Book reviews - Gift & Novelty books

Here is a selection of books with unusual and eye-catching presentation and content. They are fiction and non fiction and many cross the age ranges. If you are looking for ideas for presents,and something way out of the ordinary, then this could be the page for you! It's a mix of books, often with additional features such as toys packaged with the books but every one is interesting and special in its own way.

Quentin Blake's A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

A Christmas Carol really needs no introduction. We are all familiar with the seasonal tale of miserly Ebenezer Scrooge. He is visited by the ghost of former business partner, Jacob Marley, and the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come, who show Scrooge the true value of Christmas: charity, good humour and love for his fellow man. This beautiful book is an unabridged edition, illustrated by Quentin Blake, with black and white and colour drawings which perfectly encapsulate the feel of the story. The book includes a foreword by the illustrator and information about author and illustrator. A perfect Christmas gift book.

Leaves: An Autumn Pop-up Book by Janet Lawler

This is an outstandingly beautiful book which will amaze children - and adults, helping us all to appreciate the beauty of the autumn colours. Created by paper engineer Yoojin Kim with artist Lindsay Dale-Scott, there are seven amazing pop-ups which are beautifully made and coloured. There are other interactive elements as well, such as flaps to pull. The pop-ups really leap off the page and there are so many elements to appreciate. This book, which can be considered a seasonal companion with Jumping Jack Press' all-time best seller and award winning, Snowflakes, includes amazing pop-ups, educational information, and delightful interactive elements that offer change and surprise on every page. Beautiful.

Beauty and the Beast illustrated by Dinara Mian rtalipova

We all know the classic tale of Beauty and the Beast, and now it has been given a whole new and fresh interpretation with superb paper engineering and illustrations. When a merchant steals a rose from the garden of a terrifying beast, his daughter, Beauty, agrees to go to the beast's palace to save her father's life. Marvel as the intricate 3D pictures pop up out of every page, bringing layer upon layer of depth. The story is simply retold, to act as the perfect staging for the pop-ups which, with a restricted colour palette, are really effective. Intricately detailed, this is a perfect gift and a book to treasure.

The Greatest Magician in the World by Matt Edmondson and Garry Parsons

A story about Elliot who is mad about magic forms the basis of this book; magic is in his blood. It's far more than that, though - it's an interactive book full of all the reader needs to perform tricks themselves; they are simple to do but amazingly effective.. But it’s tricky to follow his grandfather's footsteps as a great magician when the only magic book in the library is missing half its pages, and there’s no one around to teach you.  But all that’s about to change when Elliot discovers a long lost letter from his great grandfather and embarks on a magical adventure that could change his life forever! Written by former professional magician and TV and radio star Matt Edmondson, and illustrated by the bestselling Garry Parsons, The Greatest Magician in the World is an incredible interactive novelty gift book featuring a brilliantly witty and exciting quest story, a cast of personality-packed magicians and everything you need to perform seven jaw-dropping magic tricks. Unusual and totally engrossing, children will be really engaged and awestruck by the tricks.

Dear Zoo Book and Storyblocks Blocks by Rod Campbell

This classic lift-the-flap story really needs no introduction. Since it was first published in 1982, children (and their adults!) have loved to hear the tale about all the animals the zoo sent that weren't quite right... until the final happy ending, of course. Now the fun can be increased with these 10 stacking blocks, made of very strong card and featuring images from the story; it's all packaged in a handy gift box. They stack well - and half the fun is knocking them down, of course! The storyblocks go so well with this book; they are an ideal match. It's a story that children remember, and they can retell the story as they build up the blocks into a tower. A perfect gift for young children.

Peter Pan & Wendy (Palazzo Abridged Classics) by J M Barrie

When Peter Pan flies in through the Darling children's nursery window in search of his shadow, the scene is set for a wonderful tale of adventure and excitement that has captured the imagination of children and adults for more than a century. Robert Ingpen's delicate illustrations are a great way to enhance the pleasure and understanding of the story. Palazzo Books produce a wide range of abridged editions of classic children's stories. These editions are a good way to introduce children to the stories, but I always emphasise the importance of encouraging children to move on to the full versions once their interest has been sparked - it's too easy for them to say 'I have read that' and never get the full benefit of the original. Nonetheless, these attractive editions are a good starting point to appreciate classic literature.;

The Wind in The Willows (Palazzo Abridged Classics) by Kenneth Grahame

This is one in a series of highly collectable hardback illustrated editions of classics from Palazzo Books, perfect to introduce these great works to children and to stimulate their interest. When the Mole leaves his spring-cleaning and heads up into the open air, he embarks on a series of exhilarating adventures with his new friends: the laid-back Ratty, the gruff yet kindly Badger and the self-satisfied, irrepressible Mr. Toad. The impulsive Toad leads the friends from one escapade to the next - from upturned gypsy caravans to stolen motorcars, a daring prison escape and, finally, to a heroic confrontation with the sinister inhabitants of the Wild Wood. Beautifully illustrated by Robert Ingpen, this is a book to treasure.

