Last-minute dash to the book store? Three brilliant books for kids

Penguin Random House Canada sent me the books in this post for review purposes. All opinions are my own.

I don’t know how Christmas Eve arrived so fast but here we are. If you’re making a dash to the book store and need some help deciding which books to buy for the kids on your list, you can’t go wrong with these three. We’ve got a charming story about a bear and a mouse with very different ideas of Christmas; another about a boy with learns to stand up for himself with a little help from the alien living in his nose; and a third, heartwarming book about a tween who lives in a van with his mom and struggles to keep it a secret.

A Christmas for Bear by Bonny Becker (ages 5 to 9)

One frosty night, Bear hears a tap, tap, tapping on his front door. “Merry Christmas!” cries Mouse. Mouse is there for a Christmas party, and Bear has never had one before, but he’s certain that pickles (preferably from France) must be an essential component, along with the reading of a long and difficult poem. The problem is, whenever Bear comes back from the kitchen with more treats, Mouse has vanished — only to be found, small and gray and guilty-eyed, scurrying under the bed or rifling through the closet. Will there be even a tiny present involved? “Hogwash!” scolds Bear. Get ready for holiday anticipation and the best kind of surprises as the curmudgeonly Bear and a hopeful Mouse return in a warm, funny tale full of holiday cheer and true friendship.

If you haven’t read any of the books before it, this sixth tale of Bear and Mouse will make you want to collect them all. The unlikely pair have different ideas about Christmas — or do they? A sweet and funny tale that will charm kids and adults alike.

The Nose from Jupiter (20th Anniversary Edition) by Richard Scrimger (ages 8 to 12)

How do you shut up when your nose is doing all the talking? • Alan is not big or strong. He hates playing soccer and can barely keep up in math class. Moreover, he’s fodder for every bully for miles around. But all that changes the day Norbert, an alien from Jupiter, comes to earth on an exploration mission and moves into . . . Alan’s nose. Soon Alan isn’t acting like himself, but is Norbert really to blame? Loud, pushy and hilarious, Norbert teaches Alan to stand up for himself, even when the odds are stacked against him.

A quick-moving story that deals with relatable themes like bullying, divorce and self-confidence with honesty and humour. The underdog gets his day, but not everything gets tied up neatly in a bow (which I like). I’d love to see the references to Shania Twain and k.d. lang swapped out for celebrities today’s tweens would relate to but the book holds up really well all the same.

No Fixed Address by Susin Nielsen (ages 10 and up)

Felix Knuttson, twelve, is an endearing kid with an incredible brain for trivia. His mom Astrid is loving but unreliable; she can’t hold onto a job, or a home. When they lose their apartment in Vancouver, they move into a camper van, just for August, till Astrid finds a job. September comes, they’re still in the van; Felix must keep “home” a secret and give a fake address in order to enroll in school. Luckily, he finds true friends. As the weeks pass and life becomes grim, he struggles not to let anyone know how precarious his situation is. When he gets to compete on a national quiz show, Felix is determined to win — the cash prize will bring them a home. Their luck is about to change! But what happens is not at all what Felix expected.

A heartwarming, hopeful book that addresses an issue seldom talked about — homelessness — through the eyes of a 12-and-three-quarters-year-old who often has to put on a brave face and be the strong one in his family. An important, eye-opening read any time of year but especially at Christmastime when we’re reminded of how much need there is right at our doorsteps.

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