Christmas Gift Guide 3 of 3

By Jim Dean, December 19, 2015

What better way to mark the last weekend before Christmas than with putting up part 3 of our Christmas gift guide, for all your book-buying needs?

For the creative type

Colour Me Mindful series by Anastasia Catris – There are a huge amount of great colouring books out there aimed at adults and teens rather than younger children now, but this is easily my favourite series. Artist Anastastia Catris has created lots of gorgeous pictures over the six books published this year and it’s an impressive variety of complicated and simpler patterns, meaning there’s one for whatever mood you’re in. In addition the excellent paper quality means you can use pencils or pens; not something that’s true of all of these books. Everything in this series is beautiful but Enchanted Creatures is perhaps my absolute favourite.

Doodle-A-Day by Chris Riddell – Riddell’s pledge, on becoming Children’s Laureate, to get people drawing daily led to this stunning book. While again there’s lots of similar ones around this really does stand out – there’s a mixture of blank spaces with prompts, and half-drawn things in Riddell’s wonderfully original style to be completed. It’s a brilliant book from one of the most talented illustrators out there and, as if that wasn’t a good enough reason to buy it, it’s also helping to raise money for the fabulous BookTrust!

For the romance lover

Simon Vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli – One of the very best debuts of the year, this gay romance about a boy who’s flirting via e-mail with an unknown guy from his school is utterly charming. When a peer of his finds out about the budding relationship and starts to blackmail him, main character Simon is left trying to fend off his demands as well as figure out for himself just who the mysterious Blue is. Simon is a wonderful character, the chemistry between him and Blue is amazing, it’s a light read despite the blackmail elements, and the supporting cast – particularly Simon’s family – is especially strong.

Love Hurts by various authors, edited by Malorie Blackman – This anthology mainly contains extracts from some of the best YA love stories of recent years, so is perhaps best-suited to people as big fans of books for this age range may well have already read a lot of them. That said, the half a dozen original short stories in here are so outstanding that it’s a worthwhile recommendation for them alone – in particular Susie Day’s gorgeous lesbian love story Tumbling and Laura Dockrill’s Gentlewoman, about a transgender girl returning to the school which she’d previously attended as a boy, are up there with a few from Duet Books’s Summer Love anthology as my favourite short stories of the year.

For reluctant and less confident readers

The Wickford Doom by Chris Priestley – This shows that a true master of tales of terror needs very few words to be seriously scary. Published by Barrington Stoke, who specialise in books for dyslexic and reluctant readers, this is brilliantly paced and Priestley packs a lot of thrills and chills into a 96 page book. Harry and his mother think they’ve inherited a bequest from a relative in the war after his father’s death, but find themselves the victims of a dying man’s last prank. As disappointing as this is, things take a turn for the worse when Harry sees a strange painting called The Doom and hears tales of missing children – can he fight back against it? Priestley’s character development here is really great considering the short length of the book; as ever with Barrington Stoke it’s a book that will appeal to less confident readers, and Vladimir Stankovic’s stunning chapter headings have him firmly on my list of illustrators to seek out more from.

One by Sarah Crossan – Like The Wickford Doom, this obviously isn’t JUST for reluctant readers – Crossan’s breathtaking verse novel about conjoined twins Grace and Tippi is a powerful read and, for me, one of the very best books of the year. It’s lyrical and heartbreaking, and narrator Grace has a brilliant voice. It’s also interesting, though, that when I’ve talked to school librarians about this book, one of the common themes to emerge has been the sense of achievement experienced by normally less-confident readers taking out a hardback book that looks reasonably big and then finishing it. While Crossan’s language definitely isn’t simple, the novel’s short length makes it more accessible to struggling readers than many others in the age range.

What do you think?