Reading Around the Christmas Tree – Books for Readers 8+

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We have brilliant, Christmassy reading recommendations for the whole family to snuggle up with and enjoy together. Channel the Christmas spirit with these vibrant stories, featuring familiar character favourites and some fresh faces too. We hope that these books will help you and your families bring the Christmas magic to life this year. Be sure to also check out our reading list for beginning and early readers.

Fluent readers (Ages 8-12) 

Santa Gets a Second Job by Michele D’Ignazio, illustrated by Sergio Olivotti, published by Macmillan Children’s Books

Times are tough for Santa. He’s tightened his belt, made the reindeer redundant and now it’s time to get a second job.

But finding work is not easy at all, even if you’re Santa – he tries being a waiter, a party entertainer, and even works in a call centre. He finally finds the perfect job to be useful to the community – the bin man! Santa discovers that waste can conceal wonderful gifts, and he is soon back on his sled delivering toys made from recycled materials. When Santa finds some lost letters from years ago in the bin, begging to meet him, he sets out to find their owner. Will he be able to find them and finally grant their wish before Christmas Day?

Tinsel by Sibeal Pounder, published by Bloomsbury

What if somewhere along the way we’ve all got the Santa story a bit wrong…? Join Blanche Claus and her best friend Rinki for a funny festive sleigh ride you’ll never forget!

From Sibéal Pounder, bestselling author of the Witch Wars and Bad Mermaids series, this tale of friendship and mince-pie feasts is the perfect book to curl up with this winter. Funny, feminist and with a huge heart, it’s a gloriously Christmassy adventure that will delight even the biggest Grinch.

The Book of Hopes, edited by Katherine Rundell, published by Bloombury

This collection, packed with short stories, poems and pictures from the very best children’s authors and illustrators, aims to provide just that. Within its pages you’ll find animal friends from insects to elephants, high-flying grandmas, a homesick sprite, the tooth fairy, and even extra-terrestrial life.

There are 133 contributions from authors and illustrators, including Anthony Horowitz, Jacqueline Wilson, Katherine Rundell, Lauren Child, Michael Morpurgo and Onjali Q. Raúf. A donation from the sale of each book will go to NHS Charities Together, in gratitude for the incredible efforts of all those who worked in hospitals over the quarantine period.

The Night I Met Father Christmas by Ben Miller, illustrated by Daniela Jaglenka Terrazzini, published by Simon & Schuster Children’s Books

Jackson has always wanted to meet Father Christmas. He knows all about the reindeer, he knows about the elves and the secret North Pole workshop, he knows about the magic that allows Father Christmas to deliver presents around the world in just one night, but there’s one question he wants answered … how did Father Christmas become Father Christmas?

One Christmas Eve, Jackson’s wish comes true and not only does he get to meet Father Christmas but he also hears his incredible story… 

Wilde by Eloise Williams, published by Firefly Press 

Can Wilde break the curse of the witch called Winter?

Being different can be dangerous. Wilde is afraid strange things happen around her. Are the birds following her? Moving to live with her aunt seems to make it worse. Wilde is desperate to fit in at her new school. But in a fierce heatwave, in rehearsals for a school play telling the local legend of a witch called Winter, ‘The Witch’ starts leaving pupils frightening curse letters. Can Wilde find out who’s doing it before everyone blames her? Or will she always be the outsider? 

The Midnight Guardians by Ross Montgomery, published by Walker Books

(NB: this book contains mature content)

Sometimes at the darkest hour, hope shines the brightest…

When Col’s childhood imaginary friends come to life, he discovers a world where myths and legends are real. Accompanied by his guardians – a six-foot tiger, a badger in a waistcoat and a miniature knight – Col must travel to Blitz-bombed-London to save his sister. But there are darker forces at work, even than the Nazi bombings. Soon Col is pursued by the terrifying Midwinter King, who is determined to bring an eternal darkness down over everything.

The Ickabog by J.K. Rowling, published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

The Ickabog is coming… A mythical monster, a kingdom in peril, an adventure that will test two children’s bravery to the limit. Discover a brilliantly original fairy tale about the power of hope and friendship to triumph against all odds, from one of the world’s best storytellers.

A beautiful hardback edition, perfect for sharing and gift-giving. Brought to life with full-colour illustrations by the young winners of The Ickabog Illustration Competition.

