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Our Top 5 Christmas 2020 Reads for Young Children

Story telling is magical at any time of the year, but even more so at Christmas. Picture books are fantastic at conjuring up that sense of awe and wonder in Early Years during the festive season. They can bring a sense of excitement, surprise and amazement as the season unfolds.

There are so many fabulously festive books, from classics we would have read as a child to recently published offerings, some with a modern twist. Some have interactive elements such as flaps, peep throughs and paper craft whereas others rely on the text and illustrations to tell the story.

Here are our favourites that we’ll be sharing this Christmas….

1. Meerkat Christmas by Emily Gravett

This brilliantly comical picture book follows the adventures of Sunny the Meerkat and his quest for the ‘perfect’ Christmas. The festive season in the Kalahari isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, so Sunny packs his bags and heads off to find a Christmas like the one in his magazine.

His journey takes him on a voyage around the world, from Christmas barbecues on the beach, to snowy celebrations with penguins, carol singing in the rain with robins and sparkly lights with the bush babies. All magical in their own way but none of them have all of the ingredients of what he believes to be the perfect Christmas.

On his final stop on Christmas Eve, Sunny arrives in a beautifully decorated house, with snow falling outside, a huge dinner on the table (even sprouts!), plenty of presents and festive cheer. Although it should be perfect, Sunny realises that he misses his friends and family and realises that this is all that’s needed to make Christmas special. With the help of Father Christmas, Sunny arrives home just in time to celebrate with his meerkat clan.

2. Little Robin Red Vest by Jan Fearnley

Little Robin Red Vest is a Christmas classic, representing what the season should be about – kindness, friendship and giving. Needless to say, the book is more poignant than ever this year.

It’s the week before Christmas and Robin washes and irons seven warm vests to see him through the chilly days to Christmas. However, kind Robin ends up giving his vests away, one by one, as he meets creatures in need. Chilly weather and snow on the ground means that the animals are suffering so Robin shares his vests, helping Frog, Hedgehog, Mole, Squirrel, Rabbit and Beaver, to keep warm. As the days to Christmas decrease, so does the number of his vests.

It’s Christmas Eve, the snow is falling, and poor Robin has given away his last vest to Mouse. He huddles up on a roof, wrapping his wings around himself to try to keep warm. Poor Little Robin falls asleep in the snow and doesn’t even wake to the sound of sleigh bells, or the crunching snow under heavy boots. He gets scooped up and snuggled in the soft white beard of…Father Christmas!

Father Christmas takes Robin all the way to the North Pole, telling Mrs Christmas about his kindness – “He must have a very special present then” she decides. Pulling a thread from the red coat of Father Christmas, she sets to work, knitting a red vest for Robin to keep him warm, giving meaning to the title ‘robin red breast’. Feeling proud and festive, Little Robin with his new red vest sings out sweetly on Christmas morning to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas.

This magical tale will strike a chord amongst children and adults alike – a great way to talk about kindness and sharing during this special time of year. With opportunities for promoting discussion and engaging in sustained shared thinking, this is a great book for sharing in Early Years. We can wonder together about why Robin gave his vest away, how Father Christmas knew he had been kind and how the animals felt thanks to Robin’s kindness. A perfect feel-good Christmas book!

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3. The Tree That’s Meant to Be by Yuval Zommer

This is a fabulously festive tale with a message about friendship and kindness not just during the festive season, but all year round.

While the trees around it stand tall and proud, the little tree in the forest leans a bit to the left, a bit to the right and is rather small. Spring, summer and autumn pass until one winter the forest turns white with snow. People arrive to pick their Christmas tree, leaving the little tree all alone, too small and too imperfect to be chosen. The poor tree, feeling sad and neglected calls out into the night, wondering if it’s the tree that’s meant to be….but who would hear?

The forest creatures arrive at dawn, from bears and deers to birds and squirrels, all with the same purpose in mind. With berries, nuts, feathers and flowers, the creatures spend the day adorning the little tree with natural treasures. Just then, as darkness falls, a lone star falls from the sky, landing proudly on top of the little tree, turning into a bright, festive tree of light.

Although seasons came and went, the little tree had found a purpose – a place for animals to rest under, creatures to live in and the tree that’s meant to be.

4. Jo-Jo and Gran-Gran. Twelve and a Half Days of Christmas by Laura Henry and Amy Bradley

Now a successful tv series on CBeebies, many children will be familiar with the adventures of Jo-Jo. However, this festive adventure was published before the series became a reality, making it just that bit more special.

This book showcases the beautiful relationship between Jo-Jo and her Gran as they count down the days to Christmas. With twelve and a half days to fill, what will they get up to in order to pass the time?! The pair enjoy a host of Christmas traditions children will be familiar with, the days packed full of fun. From trips to the market, Christmas singalongs, making cards and decorating the tree, Jo-Jo and her Gran spend special times together, bringing to life the joy of the festive season.

This delightful festive tale is a joy to read and share with children. Talk together about your own family traditions, what you enjoy about the Christmas season and start your own countdown to the big day.

5. Dogger’s Christmas by Shirley Hughes

Over 40 years since Dogger was first published, Shirley Hughes now delights with a festive follow up. The preparations are in full swing, with decorating the tree, writing lists and Christmas shopping, all illustrated beautifully and a perfect compliment to the text. In all the excitement, Dogger seems to have been forgotten. When it comes to Christmas night and Dave wakes looking for Dogger, he is nowhere to be found. Mum, Dad, Bella and even Joe look everywhere with no luck. Dave isn’t interested in his Christmas presents – things aren’t the same without Dogger.

This heart-warming festive treat is perfect for sharing with young children. It captures the magic and nostalgia of Christmas, highlighting how it can be special without being extravagant.

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