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The children’s books to buy this Christmas for kids of all ages and interests


By Shayna Sappington
22nd Nov 2020
The children’s books to buy this Christmas for kids of all ages and interests

We’ve rounded up the best children’s books of 2020, chock-full of giggles, courage and adventure for kids of all ages. 


Reading is one of the best ways to encourage little ones to use their vast imaginations, explore unseen worlds and discover the importance of family and friendships along the way.

Whether they’re still waddling around and only drawn in by the colours or you want to encourage a tween to continue reading on their own, this list has a great read for everyone. With tons of great Irish books listed here as well some excellent international readers, there are all kinds of genres, from magic and adventure to history and psychology.

If you’re buying some children’s books for Christmas, be sure to pop into your local independent bookshop. As well as knowing you supported local, its staff will have a wealth of knowledge and be able to guide you in the right direction. And if you don’t fancy going in (when shops do eventually open), Dubray has launched a new gift consultant service for children’s books, offering a free, individual recommendation from one of their expert booksellers by phone or email.

For Smallies
(3-6 year-olds)

The Big Book of Blooms by Yuval Zommer
(Thames & Hudson)

This latest instalment of the Big Book series is filled with quirky illustrations of colourful and unusual flowers from around the world. Little ones (and adult read-alouders alike) will learn about botany, various habitats and endangered species, and how some blooms have adapted to the world around them.

The Diddle That Dummed by Kes Gray
(Hachette UK)

This musical story will have you and your little one laughing out loud. It follows Flinty Bo Diddle as he writes a tune for his fiddle — full of funny wordplay and silliness.

A Train Journey: A pop-up history of rail travel by Gérard Lo Monaco
(Thames & Hudson)

A great book for younger readers, this pop-up adventure is filled with spectacular scenes of people, places and locomotives. It tells the history of trains, from early steam locomotives to Japan’s bullet train.

While We Can’t Hug by Eoin McLaughlin
(Faber & Faber)

This topical bestseller teaches kids the importance of social distancing through a heart-warming tale of friendship. A hedgehog and tortoise can’t hug, so they show love through other fun and creative ways.

The Tide by Clare Helen Welsh
(Tiger Tales)

Beautifully illustrated by Ashling Lindsay, this charming tale is about a girl and her grandad with dementia, a brilliant story about family, laughter and growth.

children's books

What We’ll Build by Oliver Jeffers
(Philomel Books)

From the renowned artist and children’s books illustrator Oliver Jeffers, author of Here We Are!, this endearing book follows a father and daughter that begin to build a life together with their own special tools and memories.

The Chill Skill by Niall Breslin
(Gill Books) 

The most recent in Bressie’s series of mindful picture books for children, it teaches children how to manage their anger when things don’t go their way. We recommend listening to the series’ accompanying podcast.

Garden Jungle by Hélène Druvert
(Thames & Hudson) 

Full of vivid and arresting imagery, this title transports young Tom’s garden into the wild of the jungle — an imaginative, carefree adventure.

If I had a Unicorn by Gabby Dawney
(Thames & Hudson)

A humorous and energetic tale, a little girl discovers what life would be like with a magical unicorn for a pet, from sprinkling stardust on grumpy parents to sliding into football practice on a rainbow.

What does Santa do, when it’s not Christmas? by Paddy Comyn 

An illumination into Santa’s untold story, young readers will learn how Saint Nick conquers boredom in the festive offseason. The book is printed on environmentally friendly paper and proceeds are in aid of the Jack & Jill Children’s foundation.

 

The Read-a-Longs
(7-9 year-olds)

children's books

The Dead Zoo by Peter Donnelly
(Gill Books)

From the author of The President’s Glasses comes Ryan Tubridy’s favourite book of the year. It follows the very serious Mr Gray who’s in charge of a very serious museum, but when a mouse gets loose, things start to get very silly.

Take the Lead by Elena Browne
(O’Brien Press)

The ultimate guide for young dog owners, Take the Lead uses fun facts and eye-catching illustrations to educate children on caring for their furry friend.

Fizzy and Bandit by Sarah Crossan
(Bloomsbury)

A great book for early readers, it comes with inside cover notes to help adults reading with children, as well as ideas for activities related to the stories. It’s a sweet, funny tale of a girl called Fizzy Pop who longs for a dog of her own.

Girls Play Too: Inspiring Stories of Irish Sportswomen by Jacqui Hurley
(Merrion Press)

Girls Play Too is a collection of stories about inspiring Irish sportswomen throughout history from Maeve Kyle and Sonia O’Sullivan to Katie Taylor. Each athlete overcomes big challenges and proves that being a girl is not a barrier to sporting success.

Claude at the Palace by Alex T. Smith
(Hatchett Books) 

Claude takes a royal romp in the palace on the Queen’s birthday in his newest adventure, detailed with quirky and colourful illustrations. 