The Beauty and the Beast presented by Gabrielle-Suzanna Barbot de Villenueve

This wonderful book, in its hardback cloth binding, really is a treasure for the whole family to share. Produced by MinaLima, the award-winning design studio behind the graphics for the Harry Potter film franchise, this deluxe unabridged edition is copiously illustrated with stunning full-colour artwork. There are also nine superlative 3-D interactive features which all open out in different and exciting ways. The book is published to coincide with the release of the blockbuster Disney live-action musical film - perfect to generate interest. The story is well-known, of course - the love story of a beautiful young girl imprisoned in the magical castle of a monstrous beast. The book is packed with features, too many to list here, but I promise you won't be disappointed if you treat yourself to a copy.

The Nutcracker (Templar Classics) by E. T. A. Hoffmann

This beautifully produced gift edition of the much-loved tale is illustrated by Robert Ingpen, and marks 200 years of The Nutcracker. It's Christmas Eve and Marie and her family are given a nutcracker by Drosselmeyer, the clockmaker and inventor. Marie sees there is something very special and at the stroke of twelve that night the nutcracker comes alive, and Marie is off on a wondrous adventure. The book is produced on heavy-quality cream paper, which sets off the delicately coloured, highly detailed illustrations (many are full-page) to perfection; they really sum up the spirit of the story and are superbly expressive. This would make an ideal gift, and will be a book to treasure. The perfect Christmas story.

Orchard Ballet Stories for Young Children by Saviour Pirotta

Young girls will love to discover all the magic of the ballet with this collection of classic tales which has a pretty sparkly cover. This beautiful gift collection contains six of the best-loved stories from the ballet: The Nutcracker; Swan Lake; The Sleeping Beauty; Cinderella; Coppelia and The Firebird. Exceptional storytelling brings the stories alive. The stories are simply told and are lovely to read aloud; they are also ideal for children who are reading independently. The delightful illustrations by Brigette Barrager are stunning - strongly coloured and engagingly detailed. They reflect the different stories ideally. A lovely book to give as a gift.

The Dragon Keeper's Handbook by Katie Haworth

An exciting parcel has arrived and you are now the proud owner of a dragon's egg. This handbook will help you on your journey from Dragon Novice to Dragon Keeper - and a hair-raising journey it will be too! Luckily, everything you need to know is explained, right from how to look after your newly hatched dragon, how to keep it healthy and even how to ride it. There are awesome pop-ups and lots of flaps to explore to help you on your journey. A beautifully engineered book, with brilliantly coloured pictures and lots of engrossing facts so you know how to look after your baby dragon... right from the magical moment of hatching.

Illuminature: Discover 180 animals with your magic three colour lens by Carnovsky, written by Rachel Williams

Totally absorbing and completely different - another winner from Wide Eyed Editions. Travel to 10 diverse destinations, including the Congo Rainforest, Loch Lomond, The Serengeti PLains and the Apo Reef, and explore them with a magic, three-coloured lens that illuminates each page, giving a kaleidoscope of colour. Use the red lens to discover the habitats in daylight; discover the creatures of the night with the blue lens and reveal the luscious plant life with the green lens. As you change lenses, the pictures jump off the page in glorious detail, enabling you to focus on just one aspect. Accompanying the superb illustrations are pages of informative text that tell you all about the things you are going to see. This large-format book is a wonderful way to help us appreciate the glories of the natural world.

A Sea Voyage: A Pop-Up Story About All Sorts of Boats by Gérard Lo Monaco

This beautifully engineered pop-up book will amaze young and old with its intricacy. Six detailed scenes depict a range of boats set against seascapes - pilot boat, lifeboat, caravel, ocean liner, tall ship and lightship. The pop-ups have several levels, making the boats really stand out from their backgrounds; the detail is impressive with plenty of little details to spot, like planes flying overhead, sailors at work and a frolicking whale; there are even miniature boats in front to set the scene. Very cleverly done and fascinating to explore.

Atlas of Animal Adventures by Rachel Williams and Emily Hawkins

These giant-sized books from Wide Eyed Editions are a visual treat. This superb book takes the reader on an exciting and informative journey of discovery, continent by continent. Seven continent maps show where the animals come from and then you can read on to discover creatures who live and survive in extraordinary ways - nature truly is full of wonders and this is an excellent way to appreciate it. Don't miss epic migrations, extraordinary behaviours, and Herculean habits, with hundreds of things to spot and new facts to learn about every animal. It's a really good way to help children learn about the geography of the world, and the superbly detailed illustrations by Lucy Letherland which are accompanied by explanatory text, are a joy to study. It's a book for all ages to enjoy - leave it lying around and I can almost guarantee it will garner an absorbed audience; a perfect gift and one that will be read over and over again.

Botanicum (Welcome To The Museum) by Kathy Willis

Welcome to the Museum is another superb series, this one from Bonnier Publishing. The giant format gives such fantastic scope for the most beautiful and detailed illustrations - it really is the next best thing to a museum - or maybe even better, as you can pore over every detail undisturbed. From perennials to bulbs to tropical exotica, Botanicum is a wonderful feast of botanical knowledge complete with superb cross sections of how plants work. The illustrator is Katie Scott and her detailed botanical drawings show plants in the most amazing detail - it really does show how beautiful and awe-inspiring nature is. The book is excellently produced, with heavy cream paper and high-quality artwork. A wonderful and unusual gift for any plant-lover or gardener; a book that will fascinate readers of all ages and which will, hopefully, stimulate them to take a greater interest in botany.

