CULTURE

Young readers recommend…

Choosing holiday reading for small children is a pleasant task, but it means sifting through masses of titles just when the festive frenzy is in full spate. Kathimerini English Edition has put together some pointers to titles old and new, and we have enlisted the aid of some very young readers, who make personal recommendations of picture books that are sure to please. Seasonal titles with Christmas themes abound. Among the latest is «Big Bear, Little Bear» by David Bedford, illustrated by Jane Chapman (Little Tiger Press). A polar bear cub gets a taste of what it’s like to be grown-up and an idea of the joys of being small. In «A Message for Santa» (Anderson Press) by Hiawyn Oram and Tony Ross, little Emily, who’s afraid of Santa, learns to fight her fear and have a wonderful time. In «The Wish Cat» by Ragnhild Scammell and Gaby Hansen (Little Tiger Press), Holly makes a wish for a kitten, but what she gets is Tom, a scruffy, full-grown cat she promptly rejects. Tom, however, manages to wins her over. A practical gift, with lots of fun things to make, is «The Christmas Book» from Dorling Kindersley: 3D greeting cards, gift boxes, snow storms, sweets and decorations made from ice are just of few of the festive items children can easily make for themselves. Also from Dorling Kindersely is «The Night Before Christmas,» a collection of seasonal stories and poems together with features explaining old customs such as the Advent calendar and Christmas lights. Some of the most welcome picture book gifts at this time of year will be the classics, ready to enchant yet another generation. Justly popular is «The Snowman» by Raymond Briggs, a picture book without a text. This tale of a boy who awakens one night to see that the snowman he built has disappeared and then is drawn into some extraordinary adventures can be embellished at will, giving the reader’s imagination full scope. Also destined to win the hearts of a new crop of children is Jean de Brunhof’s classic «Babar and Father Christmas» starring the gentle elephant in a Yuletide adventure, with those unmistakeable naif illustrations. «The Polar Express» (Houghton Mifflin), a 1985 Caldecott Medal winner by Chris van Allsburg with superb, atmospheric illustrations, will delight with its story of a child who hears Santa’s bells and goes on a fabulous ride on the polar express. Road tested Our young advisers are lucky children whose parents all read to them regularly. Nicholas, at three the youngest of our panel, enjoys interactive books, and he has already extracted Brimax’s «Baby Bear’s Christmas Interactive Flap Book» from his Christmas stocking. And he loves «Dirty Bertie» by David Roberts (Little Tiger Press), about a boy who, most satisfyingly for young readers, refuses to relinquish all his grubby habits, despite the refrain «No Bertie! That’s dirty, Bertie!» from his family. Clio, six and a half, is absorbed in «The Christmas Mystery» by Jostein Gaarder, the story of a a young boy who finds a magical calendar and learns about a journey a girl called Elisabet makes back in time to meet Joseph, Mary and a very special child. Illustrated by Rosemary Wells and translated by Elizabeth Rakkan (Farrar Straus & Giroux). Stephane is five and loves having any book read to him, especially if it’s about dinosaurs. Established favourites include Tintin and Winnie the Pooh, but his latest craze is «No Matter What» by Debi Gliori (Bloomsbury), a story for children who get into mischief then feel unloved. A little fox called Small upends the furniture, pours a bucket of water over his head and generally causes mayhem while his mother is on the phone. He seeks and receives reassurance in rhyme: «If I was a grizzly bear, would you still care?» «Of course,» Large says, «bear or not. I’ll always love you, no matter what.» «Percy the Park Keeper» by Nick Butterworth (Collins Picture Lions) also appeals to Stephane because of the poster in the back of the book that opens out into a tree house in a beautiful oak tree where all the animals have made their homes. Asher is nearly seven, and his most recent discovery is the «Harry» books by Ian Whybrow (Gullane Children’s Books), beautifully illustrated by Adrian Reynolds. «Harry and a Bucketful of Dionosaurs say Raahh!» helped him deal with a scary episode with monsters in the hallway, visible only to him. And for Christmas, there’s his favourite, «Harry and the Snow King.» Interactive Children who like hands-on reading will appreciate Macmillan’s 3D «Alice’s Pop-up Theater Book» with intriguing doors and flaps concealing all kinds of delights. For slightly older children, and their parents as well, the «Kids’ Paper Planes Book» (Konemann) has paper planes to make, complete with flight logs and stunning fuselage designs.