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With the holidays coming up, maybe you’re looking for the perfect nerdy Christmas gift for that special book-loving nerd in your life. The Philosopher Kings is the second book in the Thessaly trilogy (a continuation of The Just City) by Hugo and Nebula award-winning Jo Walton.
Robin Hobb is another author that seems to have the formula for a bestselling fantasy novel down pat.
The Providence of Fire is the much-anticipated second installment in Brian Staveley’s fantastic debut series, Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne.
Naomi Novik has taken a break from her highly popular Temeraire series to give us Uprooted, which is set in a fantasy world for which she drew inspiration from the Kingdom of Poland. New York Times bestseller Joe Abercrombie is another author that readers have come to expect great things from, and Half the World certainly does not disappoint. The first book of seven about a mischievous monkey who is kidnapped by the man in the yellow hat. A childhood favourite for so many, this went on to inspire a generation of illustrators – and a very poor film.
A beautifully drawn story from the former children’s laureate about a lonely girl who finds company in a gorilla.
This edition contains seven stories, including the beguiling Billy’s Beetle — you have to find the beetle hiding somewhere on each spread. The poem is reproduced at picture-book length with Grey’s striking illustrations and paper engineering.
This charming verse story about how different animals behave is less well known than Eric Carle's The Very Hungry Caterpillar, but more fun. Scarry’s immensely detailed books about everyday life can lead to some good conversations, and are great for children who need to know how things work (more or less all of them). This may not be to everyone’s taste, but there’s no escaping the lavatory when it comes to children’s humour, and this book (translated from the original German) manages to be educational too.
Illustrated by Hilda Offen, the Red Fox edition contains two abridged versions of these well-loved Norwegian stories about the woman who shrinks. It may now be over-familiar, but it’s hard to imagine a library without one of Donaldson’s catchy rhyming tales. Like Gravett’s Orange, Pear, Apple, Bear, this book by an exceptional writer and illustrator is for very young children. One of the best books about the alphabet, from Thames and Hudson's The Ministry of Letters series. Concerning a lonely hippo who is visited at home by various hippo comrades, this jolly counting book goes down as well as up. Kerr’s books about Mog the cat are still going strong, but this stand-alone story is perhaps her most original.
Or one of the Ahlbergs' other classic illustrated tales such as Peepo or Each Peach Pear Plum.
A sideways look at diversity: the good-natured patchwork elephant disguises his true colour to fit in better with the grey herd, to miserable effect. The first in the series, in which the irrepressible Tim stows away aboard a steamer in high winds.
Though undoubtedly more famous for her Charlie and Lola series, Lauren Child’s retelling of this classic fairy tale is wildly inventive. Concerning a hat-thieving fish, this winsome tale of rough justice won the 2014 Kate Greenaway Medal and the 2013 Randolph Caldecott Medal in America.
This charmingly quirky set of drawings of the world, laced with facts and figures, was a surprise bestseller.
A sophisticated narrative by the art historian which runs up to the First World War, written in language any child can understand. An excellent single-volume history of Britain, in simple and elegant language, warmed by an uncomplicated national pride. The diary kept by a young Dutch-Jewish girl during the two years in which her family lived concealed under the Nazi occupation of Holland. This chunky and charmingly old-fashioned volume contains every nursery rhyme you can possibly think of (and many you couldn't). Andrew Lang’s fin de siecle collections of fairy tales are great, but this illustrated collection of Hans Christian Andersen's stories would make a good starter.
There are beautiful editions of individual poems, such as “The Quangle Wangle’s Hat” (illustrated by Helen Oxenbury, Mammoth), but why not opt for the collected works?
Every child’s book shelf needs the breadth of an anthology, and this one contains nearly 100 extracts from nursery rhymes, fairy tales and all kinds of stories. The naughty puppet’s story is retold from his own perspective in imitable fashion by Michael Morpurgo, with lovely drawings by Emma Chichester Clark.
The first in a dizzying series that imagines a counterfactual England in which the Jacobites rule into the 19th century while the nefarious Hanoverians plot on the sidelines. Box sets of The Chronicles of Narnia seem to be out of print, so here’s the first in the series. E Nesbit’s classic Five Children and It has been brilliantly transplanted by Kate Saunders to the trenches, in a moving homage.