The Ultimate Peter Rabbit by Camilla Hallinan

Beatrix Potter's much loved tales are superbly brought to life with a mass of background information with a plethora of facts, detailed sketches of her best-loved characters and descriptions of each of the 23 tales she wrote.All this is complemented and extended with lots of original illustrations - these include family photographs, Beatrix's own drawings and letters and much more, all providing a well-rounded picture of the background to the books; many of these come from  the Potter estate's archives. There are 50 specially commissioned photographs of Beatrix Potter's English Lake District home, and this really helps the reader to get a feel for the beauty of the area. The book is beautifully presented (it is DK, after all!) - it's engrossing enough to read cover to cover, but it also repays dipping into and finding out interesting facts. Maybe the book would be better titled 'The Ultimate Beatrix Potter' as it covers a far wider scope, and therefore will interest a wider audience, than simply Peter Rabbit - but that in no way detracts for the beauty of the book. It's fascinating to see how Beatrix Potter wrote her books and the inspiration behind them - a perfect book for fans old and new, young and old.
 

How to Look After Your Human by Kim Sears

I couldn't decide where to put this wonderful book, so I decided to put it with gifts as it will make the perfect present for any dog lover... especially when given by their cherished pet. Maggie Mayhem has obviously worked very hard on training her owners and now she is sharing her sage advice with her canine compatriots. It's a wonderful look at just how dogs wheedle their way into our affections and 'train' us to do just as they want. Maggie Mayhem is a border collie who lives with her brother and two (now three) humans. She has bounded from her page on Twitter to share her perceptive insights into the complexities of human behaviour; it's all uncannily close to the truth and her wise words will resonate with many a dog owner. The witty text is accompanied by expressive pictures by Helen Hancocks, which complement Maggie's words to perfection. This is Maggie's first book and I sincerely hope she has more words of wisdom to share with us... and your purchase will help Border Terrier Welfare.

See Inside the Dinosaur: An Interactive 3-D Exploration of a Triceratops by Michael Bright

Take a close look into the Triceratops' body, one layer at a time, with this exciting book/model combination. The innovative interactive 3-D format allows children to marvel at the inner workings of a dinosaur's body with a transparent model that includes removable bones and organs - it's a fascinating way to gain a good understanding and children will respond well to this way of learning. To complement this, there's a stand-up seven piece cardboard model giving an overview of a dinosaur s body. The models are accompanied by a 48 page book which looks at a whole range of dinosaurs. Illustrated in full colour, the book is packed with information showing how dinosaurs survived in the inhospitable ancient world. illustrations in the 48-page book provide readers with an up-close look at how different types of dinosaurs survived in the prehistoric world. A super package that will please any young dinosaur fan, bringing a new breadth to their knowledge.

Lewis Carroll's Alice Through the Looking Glass retold by Kay Woodward

Join Alice in her topsy-turvy dreamworld of talking sheep, walking chess pieces, enchanted forests and Tweedledum and Tweedledee, brought vividly alive with Patricia Moffett's beautiful illustrations. This book retells Lewis Carroll's masterpiece with an unusual twist for a new generation of young readers. Open the flaps to uncover talking flowers, find Tweedledum inside his umbrella, turn the White Queen into a sheep and see the White Knight fall off his horse. The book ends with an amazing dinner party pop-up. There's also a useful 'Who's Who'. The lively text and colourful illustrations make a great introduction to the classic tale. It's beautifully presented and will make a perfect gift.

Magical Treasury by Enid Blyton

Most of us know and love Enid Blyton for her Famous Five, Secret Seven, Malory Towers and other boarding school series, but she wrote prolifically aside from these. This collection introduces many of these stories and is bound to appeal to her many fans. Enid Blyton could transport her readers through the power of her imagination, and these magical stories show that her work was not simply formulaic. In Blyton's world, anything was possible - carpets could grant wishes, rabbits rode on underground railways and magic doors and rabbit-holes took adventurous children into strange new worlds. This collection has been compiled by renowned Blyton experts Norman Wright and Mary Cadogan, and includes extracts from popular works such as The Magic Faraway Tree as well as forgotten tales from the hundreds of magazines Enid wrote and edited in the 40s and 50s. The book is divided into six chapters, such as 'Wizards and Witches', 'Animal Magic', 'Extraordinary Objects' and Greedy Magic'. Renowned illustrator Emma Chichester Clark, who illustrated the cover for the 70th anniversary edition of Five Runaway Together has provided atmospheric black and white drawings and eight full-colour plates. She has captured the essence of Blyton to perfection and the book is definitely one to treasure; a perfect gift for fans current and future.

L is for London by Paul Thurlby

Simply superb. This strikingly stylish book takes us on a journey through the streets for London from Abbey Road to London Zoo, via via The London Eye, the Millennium Bridge, Wimbledon and many other landmarks. Look very carefully and you will find someone else is joining you on the journey, page by page... Interesting facts accompany each picture. There are lots of quirky details to spot too - but I'm not going to spoil your fun by telling you what they are! Part of me thinks that these wonderful pictures could be better used than inside the covers of a book - they would make superb prints to display. The high quality production values of the book mean the pictures are definitely good enough to frame and display, but then, of course, you would lose half the book!

