Picture Books reviewed

'Vote for me! I'm a duck, not a politician!'
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The Independent Culture

The Gruffalo's Child (Macmillan, £10.99), written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Schaeffler, is a worthy successor to The Gruffalo, aka the "biggest-selling monster of the 21st century". Now the action has moved to the Gruffalo's Child, but the story is the same amiable mix of repetition, pleasing fear, snowy moonlit forests and a (not so) bad baddie: The Big Bad Mouse. Children like this sort of consistency and, if possible, would like the Gruffalo to carry on like this for many sequels to come.

The Gruffalo's Child (Macmillan, £10.99), written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Schaeffler, is a worthy successor to The Gruffalo, aka the "biggest-selling monster of the 21st century". Now the action has moved to the Gruffalo's Child, but the story is the same amiable mix of repetition, pleasing fear, snowy moonlit forests and a (not so) bad baddie: The Big Bad Mouse. Children like this sort of consistency and, if possible, would like the Gruffalo to carry on like this for many sequels to come.

In The Princess and the Castle by Caroline Binch (Random House, £10.99), Genevieve's father, a fisherman, died at sea when Genevieve was a baby. Hence Genevieve's dislike of the sea's "big cold wetness" and the autumnal sadness draped over the first few pages. Normal life is suspended as Genevieve, now five or so, dresses up as a princess, imagining her father, the King, waiting for her to come home. But then her mother meets a Red Knight (Cedric). How he rescues the family and helps Genevieve to overcome her fear of the sea is skilfully told and full of nicely curved poignancy. Binch's illustrations are as clear and zinging as a blast of ozone-filled breeze.

At the start of Neil Gaiman's The Day I Swapped my Dad for Two Goldfish, illustrated by Dave McKean (Bloomsbury, £12.99), a young boy, with ingenious bravado, wants his best friend's goldfish so much that he swaps them for his dad: he is so boring, always reading the newspaper. From here, events move fast and his dad then gets traded for an electric guitar, a gorilla mask and a fat white rabbit. This fruitful foray into the childhood longing for parents to bog off ends with brother and sister, after a frantic search, finding their father in a chicken run, still reading his newspaper. This is a glory - a special brew of devilishly unique pictures and funny, spot-on perceptions.

With all eyes now on Washington, Vote for Duck by Doreen Cronin, illustrated by Betsy Lewin (Simon & Schuster, £9.99), is a timely way to introduce children to the business of electioneering. A cold and grey prospect, you may think, but not here. This story of how Duck progresses from farmer to US President covers all the principles of campaigning: slogans ("Vote for me!! I'm a duck not a politician"); ballot rigging (ballot papers are found stuck to the pig's bottom); schmoozing (Duck kisses babies and plays the saxophone on late-night television). Children will giggle at the drummed-up sense of absurdity, which, come to think of it, is a lot like the real thing.

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