A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.
Books make the best Christmas gifts. They’re affordable. They’re easy to wrap. There’s even room to write in them if you don’t have time to buy a card.
Even better, they can be read and re-read for ever and ever. The perfect gift.
Here are three books I’ll be giving as gifts this Christmas.
1) ‘Not Now, Bernard,’ by Bernard McKee.
In a world where Christmas has become all about Elves on the Shelves and Santa Cams and kids being told they’re under constant surveillance to ensure they’re being good, I do love a book full of neglectful parents and monsters running amok.
Sometimes it’s more entertaining to be bad.
I am in awe of the amount of subversive humour David McKee has managed to squeeze into just 154 words, as Bernard’s useless parents fail to notice he’s been eaten and replaced by a furry purple monster. RAWR!
I love it so much I chose it as my Read Out Loud book challenge last year. And if you want to see a grown woman behave like a beard-wearing crazy person, you can watch that here:
I also picked ‘Not Now, Bernard’ as one of my three Desert Island books when I was castaway on ‘Talking of Books’ earlier this year. So, if you want to listen to me chat about the wonderfulness of ‘Not Now, Bernard’ have a listen to the Castaway link below (it’s an extract from a 3 hour radio show so some bits may not make complete sense out of context. Bernard is abut 15 minutes into the chat)
Otherwise get down to your nearest bookshop and buy a copy of this wonderful book and give it to the nearest child … or mad-adult (madult).
This year, I’ll be giving ‘Not Now, Bernard’ to my excellent nephew, Samuel, who has just turned one, and is, disappointingly, showing no signs of becoming a furry monster. So far.
2) ‘Letters to a Young Muslim,’ by Omar Saif Ghobash
I first discovered Omar Saif Ghobash when I saw a ridiculously long author signing queue at the Emirates Festival of Literature and went to investigate who was at the front of it. Keen to see what the fuss was about, I bought his book ‘Letters to a Young Muslim.’
I’m not young and I’m not a Muslim, but I loved this book, and despite the title it’s a book I think everyone could benefit from reading.
In a recent UK survey, 42% of people claimed recent attacks had made them suspicious of Muslims and only 10% of people polled said they felt “similar” to Muslims. These statistics are depressing and may get worse before they get better, as wrong-minded politicians use these suspicions and these perceived differences to stir up public support for campaigns of fear and ignorance.
I like to think ‘Letters for a Young Muslim’ can make small steps to bridge the divide by showing that different cultures have as many similarities as they do differences, and by demonstrating there is nothing wrong with diversity as long as there is understanding. The letters are full of hope for a world where people can live together with open minds and mutual acceptance. As Ghobash says in one of the letters to his young son, ‘If you begin to accept the individual diversity of your fellow Muslims, you are likely to do the same for those of other faiths as well.’ This works both ways.
Ghobash talks about joining an American school at a time when the news had taught him Americans hated Muslims. He was amazed that, despite the odd question like whether he lived in a pyramid or what women were hiding underneath their hijabs, the kids he met were friendly and curious in him as a human when they got to know him. It’s hard to hate and fear people who are part of your everyday life.
He advises his son to turn discrimination into a learning experience – ‘The negative comments, the overt racism, the negativity that can come from others because you or your group do not fit in with the dominant group … provides you with a richer perspective on justice. These negative attacks or comments give you the content for deeper reflections on what people’s lives can and should be about’
A fascinating, thought-provoking book I’d like to give to everyone this Christmas. But that would be pricey. So, instead, I’ll be giving a copy of this book Ghobash wrote for his son to my own son, in the hope he’ll share what he finds within its pages with others
3) ‘Woolly,’ by Ben Mezrich
The final book I’ll be giving this Christmas is ‘Woolly,’ because who can resist a tale about scientists attempting to resurrect the woolly mammoth? Yes, it’s all a bit ‘Jurassic Park’, but the part that pulled me in was the knowledge that this is all theoretically possible – ‘It’s all too easy to dismiss the future. People confuse what’s impossible today with what’s impossible tomorrow.’
There have been numerous scientific attempts in recent years to use genetic engineering to revive the mammoth. So, this is a work of ‘narrative non-fiction,’ meaning most of the characters in this story are real people, with a real desire to reintroduce certain extinct species to the world. Not just ‘because they can’ but also because it has been convincingly demonstrated that this could help reverse the damage we have done to the Earth’s environment.
There are interesting explorations of the ethical issues involved in this kind of genetic manipulation, and fascinating insights into the lives of these people with the power to create and resurrect. But if you’re like me, you’ll mainly be reading for the mammoths.
Apparently, film rights have already been optioned. So, Woolly will hopefully be coming to a cinema near you, even before he starts popping up in Arctic areas.
For now though, I’ll satisfy myself with giving this book to a friend, who has declared that he wants to read something ‘gripping, but a bit different.’ I thought this perfectly matched that brief.
I’d love to hear what books you’ll be giving this Christmas…
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Rachel Hamilton is a graduate of both Oxford and Cambridge and has put her education to good use by working in an ad agency, a secondary school, a building site and a men’s prison. Her interests are books, films, stand-up comedy and cake, and she loves to make people laugh, especially when it’s intentional rather than accidental.
Her books include the Unicorn in New York series (OUP, UK and Scholastic, US) which was part of the Big Read programme in the summer of 2016, The Case of the Exploding Brains and The Case of the Exploding Loo (Simon & Schuster, 2014), which was nominated for the Redbridge Children’s Award and theLeeds Book Award and won the Worcestershire Awesomest Book Award and Ossett Riveting Reads award.