By Ian Shepherd, author of The Sleighmaker

Ian Shepherd

Ian Shepherd

Turn off the TV, turn up the heating, and fire the children’s imaginations this Christmas. From The Polar Express to Miracle on 34th Street, there are thousands of heartwarming festive books to suit every ho-ho-home.

Here, bestselling children’s author Ian Shepherd, whose book The Sleighmaker is out this week, shares 12 of his personal favourites – one for every day of Christmas.

The Snowman

What better way of flying into Christmas than Raymond Briggs’ timeless classic, The Snowman? The adorable picture book is just like the John Lewis ad (no words) and has been adapted for both TV and stage.

Miracle on 34th Street

Valentine Davies penned Miracle on 34th Street based on the story he wrote for the 1947 film with the same name – which earned him an Academy Award for Best Story. It has a wonderful opening line, too: “If you searched every old folks’ home in the country, you couldn’t find anyone who looked more like Santa Claus”.


The late Terry Pratchett masterpiece that earned him a 1997 British Fantasy Award nomination. The Hogfather, Discworld’s equivalent of Santa, can’t deliver the presents so an alternative must be found. Step forward Death.

The Nutcracker

The tale of Nutcracker, written by E.T.A. Hoffmann in 1816, has fascinated and inspired ballerinas, composers, and audiences for over two centuries. There’s been plenty of adaptations, but the original is still the clear star of the show.

Frosty the Snowman

Steve Nelson and Jack Rollins’s creation is perfect for younger kids. In this illustrated version of the familiar song, a snowman, who was brought to life by an old silk hat, has great fun playing with the children who built him.

The Polar Express

The 2004 animated movie starring Tom Hanks was superb. But the book by Chris Van Allsburg is better. This charming tale tells the story of the Polar Express, a train that whisks children to the North Pole and to the big man himself.

The Sleighmaker

What collection of great children’s stories could be complete without, er, my own? The Sleighmaker by me, Ian Shepherd, is an unashamedly traditional tale for children and adults alike that is first published in the UK in December 2017. I won’t spoil the story here, but you can go to to learn more.

A Visit From St Nicholas

“'Twas the night before Christmas, when all thro' the house Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse”. And so opens one of my all-time favourite children’s books and an absolute must on any Christmas reading list.

The Tailor of Gloucester

Beatrix Potter’s 1903 tale tells the heartwarming story of a poor tailor of Gloucester who is too tired to complete the major’s special Christmas wedding waistcoat. Potter declared this book to be her own personal favourite.

A Christmas Carol

Bah Humbug! Ebeneezer Scrooge is the original Christmas villain in Charles Dickens’ 1843 classic. But he sees the errors of his ways after receiving visits from the ghosts of his past, present and future. Numerous TV and movie adaptations have been made, including my favourite, Scrooged, starring Bill Murray.

Stick Man

Stick Man tells the story of (Mr) Stick Man, who is separated from his wife and “stick children three”. He embarks on an adventure to get back to the Family Tree in time for Christmas. A beautiful story by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Alex Scheffle.  

Grace at Christmas

Mary Hoffman’s wonderful children’s book follows Grace, a little girl who loves everything about Christmas…except too many guests.  A bit like me, in fact.

The Sleighmaker (Raj Joshi Publishing) is out now priced £11.99 in hardback, £6.99 paperback and £4.60 as a Kindle eBook. Signed copies and further information from

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Review: The Sleighmaker by Ian Shepherd