Over the next six weeks or so, as Christmas slowly but surely gets closer, I shall be running a feature on gift books and ideas. The posts in this feature will be instantly recognisable thanks to the picture on the right.

I thought it would be nice to inaugurate this new feature with a very special Fabulous Five, and therefore I am delighted to welcome Katie Clapham to Library Mice today.
Katie is creative director of Storytellers Inc., a children’s specialist bookshop in the seaside town Lytham St Anne’s in Lancashire, which she runs with her mother, Carolyn.


Storytellers Inc. opened in December 2010 and has been growing from strength to strength ever since. As well as the bookshop itself, Katie runs a huge range of activities and outreach programme in her local community. With such enthusiasm and achievements already, it is not surprise that Katie won the Sue Butterworth Young Bookseller of the Year at the 2012 Bookseller Industry Awards for her “imaginative and distinctive stock selection and busy and varied programme of events” (see here for full article on the Bookseller Awards).

Katie says:
As Storytellers, Inc. will be celebrating our second birthday on December 1st, 2012 has been a fantastic year for us with four new monthly book clubs and a monthly picture book event launched. We are also continuing our work with local schools and our “Cool Books in School” scheme is running in five local primary schools this term. I have also been working on a secret project for the last six months and all will be revealed in December 2012!

You can read more about the story behind Storytellers Inc. in this guest post written by Katie for Booktrust.

The bookshop looks absolutely amazing, as you can see from the pictures below:

I cannot wait for an opportunity to take a trip up to Lancashire and visit!
In the meantime however, here is Katie’s Fabulous Five:

Five Fabulous Christmas Present Ideas
by Katie Clapham
The Abominables 
Eva Ibbotson
(Marion Lloyd Books)

This is the perfect Christmas gift for 8+ readers and probably my favourite release of the whole year. It isn’t available in paperback yet so you’ll have to treat someone (or yourself!) to the gorgeous hardback edition, which is only sensible really as I have no doubt it will be read again and again…and again.
The Abominables tells the wonderful story of a family of overly sensitive yetis who must travel to the safety of an English manor house when their peaceful home in the Himalayas is threatened by hunters. The warm narration is a true testament to the late Eva Ibbotson, and as it was published posthumously, is proof that she was still at the top of her game. It’s funny, touching and original in ways that give it all the comfort of a (future) classic and yet, is like nothing else out there.
Allan & Jessica Ahlberg
(Walker Books)
I still have my much-loved copies of The Jolly Postman and The Jolly Christmas Postman so I was desperate to get my hands on the newest Ahlberg gift book (let’s not say novelty). This is hilarious book gives multiple retellings of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, each time subverting the tale in a new twist including ‘Goldilocks and the 33 Bears’ and ‘Golidlocks and the Furniture’. Illustrations are provided by Jessica Ahlberg (Janet and Allan’s daughter) and maintain all the gloriously tiny details that make Ahlbergs’ book so special. The text is modern, inventive and frankly hilarious. Fans of paper play and miniatures will be glad to know there are pop-ups, tabs to pull and even another little book inside, making this lovely book one of those awful dilemmas for people like me: I know inquisitive little minds aged 4 and up will adore this book, but the delicate pages are better suited to older children. Or at least require constant supervision and assistance to avoid immediate and heartbreaking destruction. The answer is, of course, just to get two copies in the first place, go on…it’s Christmas.
Rosie’s Magic Horse
Russell Hoban & Quentin Blake
Too Noisy!
Malachy Doyle & Ed Vere
(Walker Books)
I don’t want to pick one of these picture books over the other and you shouldn’t have to either, so my picture book recommendation for a Christmas gift is to buy those of these books and tie them together with ribbon. They have nothing in common other than their publisher but both demonstrate to me how exciting the picture book landscape has become.
Rosie’s Magic Horse is a mad story told straight. I love the direct approach of Hoban’s story of a horse made of lolly sticks, and the inclusion of words like ‘rehorsed’ and ‘unvanned’ satisfies my love for inventive language. Children will love the simple resolution and more importantly, they’ll understand it because it is a book genuinely written for them.  And by the way, what a rare achievement when illustrations by Quentin Blake are eclipsed by the story; for me, Blake can do no wrong and Hoban’s story is truly worthy of his magical art – it is a heavenly match.If Rosie’s Magical Horse is my favourite story in a picture book this year then Too Noisy! has my favourite artwork. Ed Vere’s depiction of the strange family of Bungles and their musical habits is cool, contemporary and instantly appealing. I love the bright pop colours and the deliciously dark backgrounds. This is a really sophisticated design piece but the funny little faces on all the curious creatures keep it young and fresh. Walker must be very, very proud.
Dying To Know You
Aidan Chambers
(Bodley Head)

Christmas is a great time to thrust novels on people that they wouldn’t usually choose themselves. I’ve discovered Aidan Chambers this year and now I fully intend to read all of his young adult novels (one of my more enjoyable 2013 resolutions). Dying To Know You is the surprising story of a boy who contacts his girlfriend’s favourite writer to seek assistance in writing something that will impress her. I say surprising because the narrator is a pensioner – not a typical hero of YA fiction – and the format is unusual in that long conversations and letters make up a lot of the story.  It turns out that nothing is YA-typical of Chambers’ writing and everything is better for it. It feels quite ground breaking territory which is incredible considering his previous work is similarly defiant and was published years ago! A life-changing book can be the greatest gift and for older teens readers (and adults!) I think an Aidan Chambers novel could be a real event.




Gecko Press is one of my favourite publishers. I could pick almost anything from their list – it’s all gift worthy. I love books that inspire creative responses and the Blexbolex books are great conversation points. The images are simple and striking on their own but it’s the collection of all these figures that suggests the ideas of connections and characterisation. A useful book for any writers, artists or teachers and a beautiful book for…well,  anyone.  


A fantastic selection, enough for the whole family. Thank you so much to Katie for taking the time to do this.