Find that kangaroo now

From parachuting dogs to a dad in a tartan dressing gown: Sally Williams meets odd creatures in picture books
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The Independent Culture

10 minutes till Bedtime by Peggy Rathmann (Viking, £12.99)

10 minutes till Bedtime by Peggy Rathmann (Viking, £12.99)

A sharply original tale of a hamster convoy that rolls up at a little girl's house to get a tour of her bedtime routine. It's wonderful. The hamsters - and there are hundreds here - mill about taking Polaroid snaps and videos of the little girl as she cleans her teeth and reads her book. The detail is brilliant: the tours are organised by www.hamstertours.com, and check out the hamster side-tracked into videoing an ant. Each page has so much to pore over, talk about and share. More than anything, though, Rathmann creates an imaginary world that is totally convincing.

Snail Trail by Ruth Brown (Andersen, £4.99)

Who would have thought that this snail's journey around a back garden would be so absorbing children will want to read this story again and again? The snail struggles up a steep hill, through a gloomy tunnel, and squeezes through a narrow arch, but things aren't quite what they seem. A book of real character and atmosphere, yet at the same time, because Ruth Brown is a skilled natural history illustrator, very accurate and life-like, too.

Where are You Blue Kangaroo? by Emma Chichester Clark (Andersen, £9.99)

This tale of little Lily who keeps on losing her beloved toy Blue Kangaroo dazzles with as much craft and originality as the first picture book about this disarming pair. Chichester Clark fills her pages in the most exciting way combining spot-on true -to-life emotion - Lily, by turns turns cavalier and inconsolable, is horribly accurate - with elegant design and the most extraordinarily vivid colour. All this and she delivers a message without wagging a finger.

Zoom! By Trish Cooke, illus. Alex Ayliffe (Collins, £9.99)

This is a noisy book that celebrates the fun of charging around, while gently encouraging quiet, creative play. Full of the sort of detail children love: bright, exuberant pictures, short sentences, lots of repetition and whooping noises to imitate - "zigg zigga zigga ZOOM."

My Dad by Anthony Browne (Doubleday, £9.99)

In a series of rich and surreal images a proud son explains just why his dad is such a hero. Dad turns into a fish ("he can swim like"), an owl ("he's as wise as") a gorilla ("he's as strong as") as well as sending the bad wolf packing and winning the dad's race at sport's day - and all still togged out in his tartan dressing gown. Because this is Anthony Browne, the master of the visual joke and surreal image, the pictures are extraordinary and unforgettable and celebrate dads in a way few books do.

Tim's Friend Towser by Edward Ardizzone (Scholastic, £9.99)

Edward Ardizzone made his name with Little Tim and the Brave Sea Captain way back in 1936 and now new generations can enjoy his deceptively casual style and the Little Tim books in these restored, beautifully printed editions. In this story Tim finds a stowaway puppy in the lifeboat onboard the ship; a tale of divided loyalty and cat lovers unfolds. Full of simple, but magical illustrations and a wonderful sense of seaside life.

Dogs by Marjorie Newman (Oxford University Press, £2.99)

Do you know how dogs talk? Or that in the Second World War, dogs were dropped by parachute into dangerous places? This absorbing collection of dog facts goes to show there's nothing more entertaining than real life if written about in the right way. Which is why this is by an enthusiast rather than a dry expert, and it shows in the passion and drama brought to the subject. Part of an eminently collectable series that includes snakes, frogs and toads, cars, rockets, dinosaurs, wolves, bees, horses, whales and spiders.

How to Fly a 747 by Ian Graham (Walker, £5.99)

It's easy to think this is all a bit of a gimmick, what with the double poster, sticker sheet, models to make and sticky epaulettes for budding pilots. But no. This, without a doubt, is an inspired and exhilarating book. Not only are you introduced to the nuts and bolts of what is the world's largest passenger plane, it almost has you believing that you're actually flying the thing. "Dawn is breaking over the runway as you arrive at the airport" it begins, and as you turn the page you're ushered into the, or rather, your cockpit. "Your seat is on the left. The one on the right is for your First Officer." Before you know it, you got the all clear and you're hurtling down the runway at around 315km an hour.

Don't Be Horrid Henry by Francesca Simon, illus. Kevin McAleenan (Orion, £7.99)

Stories of Horrid Henry and his persecution of younger brother Perfect Peter have entertained many older children. Here, not only is the sibling rivalry set to cheeky pictures to appeal to a younger audience, but we also learn, retrospectively, of how Henry treated his brother when he was a baby. He tries posting him, dumping him, losing him and dishes out the sort of treatment lots of older brothers and sisters fantasise about - which is why Horrid Henry is such a success. Children will love it, but does it give them ideas?

The Grumpy Little Girls and the Princess Party by Lindsay Camp, illus. Daniel Postgate (Collins, £4.99)

Watch out! Here come a series of four books about the grumpy little girls. "Each very different, all VERY grumpy!" And all very well observed and funny. In this story Maisie nose dives from exuberant excitement to jealous rage when she is upstaged by Ruby at her Princess Party and Lulu gets in a grump when someone squashes her beloved woodlouse. Told with a lightness of touch and a love of words, it's hard to imagine how Camp's charting of the many forms of grumpiness could be bettered.

Acker Backa Boo! by Opal Dunn, illus. Susan Winter (Frances Lincoln, £10.99)

Had enough of Pokémon cards? Why not play "Acker backa boo" instead. A survey of games to say and play from around the world, this wholesome book includes such catchy numbers as "Olika bolika, Susan solika" and "One, two, three a-leerie", all with clear instructions on how to play.

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