Winnie the Witch: Stories, Music, and Magic! (5 books with CD) (Winnie the Witch Box Set) by Valerie Thomas

Any young fan of the hilarious adventures of Winnie the Witch and her sidekick Wilbur would be thrilled to receive this slip-cased gift set. I like the fact that, along with the three picture books, there are two interactive books as well - What Would You Do and What Can you Do in Winnie's World. In the stories, Winnie and Wilbur meet real dinosaurs, pirates, and even a big, bad robot. The other two books offer children the option to decide on their own story, as they choose what to do in Winnie's world, as well as search for hundreds of hidden details. These two books are superb; really engaging for children, giving them plenty to think about. And as if that's not enough, there's a special edition CD featuring more than 45 minutes of stories and music - perfect for storytime, bedtime, and journeys. A brilliant gift idea. This box set contains a CD plus five books: Winnie's Dinosaur Day, Winnie's Pirate Adventure, Winnie's Big Bad Robot, What Would You Do In Winnie's World? and What Can You Spot in Winnie's World?

Olga da Polga Gift Edition by Michael Bond

Olga da Polga has left the pet shop and her home is now a large and airy hutch. It's not long before she meets Noel the cat, Fangio the hedgehog, and Graham the tortoise. Her garden companions soon discover that Olga loves an audience and from the moment she arrives she tells them stories about her wild and exciting adventures. Although they are not always sure whether to believe everything Olga says, one thing is certain - since Olga moved in, life is never dull! Whether she's Olga the explorer, Olga the prizewinner, or Olga the storyteller, she is always Olga da Polga! Written by the beloved Michael Bond, with wonderful colour illustrations by Catherine Rayner and a dazzling design, this is a gift edition for young readers to treasure.

Michael Foreman's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

This is an absolutely superb combination. The genius of Lewis Carroll's work combined with the fabulous illustrative style of Michael Foreman come together to create a book which will become much-treasured by families - one to keep and pass down through the generations. Starting with the rabbit hole, all the iconic characters and locations are superbly depicted in a style that is quite different from any we have seen before, but to me they encapsulate Alice and the setting to perfection. Children will meet the Mad Hatter, the White Rabbit, the wicked Queen of Hearts and visit the Pool of tears, the tea party, the croquet ground as they absorb the wonder of the text and the glory of the illustrations. A very special edition that does full justice to the text.

The Winnie-the-Pooh Winter Collection of Stories and Poems by A. A. Milne

This beautiful hardback book, with its lovely gold cover, is a perfect introduction to the world of A A Milne and Winnie the Pooh. There are four stories including: 'In which Piglet is Entirely Surrounded by Water' and 'In which Pooh and Piglet go Hunting and nearly catch a Woozle', as well as the much-loved festive poem 'King's John Christmas'. The illustrations are, of course, the originals by E. H. Shepard and there are some new ones to enjoy. The book concludes with information about the author and the illustrator. Snuggle up on a cold winter evening and enjoy this seasonal collection with your family - young and old, A A Milne is always a firm favourite. Looking for a gift for a child, maybe for a newborn or a christening, this will be perfect and will be treasured for a long time

The 50 States: Explore the U.S.A. with 50 fact-filled maps! by Gabrielle Balkan

I am overwhelmed by the superb quality and innovative content of the books I am receiving from Wide Eyed Editions, and this one is no exception; in fact, it is my favourite so far. This book is a wonderful collection of infographic maps, covering every state of the USA in fact-filled detail. An introductory page explains how to get the most out of this book; start with the Welcome Box, then you can find out about Inspiring People, State Icons, Key Facts, Moments to Remember and Region Spotlight. There's far more to be enjoyed, as each map contains all the geographical features you need, as well as many more absorbing facts, all presented in a highly readable and engaging way; the amount of information is incredible. Totally absorbing. I can't wait to see what comes along next - the books just get better and better.

Counting Lions by Virginia McKenna

This oversize book features stunning larger-than-life black and white drawings, paired with poetic texts that reveal the ways in which endangered creatures live. The animals depicted include lions, elephants, giraffes, tigers, gorillas, penguins, Ethiopian wolves, macaws, turtles and zebras. Artworks by wildlife artist Stephen Walton are rendered in charcoal and give us all an amazing insight into these superb beasts; the detail is incredible and the backgrounds set them off perfectly, as well as being informative. Virginia McKenna, actress and wildlife campaigner, has written a foreword which urges us to look at the beauty of these animals and do all we can to save them. A 5% royalty from the sales will be donated to her Born Free foundation. A unique book which will enthrall the whole family; a good way to highlight the plight of these endangered creatures.

The Great Journey by Agathe Demois

Bird migration is a truly wonderful event - find out what is behind the epic journeys that birds make in this engrossing and fascinating book. This is the first time Red Beak has joined the birds' great journey, and he has a long way to go. Readers young and old will find themselves drawn into this book as they follow Red Beak as he flies to the other side of the world; the magic view-finder inside the book shows, in incredible detail, what's really going on behind the scenes. Cleverly done, the red and white drawings conceal blue and white drawings that are only revealed with the special view-finder. Over forests and farmlands, cities and seascapes you'll see some amazing sights: acrobatic ants, a cruise-ship crocodile, factories in the clouds - even a monkey play the cello! Unusual and engaging, it's a book to make you think and appreciate these journeys.

