The following article comes from primary consultant Kate Heap, who shares her top picks for this festive season.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year and the school Christmas break is almost upon us. That means lots of times for resting, relaxing and reading! What could be better than settling down with some fantastic festive stories?

Reading together is a special way for families to connect and create memories.  With fewer events and demands on our time this holiday season, it would be wonderful for teachers to encourage parents and children to make time to share some of these brilliant books.

The Miracle on Ebenezer Street

by Catherine Doyle & illustrated by Pedro Riquelme (Puffin Books)

A magical snow globe, a purple reindeer, a grow-your-own Christmas pudding – The Miracle on Ebenezer Street is bursting with festive treats! This modern reimagining of A Christmas Carol will take the reader on an emotion-fuelled adventure. Hilarious, laugh-out-loud antics join heart-felt moments of dealing with loss and grief.

It’s George’s third Christmas without his mum. Since her death, his dad has banned all mention of Christmas in their house. Keeping busy with work, George’s dad is rarely home, leaving George with his wonderfully lovely (and slightly mischievous) Nana Flo. Sneaking off to a Christmas fair, George and Nana Flo make the most of the sights, sounds, smells and tastes before they have to return home to their sad, colourless life.  As they are about to leave, George comes across Marley’s Christmas Curiosities – the most amazing Christmas shop ever! Full of every Christmas item you could ever imagine and more, this shop is a Christmas lover’s dream! When George discovers a mysterious snow globe containing a scene from his past, he realises his life may never be the same again. Will George’s wishes come true? Will the colour return to their lives?  Will George and his dad ever be happy again?

It’s going to take some pretty powerful miracles and plenty of hints of Dickens to change three years of heartache. Watch out for Marley, Scrooge, Cratchit, Tiny Tim and even the year of publication in this magical tale.

The Miracle on Ebenezer Street is a powerful story of family, love and dealing with loss. It is so clear that everyone needs support in grief and that those who love us are always there – we can always reach out for help. It is wonderful to find such a fun festive story with so much substance. The Miracle on Ebenezer Street will definitely find a home in my children’s special Christmas book box.

The Good Bear

by Sarah Lean & illustrated by Fiona Woodcock (Simon & Schuster)

The Good Bear is a powerful story of trust, unusual friendships and understanding.

Twelve-year-old Thea travels to Norway to spend Christmas with her father and his family.  Leaving her mother and everything familiar behind, Thea must learn that Christmas is not about the traditions, what you do or what you eat, but about being together and accepting each other despite differences. Thea feels like an outsider in her father’s new life and longs to spend time with him – for him to understand her.

When this doesn’t happen, she runs off into the woods. It is here that Thea meets the most unlikely friend – a bear who is on the run from years of captivity and torture. Thea’s relationship with the bear teaches her about what is important in life. The magic and wonder of the bear is natural and so beautiful. Through their connection, Thea learns that what we wish for might not always be what we need.

This is a wonderful story for middle-grade readers longing to escape into adventure and the strength of nature. Inside these pages, there is a chance to find friendship and an understanding that we don’t need to face new situations alone. Someone is always there.

The Midnight Guardians

by Ross Montgomery & illustrated by David Dean (Walker Books)

Even when things seem at their darkest, there is always a flicker of light. The Midnight Guardians by Ross Montgomery is so much more than a story about the Second World War. It explores darkness, light, hope and love within layers and layers of meaning. Both the internal and external battles portrayed in this story will ring true with every reader on some level.

On the surface, it is the story of Col, an evacuee in the Peak District. Living with his Aunt Claire, 150 miles away from home, he is desperate for his sister, Rose, to join him for Christmas. At the last minute, she sends a message saying she’s unable to come so Col and his new friend Ruth set off on a dangerous journey with three magical guardians to reach Rose before London is destroyed.

A brave knight, a loyal badger and the most beautiful, powerful tiger are unlikely travelling companions but they understand Col, in fact, were created by him many years before and know better than anyone what needs to be done to keep him safe. Along the way, their adventures and the challenges they face reveal incredible truths about the world we live in.  The power of childhood imagination is ignited by a very special kind of magic that surpasses any evil in the world.

This is a timeless story, not just for December 1940 when it is set or even just for now in 2020 – it is a story for any time when the world seems too dark, when there is less magic in the world than there once was.

