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
'Banksy Does New York' Film - 2014

Art Somebody is going around telling people he's Banksy - but it isn't the street artist

Arts and Entertainment
Woody Allen and Placido Domingo will work together on Puccini's Schicchi

Theatre

Arts and Entertainment
The sixteen celebrities taking part in The Jump 2015

TV

Arts and Entertainment
British author Helen Macdonald, pictured with Costa book of the year, 'H is for Hawk'
booksPanel hail Helen Macdonald's 'brilliantly written, muscular prose' in memoir of a grief-stricken daughter who became obsessed with training a goshawk
Arts and Entertainment
Tom DeLonge has announced his departure from Blink-182

music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
In the picture: Anthony LaPaglia and Martin Freeman in 'The Eichmann Show'

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Kirkbride and Bill Roache as Deirdre and Ken Barlow in Coronation Street

tvThe actress has died aged 60
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Marianne Jean-Baptiste defends Joe Miller in Broadchurch series two

tv
Arts and Entertainment
The frill of it all: Hattie Morahan in 'The Changeling'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny may reunite for The X Files

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
TV
News
A young woman punched a police officer after attending a gig by US rapper Snoop Dogg
people
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
Arts and Entertainment

Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated

Arts and Entertainment
Damian Lewis shooting a scene as Henry VIII in Wolf Hall
TV

Arts and Entertainment
A history of violence: ‘Angry, White and Proud’ looked at the rise of far-right groups

tv

An expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle

Arts and Entertainment

art

Lee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Keaton in the 1998 Beetlejuice original

film

Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TV

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.

    Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

    Greece elections

    In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
    Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

    Holocaust Memorial Day

    Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
    Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

    Magnetic north

    The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
    Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

    Front National family feud?

    Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
    Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

    Pot of gold

    Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
    10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

    From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

    While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
    Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

    'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

    Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
    DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

    The inside track on France's trial of the year

    Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
    As provocative now as they ever were

    Sarah Kane season

    Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

    Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore