Harina and the doctor bird by Joy Hartley
Earlier this year I met and interviewed Joy for my radio show. Like me, Joy was baffled by the lack of diversity of characters in children's books so she wrote her own about a little girl called Harina who lives in Africa.
Harina's adventures are told with lovely illustrations and a story that promotes values like caring and kindness. This is the second book featuring Harina and her bird Hanga and a new character, the doctor bird helping her care for her unwell mother.
This isn't strictly a picture book, rather a story with pictures (if you get my drift) and it would be good for a confident reader. The story is really lovely and there are some ideas for follow up activities at the end with some blank pages for children to make their own notes.
You can buy the book here http://www.harina.co.uk as well as related merchandise and find out more about Joy and her characters.
The First Hippo on the Moon by David Walliams
A more traditional picture book is this one which is illustrated by Tony Ross whose style you will recognise immediately as he is an old hand at this (he illustrates The Little Princess series). This is David Walliams second picture book and his storytelling style is chaotic and reminiscent of Roald Dahl in that it's irreverent and appeals to the silliness that children like so much. There are jokey little asides on the page from minor characters and references to farts that my mother certainly wouldn't approve of in a children's story book.
This tale of a hippo's ambition to be the first to land on the moon is energetic and fun with plenty of very big writing to help new readers to practise. The illustrations work well and I like that it's a bit cheeky in places. I don't want to spoil the story for you, but it involves hippos called Sheila and Hercules - you will have to read it to find out who the first one on the moon is.
You can order this book online here and as it says on the back you will receive a free hippo* with every book. That might prove a bit difficult to wrap to put under the tree though.
Dog on Stilts by James Thorp and Angus McKinnon
Medium Dog thinks he is nothing special, but he wants to be known for something. So, he comes up with a plan to get noticed - the title does sort of give the game away on this ! The illustrations are great in this story book, they are bold and unusual with a 'homely' feel to them. Again this is a second book for these authors - their first was The Weasel Puffin Unicorn Baboon Pig Lobster Race which is possibly the greatest title for a book ever.
This might look like a bit of fun, but there is also a nice message about acceptance and friendship that is delivered well and in an engaging way. As you know I love anything to do with music so it made me squeal with delight when I heard that this is also available as a musical online: https://soundcloud.com/the-superhairies/dog-on-stilts
The book is however available on Amazon and if you want to find out more about the 'superhairies' behind this book you can go here: http://www.superhairies.com/ or follow on Twitter here: www.twitter.com/Superhairies or on Facebook here: www.facebook.com/superhairies