This American classic concerns a pig who is rescued from butchery by the web-weaving showmanship of a spider called Charlotte.


The first in the successful series, which has been adapted for the cinema, is set in a fictional Viking world in which dragons are trained as pets.
Despite naff modern covers and inferior novels churned out by the deceased author's estate, the original adventures of Hal and Roger deserve to be rediscovered. Willy, an anaemic and neglected evacuee from south London, is stabled with the gruff bachelor Tom Oakley on his farm. This first instalment of McKay's marvellous series about the Casson family won the Whitbread Prize in 2001, but remains underrated and underread. Akin to Enid Blyton's young sleuths, St John's modern heroine is a fearless adventuress, probing around her uncle's Cornish town for mysteries (which she certainly finds).
From the current Children's Laureate, a thought-provoking novel: young Kaspar joins the non-violent Guardians of his city, working to keep the rebels out. Based on a draft found after the author’s death in 2010, this loveable story concerns a girl stolen from her Himalayan campsite by a yeti and taken to a secret paradise in a volcanic crater. The classic ballet novel; once entranced, a young reader can progress to the rest of the Shoes series.
Another fantasy, the first in the series about Meg Murry and the search for her missing father. The first of the Alex Rider spy novels: a James Bond Jr with all the gadgets and none of the misogyny. The ultimate football novel: Mal Peet's extraordinary debut unfolds as an interview between a sports reporter and the world's best goalkeeper. Unusually for a children's book of the time, this charming whodunnit is set in a contemporary, realistic Berlin peopled with fairly rough types. As sensuous as anything Dahl ever wrote: who could forget James eating his way into the sweet, giant peach, or his perfectly named aunts — Spiker and Sponge?
A once-cherished little girl is left orphaned and paupered; her headmistress turns sour and enslaves her as a starving servant at the school. A timelessly silly classic, the first novel in White's mischievous Once and Future King series. A magical tale about a troubled and unloved girl called Mary Lennox, who finds a secret garden in her uncle's lonely house. You can’t have a library without Beatrix Potter, and there’s no messing about with this edition which contains all 23 tales.
The collected edition seems to be out of print, but a good place to start would be The Secret of the Unicorn. This is the complete text from Penguin, but Simon & Schuster have published a classy pop-up edition, based on an abridged version, with artwork by Robert Sabuda. An exquisite novella about a bizarre, ethereal boy encountered by an airman while stranded in the desert overnight. These new illustrations by the author of Charlie and Lola provide a contemporary twist on the Swedish classic.
The first in a series set between the wars at a time when children mucked about in boats and built camps by themselves – or at least we like to think they did.
It was a close run thing between the Famous Five and Malory Towers, but the prize must go to the adventures of George and co. A girl would adore the Chalet School books – and, thrillingly for children who like to stick with a series they know and like, there are nearly 60 of them.
No childhood is complete without this novel from 1905, immortalised by the 1970 film starring Jenny Agutter. This new edition, with drawings by David Roberts, is unusual in hiding a little detail on every page.
The French classic (there known as Patapoufs et Filifers) is about a fat brother and a thin brother – and the battle that ensues between two warring nations. This is the first in the captivating series about the red-headed orphan and the one that covers her early childhood. The first novel in the much-awarded Chaos Walking trilogy, set in a dystopian world wherein all creatures can see and hear each other's thoughts. Set in a future England under occupation, Meg Rosoff's brilliant novel predated the current vogue for dystopian teenage fiction but has yet to be bettered. Henry David Thoreau was an American author, poet, philosopher, abolitionist, naturalist, tax resister, development critic, surveyor, and historian. Or maybe you are the bookworm, looking for the best new fantasy books of 2015 to add to your to-read list, and you want to make sure you haven’t missed any of this year’s releases.
So, to make things easier, we have sifted through the piles of new fantasy books released over this past year and compiled a list of the best. The #1 New York Times bestselling author is very well-established on the fantasy scene by now, so it should come as no surprise that we’ve featured this sequel to the highly-acclaimed Steelheart (the first book of his new Reckoners series). She has been writing her internationally bestselling Realm of the Elderling novels since 1995, when Assassin’s Apprentice was published. The first book, The Emperor’s Blades, was released last year and met with an extremely positive reception.