Independent Readers (Ages 12+)

A Poem for Every Winter Day, collected by Allie Esiri, published by Macmillan Children’s Books

Within the pages of Allie Esiri’s gorgeous collection you will find verse that will transport you to sparkling winter scenes, taking you from Christmas, to New Year’s Eve and the joys of Valentine’s Day.

The poems are selected from Allie Esiri’s bestselling poetry anthologies A Poem for Every Day of the Year and A Poem for Every Night of the Year. Perfect for reading aloud and sharing with all the family, this book dazzles with an array of familiar favourites and remarkable new discoveries. Featuring poems by Mary Oliver, Edgar Allan Poe,  E. E. Cummings alongside Joseph Coelho, George the Poet, Benjamin Zephaniah and Jackie Kay. This soul-enhancing book will keep you company for every day of winter.

The Lost Book of the White by Cassandra Clare and Wesley Chu, published by Simon & Schuster Children’s Books

Magnus Bane and Alec Lightwood are settling into domestic life with their son Max when the warlocks Ragnor Fell and Shinyun Jung break into their loft and steal a powerful spell book. Realizing that Ragnor and Shinyun are being controlled by a more sinister force, Magnus and Alec set out to stop them and recover the book before they can cause any more harm.

But nothing is as it seems. Ragnor and Shinyun are working at the behest of a Greater Demon. When a violent encounter causes Magnus’s magic to grow increasingly unstable, Alec and Magnus rally their friends to strike at the heart of the demon’s power. But what they find there is far stranger and more nefarious than they ever could have expected…

Quidditch Through the Ages Illustrated Edition, by JK Rowling & Emily Gravett, published by Bloomsbury

Get ready to learn everything you need to know about the sport at the heart of Hogwarts! Quidditch Through the Ages is the essential companion to the Harry Potter series, a funny, fact-packed fantasy history of the seriously competitive wizarding sport. Bursting with glorious illustrations, magical memorabilia and two super-sized fold-outs, this spectacular new full-colour edition pairs J.K. Rowling’s witty, inventive text with Emily Gravett’s incredible artistic imagination.

Love, Secret Santa by S. A. Domingo, published by Hodder Children’s Books

(NB: this book contains mature content).

It’s nearly Christmas, but Angel Green isn’t celebrating – she’s too busy studying for a scholarship exam. On top of that, she’s organising her school’s charity fundraising campaign to help a local hospice. Unfortunately, her fundraising partner is Caspar Johnson: handsome, creative and fun, but TOTALLY unreliable.

As they spend time together planning festive events, Angel realises that Caspar has hidden depths – and a secret that he’s hiding behind his easy-going facade. Her advent calendar encourages Angel to take risks and open her heart – but has she left it too late to tell Caspar how she really feels?

Gender Swapped Fairy Tales, by Karrie Fransman and Jonathan Plackett, published by Faber

Imagine a world where kings prick their fingers as they sew and princesses race to rescue sleeping princes…

People have been telling fairy tales to their children for hundreds of years. Authors, Karrie and Jonathan, haven’t rewritten these stories, reimagined endings or reinvented characters. They’ve simply switched the genders of the stories we know and love. From Sleeping Handsome to Jacqueline and the Beankstalk, you’ll be dazzled by the world this one small swap creates.

The Silent Stars Go By, by Sally Nicholls, published by Andersen Press

Three years ago Margot’s life was turned upside down when her fiancé, Harry, went missing in action on the Western Front. Worse, she was left with a devastating secret which threatened to ruin her life with a devastating secret which ruined her life and destroy the reputation of her family. 

Now it’s Christmas 1919, and Margot’s family is gathering back home in the vicarage. And miraculously Harry has returned, hoping to see Margot and rekindle their romance. Can Margot ever reveal the shocking truth to the only man she has ever loved?

All I Want For Christmas by Beth Garrod, published by Scholastic

US-based Elle is a social-media influencer. But sometimes online attention isn’t all it seems from the outside; with a family who are constantly on the move, and so-called friends putting pressure on her to increase her following, she decides to swap places with one of her followers for the holidays.

Holly lives in a small village in England, and LOVES Christmas. Nothing is going to get in the way of this year being the BEST Christmas ever. But when her mum announces she’s selling their house, and Woody decides they should go on a ‘break’, her plans for the perfect Christmas start to crumble like over-baked gingerbread people. Will swapping with Elle be Holly’s perfect opportunity to escape? And far from home, will they both find all they want for Christmas?