IoS Books of the Year 2012: Children's books aged under 9

Over five pages, our critics select more of the year's best books, beginning with Inbali Iserles on stories for the under-nines

Inter-galactic domination could be yours: simply snap up a copy of Chris Riddell's Alienography 2: Tips for Tiny Tyrants (Macmillan, £14.99). First you'll need a gigantic head. Then find a grotesque sidekick, such as "Manga Mog" or "Dr Peculiar". And no extraterrestrial despot is complete without an "unmentionable" beastie beneath the bed. Riddell's flamboyant illustrations and satirical wit – sharpened from years as a political cartoonist – explode across every page, and are sure to thrill tiny tyrants everywhere.

It is almost time to bid farewell to 2012, the year that brought us the summer of sport and drew all eyes to London. Revisit the tourist spots with Katie in London by James Mayhew (Orchard, £5.99). Katie and her brother Jack are off for a day of sightseeing. When their grandmother dozes off, a friendly stone lion volunteers to be their guide. Katie and Jack ride on his back as he prances off his plinth at Trafalgar Square. And from St Paul's to Buckingham Palace, London comes to life in this magical adventure.

Jo Empson, the author-illustrator behind Rabbityness (Child's Play, £5.99) has produced one of the most original picture books of the year. Rabbit likes rabbity pursuits, such as twirling his whiskers and washing his ears. He also enjoys unrabbity things, such as painting and making music. When Rabbit disappears, the bunnies are bereft and the woods are silent and grey. But all is not lost ... rabbit has left them gifts: his paints, his instruments and songs. Soon the woods are alive again, as his friends indulge in unrabbity fun. They remember Rabbit and are happy once more. A poignant book full of joy, compassion and hope.

Ganesha's Sweet Tooth by Sanjay Patel and Emily Haynes (Chronicle Books, £10.99) is a vibrant retelling of how the god Ganesha broke his tusk and came to write the Mahabarata, the epic poem of Hindu literature. The Mahabarata itself is not retold – to do so in the confines of a picture book would surely be an insurmountable challenge – but the story provides an original and engaging entry point to Hindu legend.

The world of children's books lost one of its most exuberant stars this year, in the shape of New Zealand's Margaret Mahy. Now get ye a rum, and hold on to your hats, me hearties, as Mahy's The Great Piratical Rumbustification (Orion, £4.99) has been reissued. Siblings Alpha, Oliver and Omega are thrilled when a curious man arrives at their door: with his wooden leg, tin arm and eye-patch, Orpheus Clinker is hardly a typical babysitter. He is, in fact, a pirate! So begins the pirate party – a colourful, clamorous rumbustification! Bursting with Quentin Blake's raucous illustrations, this is a wild and wicked read.

Another pirate, this time of the canine variety, features in Liz Kessler's Poppy the Pirate Dog (Orion, £4.99). A trip to the coast with her family and a scull and crossbones scarf make Poppy feel like a real seadog. The Dalmatian basks in her new-found status until she's faced with the prospect of boarding a boat. Then her sea legs vanish. With colourful illustrations by Mike Phillips, this heart-warming story will please both boys and girls.

In a world where celebrity counts, pretty young starlet Ellie May is destined for adulation. Ellie's an expert when it comes to accessorising, and surely knows her Puccis from her Pradas. But when rival Cassie Craven receives plaudits for saving dolphins, being famous for shopping is no longer enough especially when the prestigious SAUSAGE awards are up for grabs. That's the premise of Marianne Levy's first novel, Ellie May Would Like to be Taken Seriously for a Change (Egmont, £5.99), a playful poke at the fame game that's packed with wit and has lively illustrations by Ali Pye.

As winter closes in and we entertain hopes of a white Christmas, reach for Holly Webb's The Snow Bear (Stripes, £7.99). Sara goes to stay with her granddad while her parents prepare for the birth of their second child. When the snow starts to fall, the road home becomes blocked and Sara grows restless. Grandfather distracts her with a tale of his youthful adventures in the Canadian Arctic, where he once helped rescue a polar bear cub. Sara builds a bear from snow, a presence so fragile and lifelike it seems to move ... Webb weaves a snowy enchantment, where magic and memory meet.

Everything's Amazing (sort of) (Scholastic, £6.99), according to schoolboy Tom Gates. Penned by L Pichon, the winner of the 2011 Roald Dahl Funny Prize, Tom's comic ramblings have had boys in stitches. It's easy to see why. This isn't so much a novel as an annotated exercise book, complete with wish lists, school work and madcap illustrations. Parting its pages is like leaping into the mind of an eight-year-old. (If you're squeamish, look away now!)

Finally, the Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, has selected poems to delight your child. Not only does 101 Poems for Children (Macmillan, £9.99) include a cornucopia of rhyme, it features illustrations by the legendary Emily Gravett. But children, be warned: this is a book that adults will try to purloin to read it themselves.

For humour, look out for "Rat it Up" by Adrian Mitchell, which starts with: "C'mon everybody, Slap some grease on those paws, Get some yellow on your teeth, And, uh, sharpen up your claws." For thought-provoking verses, see Emily Dickinson's "A Bird Came Down" or Alice Oswald's "River". Then enjoy classics such as "There Was an Old Lady", which explores the folly of dining on insects – all back from the days before political correctness turned drunken sailors into grumpy pirates.

Inbali Iserles is the award-winning author of 'The Tygrine Cat' (Walker, £5.99) and 'The Tygrine Cat: On the Run' (Walker, £5.99)

The Great Piratical Rumbustification, By Margaret Mahy

Orion £4.99

"'Oh, for a pirate party!' the pirates grumbled ominously, trying their swords for sharpness. All the pirates – Roving Tom, Wild Jack Clegg, Dick Rover, Orpheus Clinker and Old, Old Oldest-of-all, Terrible Crabmeat – were restless with longing for a great Rumbustification. The whole city was churning with restless pirates. The difficulty was that a pirate party must be a STOLEN one."

Arts and Entertainment
Kathy (Sally Lindsay) in Ordinary Lies
tvReview: The seemingly dull Kathy proves her life is anything but a snoozefest
Arts and Entertainment

Listen to his collaboration with Naughty Boy

music
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Craig in a scene from ‘Spectre’, released in the UK on 23 October

film
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap

film
Arts and Entertainment

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Katie Brayben is nominated for Best Actress in a Musical for her role as Carole King in Beautiful

film
Arts and Entertainment
Israeli-born actress Gal Gadot has been cast to play Wonder Woman
film
News
Top Gear presenter James May appears to be struggling with his new-found free time
people
Arts and Entertainment
Kendrick Lamar at the Made in America Festival in Los Angeles last summer
music
Arts and Entertainment
'Marley & Me' with Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jon Hamm (right) and John Slattery in the final series of Mad Men
tv
Arts and Entertainment
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Place Blanche, Paris, 1961, shot by Christer Strömholm
photographyHow the famous camera transformed photography for ever
Arts and Entertainment
The ‘Westmacott Athlete’
art
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
News
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
people
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

music
Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
  • Get to the point
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.

    War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

    War with Isis

    Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
    Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

    A spring in your step?

    Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
    Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

    Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

    Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
    Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

    Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

    For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
    Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

    Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

    As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
    The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

    UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

    Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
    Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

    Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

    Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
    Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

    Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

    If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
    10 best compact cameras

    A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

    If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
    Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

    Paul Scholes column

    Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
    Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

    Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

    Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
    Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

    Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

    The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
    General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

    The masterminds behind the election

    How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
    Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

    Machine Gun America

    The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
    The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

    The ethics of pet food

    Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?