December 2023 book club picks

December 2023 book club picks

December 2023’s set of recommendations for book clubs features eight titles to keep children in primary and secondary schools absorbed at the end of term and into the festive holiday season with immersive illustrated books, thought-provoking tales and absorbing teen novels. December 2023’s picks include titles by Jane Hissey, C.S. Lewis, Joey Chou, Dr Fuzz, Helen Mortimer and Rachael Dean, Dr Seuss, Dr Frances Durkin, L.C Rosen and Akshaya Raman.

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December 2023 book club recommendations

Old Bear by Jane Hissey

Teddy bear Bramwell Brown is determined to save Old Bear from being confined to a dusty box in the attic. So, with help from Little Bear, Duck, Rabbit and others, he puts a daring rescue plan into motion. With illustrations based on Hissey’s own childhood, the story blends nostalgia and imaginative play. It’s the perfect bedtime story, and a useful picture book to help EYFS teachers start discussions about friendship, loyalty and the value of precious things and memories.

2-5 year olds | Author’s website

Old Bear by Jane Hissey

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis, illustrated by Joey Chou

Joey Chou’s illustrated version of C.S. Lewis’s classic offers a gentle entry to the classic tale. With simplified text and vibrant illustrations, younger readers meet Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy and the enchanting world of Narnia. Recommended for preschoolers, this abridged retelling is ideal to introduce a new generation to the timeless Chronicles of Narnia. Read our full review.

3+ year olds | Illustrator’s website

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis, illustrated by Joey Chou

The Winter Wish by Helen Mortimer and Rachael Dean

William lives in a world of books – a wonderful shop brimming with exciting and undiscovered words. But hard times face the business, and William creates an amazing festive window display to draw in Christmas shoppers in this enchanting story of love, hope and dreams. With stunning pictures, The Winter Wish is an excellent text to help model creative Christmas stories in KS1 and a good text to use to talk about the spirit of Christmas. Now in paperback.

3+ year olds | Illustrator’s website

The Winter Wish by Helen Mortimer

Poppy The Pea by Dr Fuzz

Poppy is a pea who wants to break free in this charming little picture book about confronting fears, facing life and exploring the world. This beautifully crafted pocketbook explores themes of bravery and hope through charming illustrations and playful rhyming verses. Divided into five short chapters, it’s ideal for emergent readers. Teachers will find it useful to discuss resilience, fears and overcoming obstacles.

5+ year olds | Author’s website

Poppy The Pea by Farzad Sharifi-Yazdi

How the Grinch Lost Christmas! by Dr Seuss

This heartwarming sequel to Dr. Seuss’s classic sees the Grinch determined to prove to everyone that he now loves Christmas. So with much rhyming enthusiasm, he enters a tree-decorating contest. But despite his amazing ribbons, baubles, stars, and an enormous tree, things don’t go entirely to plan. Ideal for children aged 4-8, this hardback combines catchy poetry with vibrant illustrations, capturing the essence of Who-ville. For teachers, this modern fable will be a useful tool when discussing empathy, understanding and the importance of joining in.

5-8 year olds | Author’s website

How the Grinch Lost Christmas! by Seuss, Dr Seuss

What’s Science?: The Who, Where, Why and How! by Dr Frances Durkin, illustrated by The Boy Fitz Hammond

KS2 readers will learn about 13 scientific discoveries that changed the world in this engaging nonfiction paperback with vibrant illustrations. From the origins of the universe to the impact of immunisation, the book reveals the people and places behind the breakthroughs. Focussing on the human side of STEM, this book is ideal for children who want to become scientists. The glossary, activities and free downloadable resources are perfect to enhance lower KS2 science topics.

7-11 year olds | Author’s website

What's Science?: The Who, Where, Why and How! by Dr Frances Durkin, illustrated by The Boy Fitz Hammond

Emmett by L.C Rosen

This Tik-Tok generation LGBTQ+ respin of Emma blends Jane Austen’s cutting class commentary with the aspirational and glamorous romance of Bridgerton. Handsome and clever, Emmett finds himself entangled in matchmaking when his friend-with-benefits, Harrison, seeks a boyfriend. Despite vowing not to date before the age of 25, Emmett explores the complexities of love and loss through a modern queer lens.

14+ year olds | Author’s website

Emmett by L. C. Rosen

The Crimson Fortress: The sequel to The Ivory Key by Akshaya Raman

This powerful sequel to ‘The Ivory Key’ is a compelling fantasy infused with rich Indian culture and magical peril that will captivate teens in KS4. With themes of power, trust, and family bonds, four very different siblings struggle to save Ashoka from an evil emperor and ancient forces. The rapid pace will appeal to readers who enjoy a page-turning and well-plotted narrative. With vivid world-building and dynamic relationships, this is an exciting and memorable read.

16+ year olds | Author’s website

The Crimson Fortress: The sequel to The Ivory Key by Akshaya Raman

Themed day / social media opportunities for December 2023

These hashtag days might provide current and relevant talking points for secondary-aged pupils aged 13+ in KS3, KS4 and KS5, especially when linked to related literature.

  • December is ‘Gift Of Sight Month’, highlighting the importance of eye health. Barlows Primary School has PowerPoint resources here.
  • December 3rd is International Day of Persons with Disabilities #IDPWD. Clifton Primary School has a page on their website that will inspire whole school ideas.
  • December 3rd is Tree Dressing Day. The Woodland Trust has published lots of free ideas for schools to get involved.
  • December 8th is Christmas Jumper Day. We recommend this wonderful ‘Value’ Tesco Christmas jumper. Note, as an eBay Partner, we may be compensated if you purchase this sensational garment.
  • December 8th is also Pretend to be a Time Traveller Day. Wired Magazine has some interesting ideas that might be useful for librarians to integrate with science fiction books. It’s also ideal for late homework excuses or forgetting the Christmas Jumper Day.
  • December 10th is Human Rights Day. The United Nations has produced a series of resources that will be useful for schools looking to organise awareness and events.
  • December 29th is World Mangelwurzel Day (originally an ancient Cornish tradition.) Celebrate this unusual vegetable by carving it, cooking it, throwing it, making musical instruments out of it, writing odes to one, or hiding lots of them in strange places for people to find unsuspectingly. In a controversial move for 2023, Swedes are deemed to be acceptable. #wheresmewurzel

Extension activities:

Other recently released titles to have a look at:

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About Tom Tolkien

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Tom Tolkien is a highly qualified (BA Hons, PGCE, QTS) children's literature expert and teacher with over 25 years of experience. He has led inset courses, developed curriculum materials, spoken at conferences, advised on longlisting for several international children's literature literature awards and written for educational publishers including contributing to a BETT award-nominated app. Social profiles: Twitter | Linkedin