Old Bear's Bedtime Stories by Jane Hissey

Jane Hissey's wonderful and adorable Old Bear needs little, if any, introduction. He, and his friends, have become a firm and much-loved part of many children's lives since his first appearance. This is a beautifully-illustrated picture book treasury featuring the beloved characters from the Old Bear series in a variety of charming and enchanting adventures from winter picnics to theatrical performances. There are over 20 stories and they're just the right length for a bedtime story. The lovely animal friends will end your young ones off to sleep feeling warm, cosy and loved. Of course, there are beautiful illustrations throughout and these show the animal friends in many situations and always with glorious illustrations, Published 28 November 2015, this will make a perfect present and one that will become a treasured part of a child's library.

The Brambly Hedge Complete Collection by Jill Barklem

The charmingly decorated slipcase holds a treasury of all the much-loved classic stories. It celebrates the 30th anniversary of Brambly Hedge and includes Spring Story, Summer Story, Autumn Story, Winter Story, Poppy’s Babies, Sea Story, The High Hills and The Secret. The mice of Brambly Hedge made their first appearance in 1980 when the four seasonal stories were published. Ever since, readers have loved exploring the miniature world of the hedgerow and meeting the families that live there. The delicate illustrations epitomise the British countryside and are a lovely way to encourage children to appreciate the beauties of nature. In this collection the mice have many adventures, but they always have time for fun and relaxation too. Whatever the season, and whether they are by the sea, in the High Hills, or simply at home by the fire, there is always someone ready to lend a helping hand; the stories celebrate friendship and helping each other.A beautiful collection and a lovely book to share to wind down from the pressures of the modern world.

Historium (Welcome to the Museum) by Jo Nelson and Richard Wilkinson

If you can't get to the museum, then this is the next best thing! It's a super-sized book which explores a wonderful world of artefacts. It's set out just like a museum - you will go on a journey through Africa, America, Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Oceania, discovering artefacts from periods throughout history. Here you will find a collection of objects of beauty, functionality, war, life, death and burial. As you investigate the pages of the, explore the magnificence of what civilisations have left behind over thousands of years of human history, all shown in detailed illustrations which really capture the beauty and wonder of these objects, and make us appreciate those who created them. A stunning book which combines beauty and information superbly - you will marvel at the objects and revel in learning more about their creators. The superb presentation of the book befits its subject.

The Wild Swans by Jackie Morris

A beautifully presented book which is one to treasure. It is a lyrical extended version of the fairy tale 'The Wild Swans' by Hans Christian Andersen, and is the much anticipated companion to East of the Sun, West of the Moon. With strong characterisation of the heroine and also with more rounded characterisation of the wicked stepmother than in the original version, this is a superb read which keeps the flavour of the original whilst adding a new dimension. The delicate watercolour paintings which feature generously throughout make a lovely addition to the story with their dreamy, other-worldly feel. The book has an attractive jacket and bright white pages, which give a lovely feel.

City Atlas by Georgia Cherry

Subtitled "Discover the personality of the world's best-loved cities in this illustrated book of maps" this wonderful great big book with illustrations by Martin Haake really does bring each city to life. Tour Toronto, look around Lisbon, amble around Amsterdam or investigate Istanbul - go where your fancy takes you with this global adventure. 30 much-loved cities are included with landmarks, famous people, iconic buildings, child-friendly venues and cultural icons for all the family to enjoy. A search-and-find game on every page helps young readers to explore every city and spot the hundreds of details that makes each place unique. This intriguing and fascinating book has something new to enthrall the reader every time you return - and this is a book which will be looked at over and over again. Keep it on show and nobody will be able to resist dipping in to it.

The Wonder Garden by Jenny Broom

The author invites us to "Wander through the world's wildest habitats and discover more than 80 amazing animals" as she takes us on a wonderful journey. Step through the gates of the Wonder Garden to explore five of Earth's most extraordinary habitats, each filled with incredible creatures and epic scenery. Trek through the Amazon Rainforest, travel to the Chihuahuan Desert, dive in the Great Barrier Reef, delve deep into the Black Forest and stand on the roof of the world – the Himalayan Mountains – to see nature at its wildest. Breathtaking hugely detailed engraved illustrations bring to life Earth's spectacular Wonder Garden as they almost leap from the pages with their vibrancy. Informative text helps us to understand these marvellous places; we should be encouraged to protect them too, as we marvel at their beauty. Frances Lincoln bring us some beautiful books and this is another superb example. To my mind, no ebook will ever capture the sheer joy of holding and immersing oneself in a beautifully produced and illustrated physical book such as this. Breathtaking.

The Curious Explorer's Illustrated Guide to Exotic Animals A to Z (Curious Explorers Illustrated Guides) by Marc Martin

Curious people, young and old, will love this A to Z of exotic animals. From armadillo to zebras, chameleons to quetzals, these exotic animals will surprise and delight; the superb illustrations are intriguing in their use of shape and colour and they convey the spirit of these exotic creatures beautifully. A small thing, but I really like the endpapers with their silhouettes of every creature so we can learn where in the world they live - a clever touch. The inclusion of the Latin names is also interesting. It's a wonderful book from an outstanding new talent - what will Marc Martin bring us next?

