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
Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey in the first-look Fifty Shades of Grey movie still

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc, centre, are up for Best Female TV Comic for their presenting quips on The Great British Bake Off

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman as Lester Nygaard in the TV adaptation of 'Fargo'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
<p><strong>2008</strong></p>
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>

film
Arts and Entertainment

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book

books
Arts and Entertainment
Panic! In The Disco's Brendon Urie performs on stage

music
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Radio 4's Today programme host Evan Davis has been announced as the new face of Newsnight

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams performing on the Main Stage at the Wireless Festival in Finsbury Park, north London

music
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Mathison returns to the field in the fourth season of Showtime's Homeland

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Crowds soak up the atmosphere at Latitude Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Meyne Wyatt and Caren Pistorus arrive for the AACTA Aawrds in Sydney, Australia

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rick Astley's original music video for 'Never Gonna Give You Up' has been removed from YouTube

music
Arts and Entertainment
Quentin Blake's 'Artists on the beach'

Artists unveils new exhibition inspired by Hastings beach

art
Arts and Entertainment
MusicFans were left disappointed after technical issues
Arts and Entertainment
'Girl with a Pearl Earring' by Johannes Vermeer, c. 1665
artWhat is it about the period that so enthrals novelists?
Arts and Entertainment
Into the woods: The Merry Wives of Windsor at Petersfield
theatreOpen-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Arts and Entertainment
James singer Tim Booth
latitude 2014
Arts and Entertainment
Lee says: 'I never, ever set out to offend, but it can be an accidental by-product'
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe judges were wowed by the actress' individual cooking style
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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.

    Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

    Screwing your way to the top?

    Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
    Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

    Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

    Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

    The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

    Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
    US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

    Meet the US Army's shooting star

    Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
    Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

    Take a good look while you can

    How climate change could wipe out this seal
    Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

    Farewell, my lovely

    Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
    Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

    Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

    Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
    Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

    Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

    John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
    Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

    Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

    A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
    Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

    Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

    The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
    The 10 best pedicure products

    Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

    Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

    Commonwealth Games 2014

    Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
    Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

    Jack Pitt-Brooke

    Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
    How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

    How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

    Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game