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Young reading

AGES 6-9

MR PENGUIN AND THE FORTRESS OF SECRETS 
by Alex T Smith (Hodder)

Mr Penguin is an adventurer — he has a dashing hat, a packed lunch, and he’s very keen. His sidekicks are Colin the kung-fu spider, and Edith Hedge and her pigeon, Gordon. Together they are ready to take on the world. Illustrations to make you dance, very funny and action-packed, it’s the second book in the irresistable Mr Penguin series (the first was Mr Penguin and the Lost Treasure).

MALALA: MY STORY OF STANDING UP FOR GIRLS’ RIGHTS 
by Malala Yousafzai (Wren & Rook)

Malala’s bestselling memoir, adapted for younger readers. Brilliant for all sorts of reasons, it will teach your daughter (or son) about standing up for yourself, about standing up for your rights, about having grit and about what feminism truly means.

AGES 9-12

KWEZI 4, issues 10-12
by Loyiso Mkize et al
(David Philip)

The highly anticipated fourth volume of Kwezi, South Africa’s homegrown superhero, is here for Christmas. As always, the illustrations are to die for, and you can expect the usual action-packed drama: an anti-supers campaign, a showdown in the desert, and whole new crop of bad guys. And don’t go gender stereotyping here — this one’s for everyone.

INTO THE JUNGLE: STORIES FOR MOWGLI
by Katherine Rundell (Macmillan)

We’re huge fans of Katherine Rundell, who made her name with the wonderful novel for children, Rooftoppers. She hails from Southern African soil, which obviously makes us like her even more, and this magnificent weaving together of origin stories for all the characters of Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book is completely irresistible. Quite magnificent illustrations by Kristjana Williams.

MARY POPPINS
by PL Travers, illustrated by Lauren Child (HarperCollins)

Mercifully abridged for the iPhone generation, this hardback gift edition of Mary Poppins is just exquisitely illustrated by the super-talented Lauren Child, whom we all know from the quirky Charlie and Lola series for young kids. Our teenage children might just find this in their Christmas stockings — it’s that enchanting.

HOW THE WHALE BECAME, AND OTHER TALES OF THE EARLY WORLD
by Ted Hughes (Faber & Faber)

Trust us, you and your children need the magic and originality of Ted Hughes’s writings in your world. “Long ago when the world was brand new, before animals or birds, the sun rose into the sky and brought the first day. The flowers jumped up and stared round astonished. Then from every side, from under leaves and from behind rocks, creatures began to appear. In those days, the colours were much better than they are now, much brighter. And the air sparkled because it had never been used.” See?

THE RESTLESS GIRLS
by Jessie Burton
(Bloomsbury)

This is author Jessie Burton’s (yes, The Miniaturist) feminist take on a story she grew up with, The Twelve Dancing Princesses. It’s retold as a tale of sisterhood, imagination and bravery, and feisty, clever girls (not the insipid, nameless ones we grew up with). Beautifully illustrated by Angela Barrett.

THE LOST MAGICIAN 
by Piers Torday (Quercus)

Piers Torday made his name with the fantastic Last Wild fantasy trilogy. Master of the cliffhanger, his books are guaranteed to keep your child engrossed. Here, we have Simon, Patricia, Evelyn and Larry, who have survived the London Blitz, but when they step through a mysterious library door it is the start of their investigation into the Magician Project, and the beginning of their biggest adventure yet.

ANNE FRANK’S DIARY: THE GRAPHIC ADAPTATION
 adapted by Ari Folman, illustrations by David Polonksy (Penguin Viking)

Graphic novels are having a moment. This year we’ve seen everything from an Anne of Green Gables adaptation to Nick Drnaso’s Sabrina, the first graphic novel ever to be longlisted for the Booker prize. This is the first-ever graphic adaptation of the Anne Frank story and it is beautifully and sensitively written and illustrated. Magically, the modern style of the illustrations brings the teenage Anne Frank right into 2018. Perfect for reluctant readers, but definitely not only for them.

PLANETARIUM: WELCOME TO THE MUSEUM
by Raman Prinja, illustrated by Chris Wormell (Big Picture Press)

Worth every cent if you are looking for something exquisite and informative, and especially if you have the rest of the books in this stunning series (Botanicum, Animalium, Historium and Dinosaurium). Planetarium is pure magic and will take you and your young reader on a riveting intergalactic journey from the early days of astronomy to the end of the universe.

AGE 12+

A MAP OF DAYS
by Ransom Riggs (Penguin)

The fourth book in the best-selling Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children series carries the same haunted-vintage-photograph look that sets this series apart, but this time it’s in full colour. The Peculiars find themselves in Florida, going to the beach, having normalling lessons and doing their best to blend in. Except this is the Peculiars, and nothing is ever normal for very long.  

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