Inis Christmas Round-up Part 2: Book-shaped stocking fillers

Too many stockings to fill, too many books to choose from and too little time? Here are some of the books that put stars in our reviewers’ eyes this year from picturebooks to hard-hitting YA via info and activity titles (click on the links for the full review):

Home by Carson Ellis All ages

Familiar homes, exotic homes, homes underwater and homes in space: Carson Ellis takes us on a tour of these and many other homes in this stunning picturebook. Every page opening is a surprise and a delight, and even after many viewings, this panoply of dwelling places continues to enthrall and intrigue the viewer. The written text is spare, leaving Ellis’s assured brushwork in ink and gouache to show the possibilities, and the improbabilities, for a place called home. – Valerie Coghlan

One Thousand Things by Anna Kövecses Ages 0-4, 5-7

Fancy a new book for your coffee table? Are you fan of retro-modern design? Then One Thousand Things is the book for you. Oh, and if you happen to have a pre-schooler at home, they’ll love it too! A quick glance at the colourful pages of this gorgeous work of art shows it to be far more than just another book of first words. Its creator, the self-taught graphic designer, Anna Kövecses, skilfully uses muted colours and nostalgic minimalist designs to appeal to adults and children alike.  – Anne Murray

The Princess and the Pony by Kate Beaton Ages 5-7

Kate Beaton has created rather a neat twist on the princess story. Our heroine Pinecone belongs to a warrior tribe and longs to get her own battle gear and a horse fit for a warrior, but instead keeps being given lots of cosy sweaters. For her birthday it looks as if Pinecone will get her much wanted horse, though things don’t work out quite as she would like. Pinecone’s war horse turns out to be a strange looking, rather flatulent pony. How will Pinecone ever become a champion at the great battle with such a strange, little steed? In life, as in Rolling Stone songs, you can’t always get what you want but sometimes you might just get what you need. –    Laura O’Herlihy

You are an Artist! by Marta Altés Ages 5-7

Marta Altés has crafted a truly interesting and unique activity and sticker book that is designed to stimulate the imagination and creativity of the young reader. It is also an excellent introduction to art theory as it simply, but very effectively, explains some of the concepts of art while allowing the reader to experiment and discover them in their own way. – Brenda Frawley

Record-Breaking Animals by John Richards and Ed Simkins Ages 5-7, 8-10

Given that Richards and Simkins have successfully moved beyond anything Google or Wikipedia is offering this book is well worth a place on any bookshelf. Perfect for reading through or dipping in and out of, it would be a great choice as a gift book. A superb resource for enquiry based learning activities. Highly recommended – Sue Miller

Bronze and Sunflower by Cao Wenxuan Ages 8-10

The story is set in the late 1960s, among reedlands in rural China in the early days of the Cultural Revolution. Bronze is a village boy, mute since a traumatic childhood experience, and Sunflower is a little girl from the Cadre school on the other side of the river, taken in by Bronze’s family when she is orphaned. It is a rare treat to come across a book that you want to keep with you for days after reading, to dip into again at leisure, be it for the beauty of the writing, the resonance of the story, or the luminosity of the imagery. Such a book is Bronze and Sunflower. – Amanda Bell

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by JK Rowling, illustrated by Jim Kay Ages 8-188

Every picture revels in the fantastical story and does what great illustration is meant to do: it improves the experience of reading the book. It boasts the golden harmony of fluid gesture and intricate detail that’s harder to achieve than you might think. In Jim Kay, they picked the perfect man for the job. The artwork is flawless. – Matthew Griffin

The November Criminals by Sam Munson YA

When one of Addison Schatcht’s black classmate is murdered, something stirs in our narrator, compelling him to do everything he can to find out the boy’s killer (…). Due to its transgressive nature The November Criminals might shock a certain kind of adult, which probably means that youngsters will stampede towards it. There’s more to it than shock tactics, though. It’s an ambitious and compelling work which is causticly funny in places, thought-provoking in others, and most of all is an all guns blazing attack on cant and hypocrisy. – Alan Murphy