With Christmas looming, I thought it was a good time to show you some beautiful, large-format books that would make great gifts, if you’re still in need of last-minute ideas! All of these books were sent to me free of charge, but as always, my opinions are my own – and I recommend all three!
Sunday Funday by Katherine Halligan and Jesús Verona, from Nosy Crow
Do you ever get stuck for ideas to keep the family entertained at the weekend? This book collects 52 nature-themed activities from crafts to outdoor explorations, separated into four seasons (so you’re not trying to go to the beach in the depths of winter!). It’s written in collaboration with the National Trust, and lots of the activities focus on getting outside and enjoying nature, whether in your own garden or in public spaces, but there are also plenty of recipes and crafts for bad weather days.
It’s gorgeously illustrated, with detailed, colourful spreads, and each one feels vibrant and exciting to flip through, so kids are sure to be tempted by at least a few ideas each time they look. The illustrations are very diverse in terms of skin colour, and show a nice amount of dads doing activities as well as mums; there are also older adults pictured, and a few children with disabilities (though I think there could have been even more). The text, too, doesn’t make assumptions about gender or parental relationships (just “ask a grown-up”), which is nice and inclusive, though again I would have liked to see a little more acknowledgement of things you could do to alter some of the physical activities to suit a particular child’s needs (for example, there’s a yoga section that doesn’t offer alternatives for those with limited mobility). On the whole, though, this is a lovely collection of ideas, offered in a fun, warm way.
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, retold by Geraldine McCaughrean, illustrated by Margarita Kukhtina, from Nosy Crow
This is a lovely abridged version of The Secret Garden, beautifully illustrated and presented in a smart hardback. It’s been a long time since I’ve read the original story, but this version keeps the story and the vibe of it while making it simpler and more modern in language, so it could be read by confident young readers. It’s faithful to the original, so it doesn’t address any of the issues in the text in a modern light – but it skims over the more problematic elements for the sake of the story, and I think it works well. It certainly feels more uplifting, and that’s partly due to the lovely illustrations, which really bring out the beauty of nature and the transformation in both the garden and the children. If you want to introduce a classic to a young reader, this would be a great way to do it.
Tales from the Ocean by Chae Strathie and Erin Brown, from Little Tiger
I’ve previously reviewed Tales from the Forest, the previous instalment in this series, and I’m pleased to say that this is just as sweet and lovely. There are twenty ocean-themed animal stories in this book, organised by location, from reef to coast to warm tropical waters to icy polar waters. As with Tales from the Forest, the stories vary slightly in length, but none is longer than a few pages, and all would make great bedtime stories, or stories to read alone for confident readers. There’s a great variety of animals included, and each story is accompanied by a full-page illustration, so if you have a favourite sea creature, you’re likely to see some lovely art of them as well as their story. The other pages all have different decorative details that make this feel very cohesive, and each double-page spread has a different background colour – no white pages here! It’s the kind of book that feels really well-made, and would be a treat for animal lovers.