A selection of books against a wintry background
Reading lists

Heartwarming books that bring the family together

From inspiring picture books to gripping novels, these reads will bring the family together

There are certain things that family traditions are made of: food, memories, and spending quality time together. A book can be a magical way to span the generations and gather your loved ones around a shared experience, year after year. Ahead of this festive season, we’ve selected some tried-and-tested titles that will unite young and old, whoever your family may be.

Charlie Mackesy’s adorable characters and powerful message of kindness, courage, and love has captivated millions of readers in the three years since The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse was released. This Christmas, something special is underway, as the creatures we have come to know and love are bring transformed into animations for television – and adapted into this beautiful hardback book, too. The familiar story has had a beautiful full-colour reinvention, and includes dozens of never-before-seen illustrations with a story guaranteed to charm and captivate every member of the family. 

A fantastic choice for those adults who adore the work of Richard Osman and Agatha Christie, Robin Stevens’ winning Murder Most Unladylike series offers older readers a chance to engage the younger ones in their lives with these fabulous detective novels. Follow aspirational child detectives Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong on their fun and thrilling adventures to solve mysterious crimes – and spend just as much time trying to guess the twists together before they unfold on the page.

Everyone has a body, and everyone’s body does different things at different ages. From the bestselling author of This Is Going to Hurt, Kay’s Marvellous Medicine combines medical knowledge with brilliant humour in this jauntily illustrated tome. A great present or stocking-filler for the curious child in your life, Kay’s Marvellous Medicine will teach most people a thing or two – in the most memorable of ways. 

First published in 1877, this Victorian novel has more than stood the test of time, becoming one of those inspirational stories told repeatedly through the decades. This beautiful Puffin clothbound classic version invites reading together, as new readers encounter the classic story of Black Beauty, the handsome colt whose unbreakable spirit beat the odds – reminding us all of the importance of kindness, sympathy and resilience in the process.

Award-winning illustrator Ben Rothery makes beautiful books, and Deadly & Dangerous Animals is no exception. Combining incredibly detailed illustration with fascinating facts, this made-to-share book offers plenty for the budding zoologist or vet to read, learn, and admire. 

Weirdo by Zadie Smith & Nick Laird

Understanding it’s okay to be different is an important part of growing up – and a valid lesson to pass on to a new generation. In their first professional collaboration, literary couple Zadie Smith and Nick Laird present Maud, a guinea-pig who wears a judo outfit despite people wondering why. With nostalgic illustrations from Magenta Fox, whose work recalls Raymond Briggs and Janet Ahlberg, Laird and Smith’s knowing prose reminds us all to cherish our individuality.

Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol before Christmas existed as we know it today – with little in the way of celebration, cards or feasting. And yet, his important and accessible morality story about doing good to others and sharing what we have was an instant bestseller, helping to transform Christmas into the important time we spend with others in which we now indulge. One of Dickens’ shortest and most familiar stories, it’s never too late to conjure the ghosts of Christmases past, present and yet to come.

Grandude’s Green Submarine by Paul McCartney

A truly intergenerational book from one of the 20th Century’s best songwriters, Grandude’s Green Submarine is Paul McCartney’s lively and charming picture book inspired by the relationship between grandparents and grandchildren. As Grandude helps the Chillers track down the adventurous Nandude in his magical green submarine, readers can enjoy strange surprises and even a Beatles reference or two.

Tales of Greek Heroes by Roger Lancelyn Green 

Greek mythology has inspired literature for millennia, and with monsters, gods, mountains and underworlds, there’s plenty of epic storytelling to engage family members of all ages in this beautiful clothbound retelling of some of the most exciting legends from Ancient Greece, from the adventures of Perseus to the the voyage of Jason and the Argonauts and the Trojan wars.

The Jolly Postman by Janet and Allan Ahlberg

There’s a good chance that Janet and Allan Ahlberg’s interactive classic is already on your shelves: having been published in 1986, it’s kept at least two generations of little readers intrigued by the postal service. Inspired by their infant daughter’s love of opening post, The Jolly Postman is a sweet story told through letters in real envelopes as the trusty postie makes his round. Fancy a festive fix? The Jolly Christmas Postman adds an air of wintry magic.

Frozen Planet II by Leisa Stewart-Sharpe & Kim Smith 

David Attenborough’s immersive nature documentaries have kept families transfixed for decades, and this collection of incredible true stories from behind the scenes of such remarkable filming will have the same effect. Journalist-turned-children’s book author Leisa Stewart-Sharpe invites the reader to swim with seal pups and meet a 250-year-old shark, all magically illustrated by Kim Smith.

There’s a reason why people re-read Philip Pullman’s bestselling trilogy long after they’ve become adults: they’re the kind of stories that linger with you, regardless of your age. Plucky Lyra, armoured bears, the out-of-bounds spires of Oxford and the forbidden frozen wasteland of Svalbard await, infused with an intangible and irresistible magic called Dust. His Dark Materials offers the whole family an adventure like no other. 

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