Moomins, monsters and magic

As children’s bookshop Book Ends in Exmouth Market closes down this November, The Post marks the end of a chapter with our round-up of some of the best kids’ titles for Christmas.

An A to Z of Monsters and Magical Beings by Rob Hodgson (Magma for Laurence King)

A Clerkenwell collaboration between the Magma bookshop and EC1 publisher Laurence King, this book’s quirky illustrations (by Hodgson with descriptions by ‘monster expert’ Aidan Onn) cover everything from the mythical to the magical. As well as the “stubborn and foul-tempered” Cyclops, there are colourful depictions of a hairy ogre, a creepy kraken and a giant Japanese crab, plus useful advice on vampires, werewolves and yetis. It’s full of fascinating facts about 26 mischievous monsters and their wonderful worlds. Apparently you should never drink a dead dragon’s blood in the belief you’ll become invincible – it just causes bad breath.

Imagine by John Lennon (Frances Lincoln)
We predict that plenty of the late Beatle’s fans will be buying children this title as a gift. Frances Lincoln, based in Islington, is publishing the picture book inspired by John Lennon’s song Imagine. The illustrations are by Jean Jullien, the artist behind the iconic Peace for Paris symbol in the wake of the 2015 terrorist attacks in the French capital. Published in association with Amnesty International (money from every copy goes to the human rights organisation), the story is about a pigeon’s journey to spread a message of peace – a suitable sentiment to share with children at Christmas. The book also has a foreword by Yoko Ono, who says “we need peace more than ever”.

The Invisible Child/The Fir Tree by Tove Jansson (Sort Of Books)
Tove Jansson’s Moomin tales are much- loved by readers of all ages — the Southbank Centre’s Adventures in Moominland was a recent hit exhibition. These wise, bittersweet Scandinavian stories are a celebration of the joys of life and nature with plenty of eccentric characters. Sort Of Books, a small independent publisher that works with Clerkenwell’s Profile, has been reissuing Jansson’s books from the Fifties and Sixties for the last 15 years. There are newly published collector’s editions of all eight of the classic novels, including the suitably festive Moominland Midwinter. Look out for the special charity edition we’ve chosen, available from Oxfam and Waterstones.

My Side of the Diamond by Sally Gardner (Hot Key)
There are several major young adult books out in time for Christmas, including Francis Hardinge’s A Skinful of Shadows and Philip Pullman’s much-anticipated return to the world of His Dark Materials in La Belle Sauvage. Sally Gardner is an equally gifted children’s writer, whose 2015 book The Door That Led to Where featured time-travelling in Clerkenwell (we interviewed her about life growing up in Gray’s Inn). Hot Key Books, formerly based in EC1, publishes My Side Of The Diamond, which demonstrates this award- winning author’s ability to mash up genres (science fiction, social commentary) and write from multiple viewpoints. A gift for young readers with imagination.

The Snow Angel by Lauren St John (Head of Zeus)
Back in 2013, The Post interviewed veteran publisher Anthony Cheetham about his new company based in Clerkenwell. The latest development at Head of Zeus is a new children’s imprint, Zephyr, and one of its first titles is this wintery book from the imagination of award-winning author Lauren St John. Set in Africa and the Scottish Highlands, The Snow Angel tells the story of a Kenyan girl whose dream is to climb mountains. It got a rave review in The Observer (“an exceptionally beautiful gift book”), whose critic praised Catherine Hyde’s full-page illustrations that lend “atmosphere to the magic glimmering beneath the words of this modern-day fairytale”.