Books of the Year: Children's books

Bears, rabbits, tigers, flies (and snot-caked bullies)

When talent and imagination combine with fiendish wit, expect to be seriously entertained. Listen carefully - there will be a test: if a pair of baby rabbits is left in a field, how many pairs will there be: (a) at the end of each month? (b) at the end of each year? This question is posed in Emily Gravett's
The Rabbit Problem (Macmillan, £6.99). Part calendar, part pop-up, the book bursts with activity, so aptly reminiscent of our warren-dwelling friends. If Gravett isn't the best in the business, it's hard to know who is. For humour with heart, also see
Dog Loves Books by Louise Yates (Red Fox, £10.99), which has just snapped up the Roald Dahl Funny Prize in the six-and-under category.

For those with a taste for nostalgia and a gentler pace, look no further than Michael Bond's The Paddington Treasury (HarperCollins, £14.99), illustrated by RW Alley. Here is a bear who needs no introduction: having thrilled generations of children with his adventures, Paddington is back in this collection of six of his most popular stories. Clutching his signature jar of marmalade - now alarmingly empty - the Peruvian bear arrives at Paddington Station and soon makes the acquaintance of the Brown family. This volume would make a perfect gift for the young, or young at heart.

The Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler dream team returns with the tale of Zog, a keen yet accident-prone dragon (Alison Green, £10.99). Always, conveniently, at the scene of his mishaps an unassuming princess is quick to help. She even suggests he captures her for one of his exercises and thereby meets her knight in shining armour - a young man who, like her, is eager not for the spoils of conquest but for the sensible benefits of a medical degree. Look out for cameos from the Gruffalo in Scheffler's rich illustrations.

Rounding off the picture books, Michael Rosen's Tiny Little Fly (Walker, £11.99) is a glittering gem. Rosen's characteristic rhyme and playful humour is perfectly accompanied by Kevin Waldron's vivid imagery.

Emily's Surprising Voyage by Sue Purkiss (Walker, £3.99) is a delightful story for readers moving on to chapter books and features charming illustrations by James de la Rue. In 1852, the SS Great Britain sets sail on her maiden voyage to Australia, carrying 630 passengers - one of whom, Purkiss tells us, is young Emily Ainsworth. Emily is reluctant to leave her home in England for the uncertainties of a new world, but soon finds suitable distraction in the form of mop-haired Thomas Drew and his curious companion. Together they explore the vast ship, unearthing its ghostly secret.

Series titles are often overlooked, yet they dominate early chapter books. Linda Chapman's stories are among the best, and her Skating School: White Skate Wishes (Puffin, £4.99) is a wonderful read on a cold winter's evening. Readers will identify with the heroine's struggles for acceptance among a competitive group of girls, and enjoy her journey to the enchanted Land of Ice and Winter. Ideal for fans of Dancing on Ice.

And now for something completely different: The Little Prince - A Graphic Novel (Walker, £15), based on Antoine de Saint-Exupery's book, by Joann Sfar and translated by Sarah Ardizzone. What a wonderful idea, a graphic adaptation of this spellbinding story. When a pilot crashes his plane in the desert, he is met by a mysterious boy. "Draw me a sheep," says the boy to the wide-eyed pilot. So begins a journey rich in gentle truths and intergalactic possibilities. One of its most poignant sequences is the Little Prince's encounter with the fox. "Tame me," says the fox. "Wheat is of no use to me, it doesn't remind me of anything. But you've got hair the colour of gold. So it'll be fantastic when you tame me. The golden wheat will remind me of you." The Little Prince tames the fox, but when he has to leave, the fox is sad. "So it hasn't been worth it," the Little Prince says. "Oh yes, it has," says the fox, "Because of the colour of the wheat." A book that defies age and genre and demands re-reading.

One of the most gifted writers around must surely be Linda Newbery, and Lob (David Fickling, £10.99), her latest novel for younger readers, is the kind of book that will inspire in children a deep love of nature, and in adults a yearning for the wonderment of childhood. It tells the story of Lucy, who believes in a mysterious green man named Lob, about whom her grandfather has told her tales. No one else believes in Lob - few can see him - but Lucy knows he's real. What is Lob? Grandpa Will describes him as being "made of rain and wind. Sun and hail. Light and dark. He's made of fire and earth and air. He's made of grit and stones and stardust. Time gone and time waiting." This is a book of real beauty.

For humour, see Anthony McGowan's Einstein's Underpants - And How They Saved the World (Corgi Yearling, £5.99). An alien invasion is imminent, and only Alexander can stop it, aided by an unlikely band of misfits. Einstein's Underpants is zany, irreverent and downright absurd - children will love it. Note, for instance, this description of a bully: "His big nostrils had a hard, caked-on layer of green crust on the outside, with a more liquid, glistening layer on the inside, like the devil's own confectionery." It is with such pearls as these that McGowan entertains the older readers in this category. Also recommended for mischievous adults.

Inbali Iserles is the award-winning author of 'The Tygrine Cat' (Walker, £5.99). Its sequel, 'The Tygrine Cat on the Run', (Walker, £5.99) is out on 3 January

Arts and Entertainment
Stewart Lee (Gavin Evans)


Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Far Right and Proud: Reggies Yates' Extreme Russia

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West was mobbed in Armenia after jumping into a lake

Arts and Entertainment
The show suffers from its own appeal, being so good as to create an appetite in its viewers that is difficult to sate in a ten episode series

Game of Thrones reviewFirst look at season five contains some spoilers
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench and Kevin Spacey on the Red Carpet for 2015's Olivier Awards

Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awards

Arts and Entertainment
Proving his metal: Ross Poldark (played by Aidan Turner in the BBC series) epitomises the risk-taking spirit of 18th-century mine owners

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne is reportedly favourite to play Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars in dystopian action thriller Mad Max: Fury Road

Arts and Entertainment
Josh, 22, made his first million from the game MinoMonsters

Grace Dent

Channel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
Disgraced Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson
Arts and Entertainment
Game face: Zoë Kravitz, Bruce Greenwood and Ethan Hawke in ‘Good Kill’

film review

Arts and Entertainment
Living like there’s no tomorrow: Jon Hamm as Don Draper in the final season of ‘Mad Men’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
Yaphett Kotto with Julius W Harris and Jane Seymour in 1973 Bond movie Live and Let Die

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

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

    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
    Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

    UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

    Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
    John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

    ‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

    Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
    Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

    Let the propaganda wars begin - again

    'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

    Japan's incredible long-distance runners

    Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
    Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

    Tom Drury: The quiet American

    His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

    Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

    More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
    Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

    Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

    The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own