Books: Don't get a hitch in your git-along

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The Independent Culture
Children's picture books are more often than not a collaborative affair, and the partnership that produces the words and pictures is often hard to balance. The illustrations on these pages are all vibrant accompaniments to either original text or revised versions of well-worn tales.

Above: Cousin Lazybones pretends he has a "hitch in his git-along" to escape the chores in Aunt Nancy and Cousin Lazybones (Walker pounds 9.99), beautifully illustrated by David Parkins but with strangely ungrammatical, Hillbilly- style text by Phyllis Root.

Far left: Straw suggests a game of draughts to his friend Matches, who only agrees if he can be red, move first and have two moves. The moral of the story is "don't play with matches" in Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith's Squids Will Be Squids (Viking pounds 12.99), a collection of fables illustrating such modern maxims as "Shoot, it's not my fault" and "Just because you have a lot of stuff, don't think you're so special."

Below left: the Squirrel, the cat and the duck have "a horrible squabble, a row, a racket, a rumpus" over the making of Pumpkin Soup (by Helen Cooper, Doubleday pounds 9.99), a colourful fable about friendship and co-operation.

Opposite, clockwise from top: The Old Man prepares for the big day, when The Gigantic Turnip is to be pulled up. Of course it will take a whole barnyard full of helpers to get it out of the ground in Aleksei Tolstoy and Niamh Sharkey's lively version of the classic tale (Barefoot pounds 9.99); "The old man of Bulak, / who sat on a crocodile's back" is one of Matilda Harrison's charming illustrations to some classic nonsense verse by Edward Lear in Bisky Bats and Pussy Cats (Bloomsbury pounds 10.99); Balthasar, Jasper and Melchior arrive at their destination, where an unwelcome surprise awaits them in Dianne Hofmeyer and Jude Daly's version of the Three Wise Men tale, The Stone (Frances Lincoln pounds 10.99). Marco Polo came across the Persian legend of the Magi on his travels, and this is based on his own account in his Travels.

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