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
Chloe-Jasmine Whicello impressed the judges and the audience at Wembley Arena with a sultry performance
TVReview: Who'd have known Simon was such a Roger Rabbit fan?
News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams plays 'bad ass' Arya Stark in Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
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.

    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam