Children's books

Picture books reviewed

Songs of super furry animals

In The Night Pirates by Peter Harris, illusrated by Deborah Allwright, (Egmont, £10.99), up go the sails and up goes the flag. Here is a night-time adventure about a mildly heroic little boy, Tom, and a ship of rough, tough little girl pirates. Whether intended as a comment on gender politics, or not, this offers thrills and excitement, and creates the sort of tense anticipation that small children love. Does Tom join the crew? Where are they going? To find something very strange...

Penelope on the Farm by Anne Gutman, illustrated by Georg Hallensleben, (Random House, £6.99) is pricey for a pull-the-tab, lift-the-flap, hide-and-seek-with-baby-animals book. But Penelope the koala bear is so charmingly painted with green wellies, and so full of toddler determination, that it is hard to resist. There is even a little plot. Penelope has been singing so loudly the baby animals have run away. Can you make her stop singing? With its roll-call of fluffy animals hidden in unlikely crannies, stylish art work and sturdy flaps, this is full of the sort of things young children love.

Lost and Found by Oliver Jeffers (HarperCollins, £10.99) is an uplifting story about a boy and a penguin, and their journey to a firm friendship via the South Pole. The scenario is unlikely, but Jeffers invests it with plausible life, telling the story in pictures of such spare beauty, there is space for the emotion to breathe. Suffused with a dream-like quality, this book will calm even the most overheated of bedtimes.

Aesop's Fables by Savior Pirotta, illustrated by Richard Johnson, (Kingfisher, £9.99) opens up Aesop's life lessons to the very young. Here is the Lion and the Mouse, the Tortoise and the Hare, as well as lesser-known stories such as The Frogs Who Wanted a King, all made sweet on the eye and easy on the ear. There is a preface to each of the fables, too, set in Ancient Greece, in which Aesop talks about his inspiration for what follows. None of which, incidentally, adds anything extra. But with eight stories over 80 pages, this is a cuddly confection filled with such expressive creatures that young children will have an absorbing time being schooled in Aesop's ancient moral code.

In The Princess and the Pea by Lauren Child, photographed by Polly Borland (Puffin, £12.99), the fairy tale of a prince in search of a real princess is given the miniature treatment, in a picture book full of grand originality. Blooming from a childhood enthusiasm for dolls' houses, Lauren Child sets the action in tiny panelled rooms made from card, peopled by paper cut-outs and furnished with objects typically owned by miniature specialists: tiny Barley Twist chairs, oil paintings, glowing log fires and bowls of minute peas fashioned from resin, all hauntingly lit and photographed by Polly Borland. Not only is there is awesome precision and patience in this work, but children will be amazed and thrown off balance by the beautiful strangeness of it all.

Jan Pienkowski's The Fairy Tales (translated by David Walser; Puffin, £14.99) casts a dark shadow over fairyland. Pienkowksi indulges his appetite for silhouette in this atmospheric collection for all to share. Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, Hansel and Gretel and Cinderella are made rich and strange, as princesses and enchanted toads are dipped in darkness, then hauled out on to the light of the page. Cloaked in protective black, Pienkowski ventures further, deeper, than most, being present at the birth of Sleeping Beauty, for example; and revealing the remains of a would-be suitor who "died a wretched death" in the thorn hedge surrounding the sleeping castle. This has the quality of a legend.

Crammed inside the pink, handbag-shaped Handbag Friends by Sally Lloyd-Jones, illustrated by Sue Heap (David Fickling, £9.99), is a mad story about six friends and how they came to live in a handbag. There's a song (sung to the tune of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star), a big bad baddy, Clasp ( "all pimply and purpley"), playful illustrations and enough pink to sugar an entire street. Ecstasy, in other words, for girlies.

Arts and Entertainment
Stewart Lee (Gavin Evans)


Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Far Right and Proud: Reggies Yates' Extreme Russia

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West was mobbed in Armenia after jumping into a lake

Arts and Entertainment
The show suffers from its own appeal, being so good as to create an appetite in its viewers that is difficult to sate in a ten episode series

Game of Thrones reviewFirst look at season five contains some spoilers
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench and Kevin Spacey on the Red Carpet for 2015's Olivier Awards

Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awards

Arts and Entertainment
Proving his metal: Ross Poldark (played by Aidan Turner in the BBC series) epitomises the risk-taking spirit of 18th-century mine owners

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne is reportedly favourite to play Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars in dystopian action thriller Mad Max: Fury Road

Arts and Entertainment
Josh, 22, made his first million from the game MinoMonsters

Grace Dent

Channel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
Disgraced Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson
Arts and Entertainment
Game face: Zoë Kravitz, Bruce Greenwood and Ethan Hawke in ‘Good Kill’

film review

Arts and Entertainment
Living like there’s no tomorrow: Jon Hamm as Don Draper in the final season of ‘Mad Men’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
Yaphett Kotto with Julius W Harris and Jane Seymour in 1973 Bond movie Live and Let Die

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
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.

    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
    Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

    UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

    Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
    John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

    ‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

    Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
    Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

    Let the propaganda wars begin - again

    'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

    Japan's incredible long-distance runners

    Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
    Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

    Tom Drury: The quiet American

    His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
    Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

    Beige to the future

    Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

    Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

    More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
    Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

    Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

    The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own