Little Grey Rabbit's Year of Stories by Alison Uttley

Just like Beatrix Potter, Alison Uttley's Little Grey Rabbit stories have an enduring appeal that never dates. Little Grey Rabbit is a country Rabbit who lives with the changes of the seasons and enjoys all the different celebrations throughout the year. This treasury contains eight seasonal stories: Hare and the Easter Eggs, Little Grey Rabbit's May Day, Water Rat's Picnic, Little Grey Rabbit Goes to the Sea, Fuzzypeg goes to School and Little Grey Rabbit's Christmas. The delicate illustrations by Margaret Tempest are the perfect accompaniment to the story. This is a beautifully produced edition and a book to treasure. It's a perfect gift book and then you can share the book with your child as each celebration comes along - I think this would make the book very special, rather than reading it all in one go.

How to Find Magical Creatures by Libby Hamilton

This fascinating book is one to which readers of all ages will return time and again. Discover how to find, befriend and protect magical creatures in this novelty-packed and lavishly illustrated guide. The book includes many intriguing details such as lift-the-flap maps and miniature fact books. Find out what equipment you need, then where to go to spot magical creatures. Learn inside information abut fabulous animals like unicorns and griffins as well as learning how to deal with difficult magical creatures, such as trolls and giants. With a wealth of amazing detail to pore over, lovers of fantasy worlds will revel in this beautifully produced book. It's the perfect gift for them.

To Baby with Love: A Baby Record Book from Little Tiger Press

I love the cover of this, with its group of appealing animals on the cover - a refreshing change from the ubiquitous pale blue and pale pink of so many baby record books. It's child-friendly and so will be lovely for parents to share with their child as soon as he or she is old enough to enjoy it and share the memories. All the key milestones are here, with pastel pages and lots of attractive drawings decorating the pages; plenty of room to put in photos too; there's an envelope at the back for keepsakes. A perfect gift for proud new parents and a simple way to record that all-important first year.

Love From Pooh (Winnie the Pooh) by A. A. Milne

Everyone's favourite bear brings us a collection of his best-loved quotations, which combine to make a perfect gift book. It features original quotations from A.A. Milne’s charming stories and poems, accompanied by E.H.Shepard’s charming line illustrations - Winnie the Pooh just isn;t the same without E. H. Shepard's illustrations. Spread the love with some of Pooh and friends' best-known sayings. This pocket-sized book is charmingly presented, with carefully chosen headings to accompany the quotes, each framed by a heart and accompanied by coloured illustrations which show love. A perfect gift for a loved one.

Ballet Spectacular by Lisa Miles

This will make a superlative gift for any ballet lover, young or old. The stunning photographs come from the archives at the Royal Opera House and they are superbly interwoven with the informative text. The production is top quality with photos shown to their best on glossy paper. It gives a real insight into the world behind ballet, with stories from the ballets intermingled with interesting facts to make it all come alive. We learn about the history of ballet; about ballet today and the Royal Ballet; how ballets are created; what life is like in a ballet company and how dancers learn. It's an engrossing read, a story wonderfully told and an unmissable book for any ballet lover.

Noah's Ark by Francesca Crespi

The detailed illustrations of this beautiful retelling of the story of Noah give us a whole new perspective. Six stunning 3-D pop-ups tell the story- building the Ark, gathering in the animals, birds and reptiles, weathering forty days of rain, sending out a dove to look for land - and the animals coming out two by two. The excellently engineered scenes have a real depth to them that will transport the reader right inside Noah's world - each page has two or three layers giving an impressive 3D effect and making the best use of the media, rather than just being gimmicky.

The Dinosaur That Pooped A Planet Book and Gift Set by Tom Fletcher

When Danny and Dinosaur set off for space but Danny forgets Dino's lunch box, disaster looms when the very hungry dinosaur eats everything in sight, including their means of getting home - the rocket! Will they have to stay in space for ever? But the clever dino has an answer - poop! A hilarious story that combines all sorts of elements children love - space, dinosaurs and, of course, poop! Along with a small version of the book, children will be thrilled to find a plush dino inside the box.

The Fairytale Hairdresser: Playbox by Abie Longstaff

I've loved reviewing The Fairytale Hairdresser stories.Kittie Lacey was the best hairdresser in all the land and has all sorts of clients. But one day, she encounters her greatest challenge ever - Rapunzel. Kittie, ever resourceful, is equal to the task and soon has Rapunzel's unruly locks in order - and then she has a clever idea in this clever and entertaining twist on the fairytale. Just a tiny reservation about this super set - the book is glued to the box and I would prefer to be able to detach it - although it does mean it won't get lost! As well as the book, little girls will love the sparkly hair clips and hair ties, full-size hairbrush and a giant unfolding playmat game (plus die) which make up the set. A perfect gift for fans of this lovely series.
Find an activity pack to go with the book by typing 'Fairytale Hairdresser' into the search box.

Esio Trot: Book & Toy Boxset by Roald Dahl

A much-loved Roald Dahl story teamed with a plush tortoise make up this lovely gift set. Bachelor Mr Hoppy harbours a secret passion for his neighbour, the lovely Mrs Silver. Unfortunately, her passion is for Alfie, her pet tortoise. But Mr Hoppy doesn't give up easily and comes up with a wonderful way to capture his love's attention. Of course, the book is illustrated by the equally wonderful Quentin Blake. Another lovely gift set to enhance children's appreciation of children's literature.

