Festive reads: middle grade and YA edition

Following our post on Christmas-themed picture books, we’ve rounded up a selection of shiny new chapter books for older children and teenagers. We’ve also sneaked in a few of our all-time favourite wintry reads – perfect for reading with a mug of hot chocolate and a festive treat or two!

For younger readers

The Miracle on Ebenezer Street by Catherine Doyle

This is the perfect Christmas story to be enjoyed by all ages. Joyful and happy, it is a modern retelling of A Christmas Carol by Dickens, skilfully brought up to date by Catherine Doyle.

George is 10 years old preparing himself to not celebrate Christmas again.  His mum died in an accident three years before and since then his Dad Hugo has refused to have anything to do with Christmas. But things are about to change.  George enters Marley’s Curiosity Shop and is given a beautiful snow globe. With the help of new friends, and a touch of magic, George and his Dad are about to embark on an adventure to Christmas past, present and future. The result may mean life will never be the same again.

This is a lovely, funny, heart-warming story that will leave you humbled and thankful for so much – the perfect read at the end of 2020! Reviewed by Helen

Tinsel: The Girls Who Invented Christmas by Sibéal Pounder

Tinsel is a perfect mix of humour, heart, friendship and festive cheer with a strong female character at the centre. Homeless Blanche has never had a real Christmas before until a series of events lead her to meet Rinki and the start of the biggest adventure of her life, as her determination and positivity lead her to become the girl who invented Christmas. A festive must read for KS2 children which demonstrates that with the right attitude you can achieve your dreams. Reviewed by Alex

The Wolf Wilder by Katherine Rundell

In Katherine Rundell’s The Wolf Wilder, the rich and powerful keep wolves as pets. They force them to perform, to wear clothes, to eat until their stomachs drag across polished floors. If the wolves act in the least like animals – if they pee inside or bite off a finger or two – they are sent to a wolf wilder. The wolf wilder must teach the wolves how to be free again, to hunt and fight and howl. Feodora and her mother are wolf wilders. They live in the Russian woods alongside three wolves – Black, White and Grey.

The pack is content until the arrival of the Russian army, led by the terrifying General Rakov. Rakov, whose eyes have a ‘coldness in them you do not expect to see in a living thing’, launches a campaign of hate against Feo and her family, eventually arresting her mother and burning down their home. Forced on the run, Feo, the wolves and fugitive soldier Ilya, must fight their way through a merciless Russian winter to rescue her mother and – just maybe – start a revolution.

Published in 2015, The Wolf Wilder has become a modern classic. Rundell writes beautifully, evoking the Russian landscape, and the characters who survive within it, in a way that feel timeless, like folklore. You can feel the cold. You can feel the hot breath of the wolves on your face. Characters, from half-wild Feodora to the stately, courageous Grey, are deftly drawn. The accompanying illustrations are equally wonderful.

Suitable for children and adults alike, it is an exciting, immersive tale, full of truth, humour and wolfish beauty. Reviewed by Samantha

For older readers

The Silent Stars Go By by Sally Nicholls

Set in 1919 post-war Britain, The Silent Stars Go By tells the story of vicar’s daughter Margot Allen and the baby she gave up after her fiancé Harry is declared missing in action during the First World War.

Her son, James, is now raised by Margot’s parents and sees them as his mother and father. There’s jealousy on Margot’s part, and an unconditional love she can’t show James in front of others in case it risks exposing her secret. There’s grief, a loss that she can never be to James what she wants to be.

Now Harry has both returned to the village where they both used to live for the Christmas holidays, Margot must decide whether or not to tell Harry the truth about their son James.

Nicholls has penned the novel beautifully, portraying the dynamics between the different characters perfectly. Though clearly close to her family, there is still a tension between them caused by the situation with James. The novel explores this difficult subject sensitively and with a depth of feeling that makes it a perfect historical read for Year 8s and over. Reviewed by Alex

A Snowfall of Silver by Laura Wood

A Snowfall of Silver: Amazon.co.uk: Wood, Laura: Books

If you’re looking for a story that will wrap you in a cosy blanket of swoony romance, sharp British humour and the endlessly distracting antics of a lovably ragtag theatre company, A Snowfall of Silver is the book for you! Set in the closing months of 1931, it follows the irrepressible Freya Trevelyan, an eighteen-year-old aspiring actress, on her first touring theatre production. Will Freya’s new life on the stage be a dream come true? Or will true happiness lie elsewhere?

Warm, witty and atmospheric, A Snowfall of Silver is a gift of a book, guaranteed to delight readers with its winning heroine and the happiest of endings. Reviewed by Samantha

Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

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Have you delved into Netflix’s Christmas treasure trove yet? Amongst the various Christmas knights, Christmas princesses, Christmas wishes and Christmas Dolly Partons, you might have come across Dash & Lily, an eight-part series about two New York teenagers who fall in love – before they’ve even met. With the help of a little red notebook, grumpy Dash and Christmas-loving Lily trade dares and share truths, forming a bond that they hope will carry over to real life.

Fans of the show, or anyone who fancies exploring the city’s most iconic (and bookish) haunts, should check out the original book. Co-authored by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan, Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares is funny and inclusive, a quick and (winter) breezy read for fans of John Green and Becky Albertalli.

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

The Bear and the Nightingale is a grown-up version of an old Russian fairy tale. It tells the story of Vasya, a young girl growing up in a remote village on the edge of the wilderness in Northern Russia. The story deals with issues of loss, grief, family struggles and forbidden love, together with the wonderful mystery of mythology, folk law and magical creatures.

This is an enchanting winter read; the descriptions are so vivid you can almost feel the cold seeping through into your bones! Reviewed by Aimee

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Browse more great fiction on our online catalogue. If you need any further book recommendations, or would like to find out more about the service we offer to subscribing schools, please get in touch.

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