope with their erasure from books, film, TV and the world they lived in, while dealing with the racism and sexism they were exposed to and experiencing. An interesting biography of the contributors is featured at the back along with a useful help and information section. I found this to be a thought provoking, challenging and inspirational read. Its subject matter is at times quite hard hitting but it has significant place and relevance for today’s young people. For age 14+
And what about us? – the adults, the parents, the librarians who want to curl up at some point over Christmas with a glass of something, a mince pie and a good book. Most of my adult reading is non-fiction and I’m particularly interested in American history and politics, criminology and biography as well as crime fiction. Here are a few of the adult books that I’ve enjoyed – just in case there are any kindred spirits out there with similar tastes to me.
Reading and Rebellion An Anthology of Radical Writing for Children 1900 – 1960
Edited by Kimberley Reynolds, Jane Rosen, Michael Rosen
Oxford University Press ISBN: 978-0198806189
It’s always fascinating to look at children’s literature from different perspectives, seeking and gaining new understanding, especially when edited by three authors with excellent pedigree and a preface by Polly Toynbee. This is exactly what Reading & Rebellion offers. It’s an anthology that brings together writings reflecting left wing radical perspectives from 1900 – 1960. It includes extracts from children’s fiction, non-fiction, plays, cartoons, poetry, newspaper pieces and Russian storybooks in translation, exploring how they shaped the authors themselves and other children who read them. Each of the fourteen thematic sections and individual pieces has an introduction, setting its context and history and bringing the extracts to life. Each extract is interesting on its own but looked at as a whole, they give a picture of the impact that children’s literature can have on culture and its potential influence on child readers. A thoughtful, thought provoking and thoroughly enjoyable book, to be dipped in and out of and returned to many times. It could be a valuable tool to spark discussions with young people, particularly as our world feels like it is moving further and further to the right, with ever increasing speed. It definitely makes readers want to go back and re-read with fresh eyes, books by writers such as Geoffrey Trease and Eleanor Farjeon.
A Year at the Circus: Inside Trump’s White House
Written by Jon Soppel
BBC Books ISBN: 978-1785944376
Jon Soppel is the BBC North America Editor and I loved his first book If Only They Didn’t Speak English. In this new book he takes the reader inside Trump’s West Wing and explores the impact that Trump’s presidency is having. It is a brilliant look at the chaos, subterfuge, relationship breakdowns that takes place on what seems like an almost daily basis. I couldn’t put it down.
Written by Peter Everett and Kris Hollington
Icon Books ISBN: 978-1785785528
Peter Everett used to be the Mortuary Superintendent at Southwark, the busiest mortuary in the country. This is his story of life in the London death industry. In his time there he dealt with over 1,200 deaths, 400 of which were murders and some very high profile ones such as the Stockwell Strangler murders. He also performed the post mortems for a number of notorious East End gangster’s and Hitler’s confidant Albert Speer. An absolutely fascinating look at this subject – gruesome, mind boggling – I was hooked from page 1.
Librarian’s Night Before Christmas
By David Davis
Illustrated by Jim Harris
Pelican Books ISBN: 978-1 589803367
My all time favourite Christmas book is Twas the Night Before Christmas. Every year I buy a new version of it and on Christmas Eve, I read it to my husband. One of my favourite versions is the one illustrated by Christian Birmingham and published by Harper Collins but no longer in print. I also love The Librarian’s Christmas and I re-read my copy every Christmas and I still enjoy it even though it also makes me sad to think we are experiencing these things more and more in our libraries. It’s a story in rhyme, telling how due to low staffing and reducing budgets, a librarian must spend her Christmas Eve, stocking shelves at her library which is in desperate need of refurbishment. After the strain of a long night that has left her feeling “like Bob Cratchet in A Christmas Carol”, she is so happy to see Santa and his elves coming to her rescue in their red book mobile. The illustrations are superb and I love the closing lines which Santa makes as he takes off again in his book mobile “Nick boomed from his book van – do one more good deed. Have a real Merry Christmas – teach someone to read”
So enjoy what time you manage to get for reading over these holidays, I hope Santa brings you some great reading material and I wish you all a very Happy Christmas and a peaceful New Year.
Authors Aloud UK