William Trevor's reputation as one of Ireland's senior novelists rests on his accomplished descriptions of dispirited grown-ups, but he brings to his first children's adventure a studious freshness and resolve. Juliet's Story begins with a list of Juliet's 14-year old likes (banana cake, peppered bacon, lime sherbets) and dislikes (mashed turnip, egg white). But it swiftly ripens into an allegory about story-telling. Juliet is lost when Paddy Old, who used to recount the exploits of the man who lost his shadow or the frog that was a fairy, dies. But a colourful trip to France turns her into a story-teller herself. It might be that a children's story about how a child becomes a writer is a bit cute and literary for today's laser-toting Turtle fans; but Trevor's distinctive style will keep parents turning the pages long after the kids have fallen asleep in front of the telly.
THE RIDDLE OF THE FLOATING ISLAND & THE GREAT EUCALYPTUS MYSTERY by Paul Cox, Cape, pounds 9.99 each
These two huge and pretty books - spacious, pastel-cream pictures floating in a sea of swirly handwriting - introduce 'The Adventures of Archibald Koala'. Archibald, a koala bear in a tweed suit and bow tie, is a detective on a Pacific island called Wombalano, inhabited only by koalas and badgers. Someone's been swiping the eucalyptus leaves; and one of the badgers loses his fancy opera clothes. Down these mean beaches must go a koala who is neither tarnished nor afraid. The books are a collage of already popular devices, from the Babar- inspired format to mutant badger names like Badgiovanni. But it's all done with a light and colourful touch. Brace yourself for the show-down between the koalas and the badgers, which involves them chucking office furniture and kitchen utensils at each other. Afterwards, enjoy the best meal in Koalaville: sauteed eucalyptus leaves with vinaigrette, eucalyptus casserole smothered in eucalyptus sauce, with perhaps a refreshing eucalyptus ice-cream for afters.