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14 of the best new books for children for Christmas 2013

Christmas books 2013
Start a new tradition of reading in front of the tree on the evening of 25 December with these brilliant new books for 4-11 year olds. From thrillers to Dr Who adventures, picture books to hide-under-the-covers scare stories, they'll transport your child around the globe and back and forwards in time so effectively that all the new screens and interactive games will be forgotten. Happy reading!

The fantasy adventure

How to betray a dragon's hero
by Cressida Cowell (£6.99, Hodder Children's Books)

Deadly dragons, swash-bucking adventure and plenty of laughs – the penultimate book in the million-book-selling How to train your dragon series sees unlikely hero Hiccup (Horrendous Haddock III) facing one last hurdle before the final battle can begin.

The modern classic

by David Almond (£10.99, Hodder Children's Books)

The 15th anniversary edition of the award-winning modern classic, Skellig is the story of a magical being – part owl, part angel – who needs a boy's help to survive. At a lonely and uncertain time, Skellig changes Michael's life forever.

The time-travelling tale

The Box of Red Brocade 
by Catherine Fisher (£6.99, Hodder Children's Books)

A talking bird, an invisible girl and a walking wood – the Chronoptika series is sci-fi, historical fantasy writing at its best and perfect to curl up with on a cold winter's night. Your journey starts in 1940s London... who knows where or when you might emerge?

The nostalgia choice

by Annette Tison (£9.99, Orchard Books)

Huge, pink and lovable, Barbapapa appears in Francois's garden one day and has an amazing, shape-changing solution to every problem. A new edition of the classic 1970s books series, definitely worth rediscovering with three- to five-year-olds today.

The holiday horror story

The Spook's revenge
by Joseph Delaney (£6.99, Bodley Head)

Creepy and dark, the last in the Wardstone Chronicles series will cause some shivering in front of the Christmas tree as the reader is transported to a spooky Lancashire setting for the final battle between Tom, the Spook and the Fiend...

The literary epic

Ghost Hawk
by Susan Cooper  (£12.99, Bodley Head)

The Dark is rising author Susan Cooper takes us back to the settlement of the New World and the clashes between English invaders and native tribes. Little Hawk is eleven and about to undertake a three-month test of solitude and survival which will turn him into a man, but outside the forest where he lives the world is changing...

The non-fiction puzzler

Richard Hammond's Great mysteries of the world
(£14.99, Bodley Head)

From the Bermuda Triangle to Stonehenge, werewolves to aliens, Richard Hammond presents clues and facts about creepy creatures and ancient treasures. Guaranteed to ignite an interest in crop circles, vampires and the Abominable Snowman, you'll be regaled with weird tales well into 2014!

The family saga

The Penderwicks
by Jeanne Birdsall (£6.99, David Fickling Books)

Meet the Penderwicks: four sisters, as different as chalk and cheese. A holiday with their dad and Hound the dog becomes a magical summer of explorations, adventures and new friends in this warm, funny tale of growing up as a family.

The laugh-out-loud read

Daisy and the trouble with burglars
by Kes Gray (£4.99, Red Fox)

Daisy's back – and she's formed her own detective agency. Armed with a notebook, magnifying glass, camera and a box of icing sugar, she makes it her mission to catch some local burglars... which lands her in big trouble with her mum...

The sci-fi stories

Doctor Who: 15 Doctors, 15 Stories
(£12.99, Puffin)

Written to celebrate Doctor Who's 50th anniversary, these brand-new short stories are each based on one of the Eleven Doctors and written by some of the most exciting writers living in our galaxy today. Each author has created a unique Doctor Who adventure through time and space in their own inimitable style and offers a great introduction to children's modern science fiction writing.

The spy thriller

Russian Roulette
by Antony Horowitz (£14.99, Walker Books)

The prequel all Alex Rider fans have been waiting for. When he's given the name of his next target, a contract killer looks back on his journey from ordinary schoolboy to hired assassin. The name of his target? A fourteen-year-old spy named Alex Rider...

The picture book to pore over

The Paper Dolls 
by Julia Donaldson (£6.99, Macmillan)

Beautifully written and beautifully drawn, this is the simple story of a little girl and her five paper dolls, who dance and jump and sing down the stairs and on the breakfast table and into the garden. As part of the book's launch the publishers established a new Guinness World Records title for the longest chain of paper dolls, made up of 45,282 dolls! You can download a free template to make some dolls of your own.

The code-cracking caper

Secret Breakers: Tower of the Winds
by H. L. Dennis (£5.99, Hodder Children's books)

A Da Vinci Code for kids, this adventure series transports readers into a world of mysterious codes, frantic puzzle-solving, secret organisations and global races against the clock. Engrossing and brain-boosting, as children work alongside the characters to crack the codes themselves.

The historical novel

by Jacqueline Wilson (£12.99, Doubleday)

Born to penniless parents, Diamond becomes an acrobat in a Victorian travelling circus, but fears for her future as she is forced to perform ever-more dangerous tricks. The fourth book in Jacqueline Wilson's best-selling historical series, Diamond is evocative and captivating and a must-read for Hetty Feather fans.