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

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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules

Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'

Arts and Entertainment
<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>

Arts and Entertainment

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

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

Arts and Entertainment

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

Arts and Entertainment

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

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

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

Arts and Entertainment
Crowds soak up the atmosphere at Latitude Festival

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

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

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

Artists unveils new exhibition inspired by Hastings beach

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
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
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

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

    Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

    Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

    The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

    Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

    Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
    German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

    Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

    Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
    BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

    BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

    The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
    Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

    Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

    Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
    How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

    Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

    Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
    Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

    Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

    Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
    10 best reed diffusers

    Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

    Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

    Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

    There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
    Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

    Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

    It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
    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