If for no other reason, you should read this book because Warner Bros has bought the rights to the movie, which is to be produced by Ellen Degeneres.
Her words remain the most effective way for a child today to grasp the reality of the Holocaust.


The slim books adopt a subversive, jokey voice but the historical points they make are serious. E B White, who also produced a writer's handbook called The Elements of Style, follows his own rules about prose to gloriously stylish effect. The resourceful brothers quest rare animals the world over to take back to zoos, and avoid maiming or death only narrowly on each page. Initially, it's rather a shock to them both but under Tom's hesitant care Willy thrives and Tom melts at the waif's gratitude. Wynne Jones's marvellous Chrestomanci series, flavoured with Victoriana, has been vastly influential — on J K Rowling, in particular.
This modern classic has been reprinted in a new hardback edition to celebrate its 15th birthday.
A German professor and his nephew descend through an Icelandic volcano into the bowels of the earth. According to this novel, they are casing the joint, tracking lost relatives and dodging that cruel fate – PDS (Permanent Doll State). Young Arthur (nicknamed Wart) is transformed into all sorts of fish and fowl by his unorthodox tutor Merlin to learn the ways of the world. Alpine Heidi is sent to school in Frankfurt am Main, but grows pale and sickly in the city smog. Whereas Kipling ommitted any mention of God, Ted Hughes's elegant and amusing creation tales bring the Divine Maker back into the story.
Tintin helps Captain Haddock track down his ancestral treasure, hindered by nefarious crooks, tropical sharks and the captain's own weakness for rum. Some of them have now fallen out of print, but this one, the second, is as good a place as any to start. The characters are re-imagined for a new generation in a mode that is perfectly sympathetic to Kenneth Grahame’s words. The longer sequel, The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle, which won the Newbery Medal, is trickier to get hold of, especially if you’re after a pretty edition. Both are exquisite coming-of-age stories, the first set in France and the second in India, to be read by a girl in her teens. Older children, however, will enjoy this beguiling novel about a girl and her grandmother, and the summer they spend together on a remote island. New and old authors, standalone books and serials, urban fantasy and epic, we’ve included something for absolutely everybody.
It is set about 20 years after The Just City, which you would definitely need to read before attempting this book so you understand the premise.
The dystopian series is about Epics, a group of superhuman beings who were given powers by an event known as the Calamity and have subdued the rest of humanity.
The sequel does not disappoint; with a gripping plot, rich character development (including multiple strong, well-rounded female characters), and skillful worldbuilding, you won’t want to miss this one. Insisting he be the sole translator, Gombrich had not finished rewriting it when he died in his nineties. They find there a great cavern, with an (infested) ocean lapping at petrified trees and giant mushrooms. Not quite a parody but certainly a burlesque, it remains profoundly amusing 75 years later. Make sure you get the edition from 1997 with Eileen A Soper’s illustrations, rather than the newer edition in which the text has been modernised. Reckoners are a group of ordinary humans who have devoted their lives to studying and defeating the Epics.
Fool’s Quest is the second book in her highly acclaimed The Fitz and the Fool series, which chronicles her beloved character FitzChivalry Farseer. If you haven’t already jumped on this particular bandwagon, pick up the first book and get yourself caught up before the release of the third and final, The Last Mortal Bond, early next year. Uprooted is a standalone novel, so even if you haven’t read Novik’s other series, you should definitely consider adding this one to your to-read list.
One wouldn’t expect three aforementioned elements to fit together, but Walton blends them masterfully in a fascinating and unique interpretation of philosophy, religion, and history. It might all sounds like it could be very predictable, but if you think you’ve seen all the tricks Sanderson has up his sleeves, prepare to be shocked and amazed. If you’re not familiar with Fitz yet, take yourself all the way back to the beginning; I realize this is a considerable undertaking, but you’ll thank me later. Her incarnations of the gods and their children are thoughtful and multi-faceted, and in this sequel, many of the seeds of thought planted in The Just City come to fruition. Robin Hobb has crafted an enchanting world with unforgettable characters in a series of books that’s all but impossible to put down, which is why it is one of our top new fantasy books for 2015. Read the full synopsis here.




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