It is a story that lights a candle of hope and shows children how to conquer fear. It reassures them that they are always protected in a pocket of love and can achieve more than they ever possibly imagined. With charm, humour and a warm spirit, Col’s three guardians show him that heroes come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and that there is nothing stronger than the power of love, family and friendship.

Tinsel: The Girl Who Invented Christmas

by Sibeal Pounder & illustrated by Sarah Warburton (Bloomsbury Children’s Books)

Tinsel is a Christmas story for the 21st century. With a refreshing twist on the origin of the Santa Claus story, it shows just how much girls can do!

This is the story of Ms. Claus – an orphan named Blanche Claus, whose magical adventure results in the launch of the biggest Christmas undertaking ever. Back in 1875, Blanche hated Christmas. Life on the streets on London was cold and sad. But when a strange old woman gives her a magical, red bauble, everything changes.

Blanche meets the most extraordinary characters and through an unusual series of events, finds herself at North Pole. With gingerbread, mince pie picnics, an elf named Carol, and a fir tree named Eggnog, Blanche realises she has the power to make a positive difference in the world.

Tinsel is full of the magic of friendship and finding your kindred spirits. It is charming, overflowing with fun and stuffed full of creativity. Clever, strong girls are celebrated as they make their own dreams come true. They never give up and prove that determination can cause the most wonderful things to happen.

Luna

by Holly Webb & illustrated by Jo Anne Davies (Little Tiger)

Luna is a beautiful, Christmassy story about protecting animals and being true to what we believe is right. Hannah and her family are visiting the Christmas markets in Dresden, Germany. As they wander around, taking in all of the wonderful sights and smells, they come across a stall selling the loveliest carved decorations.

The stallholder shows Hannah a charming dancing bear and she instantly falls in love. It isn’t cute like a teddy bear but so realistic.  After convincing her parents to let her buy it, Hannah takes her new treasure back to their hotel. That night, she goes on the most amazing, magical adventure.

Not only is this a charming seasonal story, but it also presents readers with moral questions about performing animals and their treatment. Aspects of animal cruelty are discussed in a considered manner which is appropriate for younger readers. Children will need to question whether they think Hannah and her new friend, Matthias, are doing the right thing and what they would do in the same situation.

The illustrations are beautiful, bringing the realism of the bear and the historic setting to life. This is the perfect story for cuddling up with on a snowy afternoon.

The Clockwork Crow

by Catherine Fisher & illustrated by Anne Glenn (Firefly Press)

The Clockwork Crow is an engaging combination of Welsh folklore and clockwork magic. This gothic Christmas tale is a must-read for every fan of fairies, frost and mysteries.

Seren Rhys is an orphan who has lost everyone close to her. As she travels to live with her godfather and his family is a small village in Wales, she encounters a strange man who gives her an even stranger package.

When she arrives at the Victorian family home, it is not at all what she had been dreaming of. There is a strange feeling in the house – a secret sadness which she does not understand. With the help of a new, incredibly unusual friend, Seren decides to investigate and is shocked by what she discovers. In her quest to find out the truth, she is surrounded by magic and stories of fairies who control time.

The Clockwork Crow is a gripping tale with a unique, fascinating plot. Readers are compelled to turn the page for “just one more” chapter as they get lost in the chilling story. There is so much more to the  Tylwyth Teg (Welsh fairies) than first meets the eye. Readers are in for a treat as this is just the first book in an exciting trilogy of adventures with Seren and the Clockwork Crow!

When she arrives at the Victorian family home, it is not at all what she had been dreaming of. There is a strange feeling in the house – a secret sadness which she does not understand.

More Super Stocking Stuffers Published in 2020

by Vashti Hardy (Scholastic)

by Anna Hoghton (Chicken House Books)

by James Haddell (Emira Press)

by Sophie Wills (Macmillan Children’s Books)

by Eloise Williams (Firefly Press)

by Nizrana Farook (Nosy Crow)

You can find out more about these brilliant books and many others on my blog, Scope for Imagination.

Author

Kate Heap

Kate Heap is an experienced Primary English Consultant from Leeds. She is passionate about helping children to be inspired in their learning through adventure and imagination. Kate is also an author for teachers with her book, Reading the Classics at Key Stage Two.

Read more from Kate on her blog Scope for Imagination.

Follow Kate on Twitter – @KateHeap1.

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