Bears, bunnies, and an Abominable Snowman in suburbia

Nicholas Tucker gets lost in the best new books for the under-twelves

Michael Terry's Who Lives Here? (Bloomsbury, £6.99) is a toughly bound board book with plenty of other flaps to lift should a few get torn along the way by infants over-eager to discover the various hidden wild animals. It is published in conjunction with London Zoo, and some of the royalties will go towards conservation work. More animals are caught lurking behind flaps in Gareth Edwards's The Big Jungle Mix-Up (Hodder, £10.99). Told in rhyme and exuberantly illustrated by Kanako Usui, each page has Little Bear wrongly guessing the next animal to come, with the correction following once the flap is raised. It offers ample early opportunity for laughing at someone else's mistakes.

For proper bears, devoid of clothes and speech and living in the wild, Suzi Eszterhas's Brown Bear (Frances Lincoln, £6.99) has striking colour photographs of a pair of Alaskan cubs playing, feeding, scrapping and learning how to catch salmon. By the end, they are still together at their third birthday, after their mother has walked away. But for an emotional prop that never leaves, go to Tatyana Feeney's quirky Small Bunny's Blue Blanket (inset, far right, Oxford, £11.99). Subtitled "A tale of love and laundry", this illustrated story of a comfort blanket gradually returning to full grubby glory after suffering a maternal wash is one that many parents and infants may quickly recognise.

Penny Dale has a new slant on ever-popular prehistoric animals in her picture book Dinosaur Zoom! (Nosy Crow, £10.99). Whether driving a blue convertible through the desert or reversing a lorry into the woods, these dinosaurs practically leap from the page. So too does the venerable heroine of Val McDermid's My Granny Is a Pirate (right, Orchard, £10.99). Told in verse and superbly illustrated by Arthur Robins, it makes old age seem a lot of fun, as Granny sails the ocean in search of bounty.

Debbie Singleton's The King Who Wouldn't Sleep (inset above, Andersen, £10.99) is quieter fare but equally good. Its final line, "And they all slept peacefully ever after", has a lot going for it, but before that there are clever twists, as well as glorious pictures by Holly Swain.

Giles Andreae's Me, the Queen and Christopher (Orchard, £4.99) shares text with Tony Ross's pictures in equal measure. The story of how young Freya accidentally makes firm friends with our monarch – who is very relaxed and jolly here – represents wish fulfillment at its most enticing. Freya's wheelchair-bound brother, Christopher, also appears in this affectionate little story. But there are no such niceties in Gillian Johnson's The Disastrous Little Dragon (Hodder, £4.99). It starts with a sneeze and ends with a fart – a fairly regular occurrence in junior fiction these days – and the pace never lets up, as four naughty schoolchildren are transported to a hospital for monsters where they are required to cure a dragon suffering from smoke inhalation. Illustrated with scribbly drawings by the author, every page bristles with manic energy.

There is more hectic fun in Katie Davies's The Great Dog Disaster (Simon and Schuster, £5.99). Dreaming of the arrival of a perfect new pet, nine-year-old Suzanne finds herself lumbered with Beatrice, an old Newfoundland with serious stomach issues. But everything finally works out, with Hannah Shaw's scratchy drawings adding to the general good humour. This quality is also found in spades in Charlotte Haptie's Granny Grabbers' Whizz Bang World (Hodder, £5.99). Here, young Delilah is paired off with a childcare robot while her selfish parents get on with their separate ambitions. But this is a robot with a soul, determined to give children a nice time. The parents eventually send for a stricter replacement but Delilah is too much for them all. Artfully told, this is good stuff.

Eva Ibbotson's The Abominables (Scholastic, £10.99) was found in her papers after she died two years ago. By turns amusing and exciting, as well as offering a satisfyingly long read, it describes how a young brother and sister rescue some talking Yetis threatened by increased tourism to their Himalayan home. Transporting them in secret back to Britain, the siblings have many adventures. But it is the characters of the five Yetis, much given to weeping and general sentimentality, that make the biggest impression. This is a charming story from a much-missed author.

Totally different but just as memorable, Michelle Paver's Gods and Warriors (Puffin, £12.99) is the electrifying start to a sequence of five novels set in the Mediterranean Bronze Age. Its hero, the 12-year-old goat herd Hylas, uses contemporary language but thinks in a pre-scientific way. He teams up with Pirra, a girl who is also on her own, and the two set out together into a world of animal allies, warriors, chariots, slaves and living myth. The author, who undertakes gruelling research into every fictional setting she chooses, as always writes a good tale.

Ursula Jones's The Young Stars (Inside Pocket, £6.99) is a melodrama featuring a teenage troupe working for almost nothing on the variety theatre circuit in 1936. Shy, stammering Ollie, bullied by his supposed father who is the boss of the company, runs away after spying another boy who is his exact double. Lots of detail about working on the boards, including a glossary of theatrical terms, lend extra authenticity to an endearingly rollicking tale.

Stage illusions also creep into Lissa Evans's Big Change for Stuart (Doubleday, £10.99). Inheriting his great-uncle's magician's workshop, 10-year-old Stuart discovers within it up to seven gateways to magical adventures. He is both aided and teased by the girl triplets next door, not least in their heavily slanted reporting for the Beech Road Guardian, the exceedingly local newspaper they jointly produce. Receiving no real help from his vague, Latin-quoting father, Stuart still manages to come out on top in a story fluctuating between humour and high drama. The first story about this likeable boy, published last year, came out to universal praise. This second one is just as good.

Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
Arts and Entertainment
TV
News
Graham Norton said Irish broadcaster RTE’s decision to settle was ‘moronic’
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Former Communards frontman Jimmy Somerville
music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Public Service Broadcasting are going it alone
music
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne as transgender artist Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl
filmFirst look at Oscar winner as transgender artist
Arts and Entertainment
Season three of 'House of Cards' will be returning later this month
TV reviewHouse of Cards returns to Netflix
Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford will play Rick Deckard once again for the Blade Runner sequel
film review
Arts and Entertainment
The modern Thunderbirds: L-R, Scott, Virgil, Alan, Gordon and John in front of their home, the exotic Tracy Island
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift won Best International Solo Female (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Shining star: Maika Monroe, with Jake Weary, in ‘It Follows’
film review
Arts and Entertainment

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith arrives at the Brit Awards (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn's beheading in BBC Two's Wolf Hall

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Follow every rainbow: Julie Andrews in 'The Sound of Music'
film Elizabeth Von Trapp reveals why the musical is so timeless
Arts and Entertainment
Bytes, camera, action: Leehom Wang in ‘Blackhat’
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Libertines will headline this year's festival
music
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Dean Anderson in the original TV series, which ran for seven seasons from 1985-1992
tv
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
    Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

    What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

    Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
    The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

    Setting in motion the Internet of Things

    British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
    Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

    Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

    Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
    Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

    Cult competition The Moth goes global

    The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
    Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

    Pakistani women come out fighting

    Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
    Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

    Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

    The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
    LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

    Education: LGBT History Month

    Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
    11 best gel eyeliners

    Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

    Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

    Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

    The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
    Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

    Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

    After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot