Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Children's Books for Christmas

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Children's Books for Christmas

Article excerpt

Christmas is a good time to get a child into books. Richard Curtis's The Empty Stocking (Puffin, [pounds sterling]6.99) is about twin sisters, one good and one "bad", who hang up their stockings on Christmas Eve. Alas, Charlie has been too naughty to get hers filled--but Santa gives presents to the wrong twin. What to do? Curtis's story is about goodness and generosity and is a rare exception to the rule that celebrity children's books are best burned. Rebecca Cobb's illustrations make this a seasonal perennial to enjoy with children aged three and above.

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The late Russell Hoban is still best known for his post-apocalyptic novel Riddley Walker but he was equally good at writing for children. He left us one more enchanting book, Rosie's Magic Horse (Walker, [pounds sterling]12.99), vigorously illustrated by Quentin Blake, about a child whose parents are plagued by bills and discarded lolly sticks. At midnight, the sticks turn into a horse, which carries Rosie off to find treasure. A story about how imagination redeems the poorest life, it is poignant, funny and sadly topical (for readers aged four and older).

Kate Saunders's The Whizz Pop Chocolate Shop (Marion Lloyd Books, [pounds sterling]6.99) is about a family that inherits a chocolate shop in Archway. An invisible cat, talking rat and whispering wallpaper reveal that the children must now find the missing golden chocolate moulds. A gloriously funny caper for children of six upwards, it combines the inventiveness of Eva Ibbotson with the perspicacity of E Nesbit.

Philip Reeve's Goblins (Marion Lloyd Books, [pounds sterling]6.99) will come as a relief to parents plagued by Hobbit-mania and has green-edged pages to match its acid wit. The hero, Skarper, is a goblin ejected from the Dark Tower by Bratapult for being clever. Hilarious and well written, this is the best satirical fantasy for children of eight and above since the great Terry Pratchett emerged. …

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