Dinosaur Roar!: Playbox by Henrietta Stickland

Who can resist the catchy rhyming text that gallops through this book? Dinosaurs of all shapes and sixes are here to help children learn about opposites as they meet the most colourful range of dinosaurs ever. It's perfect to read aloud and the simple text just trips off the tongue - 'Dinosaur roar, dinosaur squeak, dinosaur fierce, dinosaur meek. This very special gift box includes a copy of the book plus twelve colourful dinosaur figurines and a large fold-out playmat with an original Dinosaur Roar! game! A lovely way to extend the value of these wonderfully exuberant books and a real treat for young dinosaur enthusiasts.

The Land of Neverbelieve by Norman Messenger

An unusual and striking book - one which it is impossible to categorise. It's an imaginary and imaginative journey around a fantastical island - an island like no other place on earth. Writing about it almost seems to take the wonder of the book away so get your own copy and explore the delicate illustrations, fascinating facts and unbelievable places for yourself.  Enjoy unfolding each page to reveal yet more quirky and amazing facts and drawings. You may want to go in search of this magical mystical island, but sadly it has a habit of producing legs and silently slipping out of sight.

Bugs: A Pop-up Journey into the World of Insects, Spiders and Creepy-crawlies by Dr George McGavin

Wow! These creatures really do spring off the page at you! The amazing pop-ups really do show the fantastic detail of the bug world around us - awesome. Encourage children's natural inquisitiveness as they explore the flaps, marvel at the little-known facts and wonder at the intricacy of the bug world. Get an inside view of a wasp's nest, find out why the earth couldn't survive without arthropods, be warned about the weird and wonderful ways they defend themselves, see inside many creatures... A super guide for anyone who is interested in creepy-crawlies - and perhaps it will take the fear away for those who aren't!

Snow White (A Fairytale Pop Up Book with Sounds) by Katie Cotton

A new take on fairy tales is always welcome and with its detailed pop-ups and background sounds, this version of Snow White will engage a whole new audience. Snow White's evil stepmother asks the famous question "Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?"; Snow White is abandoned in the forest; she is found by the dwarves who we then see (and hear) going off to their mine; she sleeps and is awakened by the handsome prince. Beautifully coloured illustrations and fascinating details in the pop ups make this a book to cherish - a perfect gift.

Pop-Up World of Animals by Robert Crowther

I am a long-time admirer of Robert Crowther's masterly pop-up books - my bookshelves still house many of his books which my children loved. Here he takes us on a wonderful journey around the world  - savannah, ocean, desert, polar regions and rainforest. The detail is quite amazing - tiny intricate pop-ups, dozens of animal pictures and amazing facts, all set against vivid backgrounds. There are so many pop-ups to explore - I can almost guarantee that re-reading will show up some you missed!A lovely gift that will enhance children's appreciation for the wonders of the world and a book to be re-visited over and over.

The Wind in the Willows (with Game Cards) by Kenneth Grahame

Of course, the story of The Wind in the Willows needs no introduction as we all know and love Mole, Ratty, Mr Toad, Mr Badger and friends and their enchanted riverbank world. This edition is a beautifully produced keepsake hardback illustrated by David Roberts with unusual, appealing and quirky depictions of the characters - a refreshing view which makes you take a new look at the animals. The accompanying cards, I am a little disappointed with, as they are rather flimsy and don't live up to the standard of the book although they do feature the delightful illustrations
 

The Buccaneering Book of Pirates (Pop Up Books) by Saviour Pirotta

Ahoy there me hearties! Who's ready for swashbuckling adventures on the high seas? All the classic ingredients for pirate adventure are here in this excellently illustrated book. Six exciting stories make up the book - but more than that, the young reader can create his very own giant fold-out pirate who will be bigger than him! Hang him on the wall then lift the flaps to find the smuggled treasures. A perfect present for pirate fans.

Playbook Pirates (With Stand-Up Play Pieces and Foldout 3D Play Mat) by Corina Fletcher

Pirates are always popular and this engaging format can't fail to be a success. Far more than just a book, once you have shared the story with your child (and the pop-ups which feature on every page, unfold the book and transform it into a brightly coloured 3-D seascape play mat, complete with pop-up pirate ship, mermaid island, sea monsters and shipwreck. It's a great way to stimulate children's imagination as they play make-believe games with the press-out pirate characters, rowing boats, and sea creatures, which all store away afterwards in a wallet within the pack. Cleverly engineered and great fun.

Justin's Chuckle Time by Justin Fletcher

Be prepared for plenty of groans if you give this book to your child as they will love to 'entertain' you with the jokes! They will love the jokes, of course, along the lines of: What noise does a cat make going down a motorway? Miaoooooooooooowww! and Which dog likes having bubble baths? A shampoodle. And there are about 200 on similar lines, perfect for Justin's core audience of ages 3-5.Illustrated with plenty of pictures of Justin and amusing cartoons too. They will love it!

My Big World: Facts and Fun, Questions and Answers, Things to Make and Do by OKIDO

This is definitely one of those books to keep by you for rainy days or days when the children are bored, perhaps to give you ideas for when they have friends round. The book is a first look at geography and science and children are encouraged to follow the three young explorers as they set out from home to explore, first the area close to them and gradually out into the wider world. The presentation makes it an excellent way for children to put places into context and give them a good grounding for geography at school. The hands-on topics are great for reinforcing learning as well as being fun; some need adult help and this is clearly indicated. There's lots to think about and to talk about, helped by the questions which appear throughout the book. Unusual and a refreshing approach to learning.

