Struggling to find the perfect gift for your sailing mad youngster? Yachting Monthly literary reviewer Julia Jones picks the best children's books which have just been released

Best children’s books for youngsters who love to sail or explore the ocean.

Yachting Monthly‘s literary reviewer, Julia Jones looks through the latest new releases to find the ideal sailing books for children and grandchildren.

Voyage North

Voyage North book jacket

The seventh (and last) of what began as Julia Jones’s Ransome-inspired ‘Strong Winds’ trilogy has come a long way from a Mirror Dinghy on the Orwell, writes Peter Willis.

We’re now on a Russian oligarch’s superyacht off Norway, and Donny’s foes now include the Russian President himself.

He’s unnamed, but the date – significantly – is 2012.

As usual, the plot is complex, the writing is dense and dynamic – and often humorous – and various forms of danger are never far away.

Ingeniously (Jones is never less than that) the plot hooks around to link up with the original ‘salt-stained book’ of the first of the series.

And even though the superyacht can virtually drive itself, there is some proper sailing.

An impressive finale to this unique series.

Buy Voyage North from Waterstones (UK)

Buy Voyage North from Foyles (UK)

Sailing Commitment around the World

Sailing Commitment Around the World book jacket

Sailing Commitment around the World
Captain Bill Pinkney (illustrated by Pamela C Rice)
Independent Publication, $28/£22.40

William Pinkney was the first black solo circumnavigator to sail via the Great Capes.

He began his successful attempt in 1990 – when there was still apartheid in South Africa. This book is about a sailing experience, not skin colour.

He writes of the highs and lows of circumnavigation, its problems and pleasures in a way that would educate any young reader.

In his introduction, however, he describes his time in school when he was a lonely outsider, then how his life changed when he read the inspirational novel Call It Courage.

Clearly he wishes to have a similar influence on other uncertain young people.

Sailing still needs more books like this.

Sailing Commitment around the World is available from

A Lighthouse Story

A Lighthouse Story - book jacket

A Lighthouse Story
Holly James & Laura Chamberlain
Bloomsbury, £12.99

Young children’s stories about the lonely, gallant existence of lighthouse keepers look set to have a continuing life of their own, decades after automation.

Holly James and Laura Chamberlain position their Lighthouse Keeper’s Story in the cosy mid-20th century where so many picture books feel comfortable.

Though Eva’s visit to her Grandad feels like a story, this is a non-fiction book where information about lighthouses is being accessibly passed across, together with some understanding of clouds, ocean life and Fresnel lenses.

The attractive illustrations have plenty of detail for adults and children to enjoy together and the book is honest enough to reveal that UK lighthouses today are computer-controlled.

A Lighthouse Story is recommended for shared reading with children aged 4-7 and older independent readers.

Buy A Lighthouse Story at Amazon (UK)

Buy A Lighthouse Story at Waterstones (UK)

Julia and the Shark

Best Children's Books for Christmas Julia and the Whale

Julia and the Shark
Karen Millwood Hargrave
Orion, £12.99

This may be the most beautifully presented children’s novel you’ll read this year.

Award-winning author Karen Millwood-Hargrave has worked together with her illustrator husband Tom de Freston (and a talented design team) to tell a story that combines adventure, insight and the painful discovery that parents have problems.

Julia’s mother is a brilliant marine biologist, dedicated to researching the ancient – possibly mythical – Greenland shark: her father is a computer programmer sent to automate the lighthouse on Unst.

A summer away from their home in Cornwall takes Julia away from her friends and puts the whole family under strain.

Readers who enjoy quirky facts will relish the notes Julia makes in her yellow book about sea creatures; readers who are sensitive to poetry and myth will find their imaginations lit up by her dream-like communication with the shark and those who enjoy the thrill of danger will discover it as Julia puts out to sea.

Both the presentation and content work together to provide a deep, enthralling read.

Recommended 9+ (and all ages)

Buy Julia and the Shark from Amazon (UK)

Buy Julia and the Shark from Amazon (US)

The Weather Weaver

Best children's books - new releases for Christmas - Weather Weaver

The Weather Weaver
Tamsin Mori
uclanpublishing, £7.99

Eleven-year-old Stella is sent to stay with her Grandpa on one of the outer Shetland islands.

From the moment he comes to collect her in his boat Curlew there’s a sense that all is not well with the natural world.

The cormorants he promises to show her have abandoned their familiar sea stack and when he was fishing for their supper he caught a ‘masroom’, an angler-fish, a creature of the deep ocean. What was it doing so close to the surface?

Things are not well with Grandpa either: his wife – Stella’s beloved Gran – has died and he’s become morose and controlling.

He refuses to let Stella go outside and won’t accept her efforts to be helpful.

One day, however, when Stella has managed an escape, she meets Tamar, the weather witch and is soon discovering the art of controlling a cloud of her own.

Stella’s relationship with Nimbus is delightfully imaginative, perceptive and funny.

Finally, even Grandpa gets involved as Stella, Tamar and their weather-friends battle the evil Haken, the sea-witch and her slaves who are threatening to flood the island.

A lovely mix of magic, fun, family relationships and the fragile spaces between land and sea. Recommended 8+

Buy The Weather Weaver from Amazon (UK)

Buy The Weather Weaver from Amazon (US)

Continues below…

The Sea Swallow and the Humpback Whale

Book jacket for the Sea Swallow and the Humpback Whale - best children's books for Christmas

The Sea Swallow and the Humpback Whale
Catherine Barr & Gerry Turley
Wren & Rook, £6.99

This is the story of two migrations – of the largest and the smallest creatures in earth.

The humpback whale travels from the Arctic towards the Equator whilst the Arctic tern, described by the author as weighing ‘no more than a bar of soap’ continues on to the southern polar seas.

This is the longest regular migration of any creature on earth.

Perhaps the greatest marvel is that when terns return to their Arctic breeding grounds they reunite with their single, lifelong mates.

The author has worked for Greenpeace and the Natural History Museum and acknowledges expert advice from the British Antarctic Survey.

She writes both well and accurately.

Gerry Turley’s strikingly effective illustrations make this a picture book to read together with the youngest children and to build confidence in developing readers.

Adults may also learn from it. Recommended ages 4+

Buy The Sea Swallow and the Humpback Whales from Amazon (UK)

Buy The Sea Swallow and the Humpback Whales from Amazon (US)

Rescuing Titanic

Rescuing Titanic book

Rescuing Titanic
Flora Delargy
Wide Eyed Editions, £14.99

This is the first narrative picture book from Flora Delargy, a young artist from Belfast.

Delargy’s grandfather and great-grandfather both worked in the city’s shipyards.

The central character of her story, however, is not the city’s famous Titanic, but the smaller, less distinguished Carpathia built in England at Wallsend (Liverpool).

Rescuing Titanic tells the story of the Carpathia’s dash through the night after her wireless operator Harold Cottam had, almost accidentally, received a message from the Titanic that she had struck an iceberg and was sinking fast.

The shelves of Titanic literature are full of mistakes made, drills missed, obligations unfulfilled.

It’s a delight to add this warm and positive human document.

Rescuing Titanic is intended for younger readers, with plenty of educational explanations of crew functions, signalling procedures and the practicalities of rescue (eg canvas bags prepared to lift children aboard).

I confidently predict that it will be much appreciated by their older relatives as well.

Buy Rescuing Titanic from Amazon (UK)

Buy Rescuing Titanic from Amazon (US)

Note: We may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site, at no extra cost to you. This doesn’t affect our editorial independence.

Visit the Yachting Monthly Book Club for more of the best sailing books released this year.

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