The Ickabog by J.K. Rowling
(Hatchett Books)

JK Rowling’s latest children’s book calls on young readers’ magical imaginations once more. A tale of faraway worlds, friendship, monsters and bravery.

children's books

Marvelous Magicians by Lydia Corry
(Thames & Hudson)

If you have a little magic fan on your hands, they will love this whimsical compilation of the history of magic, magicians tips and tricks, and the story of magicians throughout history, including one of the first female magicians, Adelaide Herrmann and “The Handcuff  King” Harry Houdini.

Amazing Islands by ­Sabrina Weiss
(What on Earth Publishing)

For nature enthusiasts, this book explores over 100 of the world’s most unusual islands, their wildlife, history, diversity, people, cultures and treasures. Plus, it comes with a world map and foldable flaps with fun facts. 

Boot: The Creaky Creatures by Shane Hegarty
(Hatchett Books)

In the third book in the beloved Boot series, Boot struggles with his own malfunctions as he discovers a group of broken pets in the city. A tale of resilience and an unlikely friendship.

 

When they’re reading on their own
(10-12 years-old)

children's books

Miracle on Ebenezer Street by Catherine Doyle
(Penguin Random House)

An enchanting and exciting tale of Christmas magic, Irish writer Catherine Doyle delivers a wonderful, modern retelling of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.

Feminist Fairy Tale Series by Rebecca Solnit, Malorie Blackman, Kamila Shamsie and Jeanette Winterson
(Penguin Random House)

This fantastic Fairy Tale Revolution series reimagines classic fairy tales without the unconsenting kisses and witchy old women. The first four books Cinderella Liberator, Duckling, Blueblood and Hansel and Greta highlight modern topics like climate change and the patriarchy while instilling self-belief, compassion and kindness.

Turtle Boy by M Evan Wolkenstein
(Usborne Publishing Ltd)

In this marvellous coming-of-age story, young Will seeks a solitary life away from school bullies, but his blooming friendship with RJ, an older boy with an incurable disease, shows him the importance of taking chances and living outside his comfort zone.

The Great Irish Farm Book by Darragh McCullough
(Gill Books) 

As a journalist, farmer and broadcaster, Darragh McCullough takes children on a fascinating journey through Irish farm life from animals and crops to machinery and technology.

children's books

A Kind of Spark by Elle McNicoll
(Knights Of Media)

While 11-year-old Addie campaigns for a memorial of the witch trials that took place in her Scottish hometown, she hopes to change the way her neighbours see her a courageous story that will encourage self-belief.

Is There Anybody Out There? by Dara Ó Briain
(Scholastic)

Popular comedian and space expert Dara Ó Briain attempts to answer questions about life on Earth, the solar system and if aliens could exist elsewhere; a hilarious and educational read.

Break the Mould by Sinéad Burke
(Hatchett Books)

Irish writer and activist Sinéad Burke knows what it’s like to be different. In Break the Mould, she encourages children to champion their uniqueness, using their voice to be an ally and show friendship to others.

Code Name Bananas by David Walliams
(HarperCollins)

The newest Walliams story is a whizz-bang adventure of action, laughter and secret plots. In 1940, Britain is at war with Nazi Germany and an extraordinary friendship between a little boy and a huge gorilla might save the day.

Goddesses and Heroines: Women of Myth and Legend by Xanthe Gresham-Knight
(Thames & Hudson)

A collection of the tales of 13 inspirational female characters from ancient myths and legends, like the youthful Aphrodite; Hecate, the maths whizz; the heroic Mulan and Oshun, the Nigerian goddess whose foresight sparked a rebellion that freed slaves.

 

For Tween Readers
(13-15 years of age)

children's books

The Boldness of Betty by Anna Carey
(O’Brien Press)
 

An historical fiction for teen readers, this story follows 14-year-old Betty during the 1913 Dublin Lockout. Forced to leave school and start work, the brave and determined girl joins the Irish Women Workers’ Union on strike as industrial unrest grips the city.

The Strangeworlds Travel Agency by L D Lapinski
(Hatchett Books)

12-year-old Flick Hudson joins the Strangeworlds Travel Agency, where hundreds of suitcases act as portals into other worlds. She must embark on a magical adventure to help save a world in trouble.

Unlocking the Universe by Stephen Hawking & Lucy Hawking
(Penguin Random House)

Theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking and his daughter Lucy collected an incredible wealth of information about this world and beyond, from life on Mars to the secrets of black holes —  beautifully illustrated and bursting with amazing facts and figures.

Savage Her Reply by Deirdre Sullivan
(Little Island)

In this YA, feminist retelling of Irish fairytale ‘The Children of Lir’, Aífe voices her dark, unsettling story through rich, lyrical prose.  


Read more: 5 inspirational books perfect for reading with your little ones

Read more: Need a lift and a laugh? These 14 must-read novels will do the trick

Read more: 40 books to read before you’re 40