The Book for Girls by Juliana Foster

Packed with facts and lots of things you didn't know - and didn't even know you didn't know! This is a super gift for girls - not really a book to be read cover to cover but ideal to dip into - you are bound to come away with a little bit of new knowledge. The book promises to make the reader 'the best at everything' - and everything includes everyday things (such as how to flip a pancake and how to count in Roman numerals) and very unusual things (how to control the weather and how to survive in a horror movie). Really wide-ranging, as you can see. The text style is fun and easy to read and the book guarantees plenty of entertainment to spark the imagination.

The Book For Boys by Steve Martin and others

A fascinating compilation of activities and facts which will ensure there is no excuse for boys to say 'I'm bored'. There is so much here that there is bound to be something to appeal to every boy across a wide age range - and they will have plenty to talk to their friends about. How about panning for gold, riding a camel - or, coming down to earth, tie a clove hitch and tell which way is north. Illustrated throughout with humorous drawings, this is a super book which will give hours of fun and extend the imagination in all sorts of unlikely directions. This, and its companion volume for girls, is a Buster Books publication and they do this sort of book so well. A great gift book.

Top Ten for Boys 2014 by Paul Terry

Subtitled Amazing Facts About Animals, Cars, Machines, Natural Disasters, Sports, Movies and More this really is a book which has something to appeal to almost every boy. It's the perfect book to have on hand to dip in and out of through the year to find out more on a specific topic or to fill in a few free moments. Stunning graphics, interactive sections and a phenomenal number of facts go to make up a book which can't fail to please. The presentation is spot-on for the audience and the coverage is much more in-depth than you would expect from a book of this type - it's well worth a look, as it offers plenty for the real enthusiast on any of the topics plus lots of other subjects to spark an interest.

Pirates (Sounds of the Past) by Rod Green

Bluebeard's crew prepare to set sail; a defenceless merchant ship is set on by Chui Apoo and his pirates; another merchantman is captured by Captain Jack Rackham; Captain Kidd's crew bury their treasure and Blackbeard boards a Royal Navy gunboat.... all the sights and sounds are here for these exciting scenarios which spring to life with vivid pictures depicting all the excitement which surrounds piracy. Fantastic pop up scenes and realistic sound clips create the exciting pages, each interspersed with information pages packed with historical detail. You really feel part of the scene!

Where My Wellies Take Me by Clare and Michael Morpurgo

A wonderfully nostalgic book, in both content and presentation. Imaginative (and what else do we expect from Michael Morpurgo) with beautifully interwoven elements which combine to make a truly memorable book. Pippa loves staying with her Aunty Peggy and we follow Pippa into the beautiful countryside as her day unfolds.The account is complemented by perfectly chosen poems from some of the greatest poets, personally chosen by Clare and Michael Morpurgo. Part scrapbook, part poetry anthology and all beautifully and tenderly illustrated, this is a book which appeals on many levels and to any age group. An idyllic celebration of nature and of a long-lost childhood freedom has produced a book to treasure and to inspire. The book is sold in aid of Farms for City Children, founded by Clare and Michael to give city children a taste of the countryside.

 

Goldilocks and the Three Bears....The Goldilocks Variations by Allan Ahlberg

An unusual and witty retelling of the old favourite. We all know what happened when Goldilocks met the three bears... but do you know what happened when she met 33 bears? Or the strange-talking Bliim, the three little pigs,and EVERYBODY - every story is quirky and fun. Lift the flaps and pull the tabs to join Goldilocks in a hilarious series of adventures, as award-winning storyteller Allan Ahlberg and his daughter, Jessica, with her intricate illustrations put their own stamp on the timeless tale.And, as if that's not enough, there's a whole little book (of a play) within the book, again full of pop ups and tabs. The whole is a book to take time over, to relish all the little details... and then to return to over and over again as it is bound to become a family favourite.

The Nutcracker by Geraldine McCaughrean

Geraldine McCaughrean is an wonderful storyteller, whose adaptations of classical tales are sheer delight, making traditional tales accessible and enjoyable. This tells the well-known story of Marie, who receives a special nutcracker doll for Christmas, which comes alive, turns into a handsome prince, and the adventures begin. As you turn the pages, the story comes alive through rich illustrations and intriguing scene changes. It's a type of pop-up book but there are no flaps to lift or tabs to pull, as the pages display stage scenes as they are turned. It will therefore be more durable than many books of its type. An ideal gift book.

 

Inventions by Adam Hart-Davis

I have always enjoyed listening to Adam Hart-Davis - he has a wonderful way of bringing history alive and making it easy to understand, interesting and above all enjoyable. Here he brings this talent to bear on a favourite topic of his - inventions. If you've ever wondered why the pencil came into existence, or how a steam engine works, or when we started using flushing toilets, this book has all the answers. Based on seven key areas of invention, Adam Hart-Davis tells the stories behind steam power, lighting, toilets, clocks, communication, bikes and flight, and how they are still relevant to our world today. Packed with tabs to pull and flaps to lift, the paper engineering is wonderful - full of detail and very intricate. But this book is not just a gimic - it is packed with fascinating information which will intrigue children and adults. I really enjoyed it.
 

 

 

 

 

 

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