CHILDREN'S BOOKS : Even the teddy has fangs

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The Independent Culture

The Bedtime Bear: A Pop-Up Book for Bedtime by Ian Whybrow & Axel Scheffler (Macmillan pounds 8.99). The skiing rabbit on the right, and throughout these pages, comes from this inventive, wackily diverse bedtime rhyme. Very entertaining for under 5s.

The Witch Who Loved to Make Children Cry by Dennis Bond, illus Valeria Petrone (Hippo pounds 3.99). The nasty old witch of the woods will do anything to make the children cry. She'll spin their roundabout too fast, rip their kites and make it rain at their picnic. Until, that is, the little girl who didn't cry decides she's had enough, and seeks revenge. A lively book with the wicked witch lurking on nearly every page, though sometimes we have to search for her. 4+

My Sister is Super by Hannah Roche illus Chris Fisher (De Agostini pounds 4.99). How often do siblings say that about each other? Only when it involves food! A simple picture book for children keen to cook. The colour pictures are attractive and detailed and there are notes for parents and a recipe in the back. 3 upwards

Hoot by Jane Hissey (Hutchinson pounds 9.99). The newest addition to the family of cuddly toys is a little white owl in a blue apron with stars on, who arrives with a bump and a whoo in the night. Her nest (constructed entirely from odd socks) has fallen off the cupboard, and the fluffy creatures help out. Hissey weaves the lovely fantasy once again of the secret life that toys lead when you're not around. 3-4

Dracula Junior and the Fake Fangs by Julianna Bethlen, illus Korky Paul, (Tango pounds 9.99). Uncle Haemoglobin, Dracula Fangenstein junior and Anaemia cause mayhem in this 3D house of horrors as Dracula Junior searches for the missing fake fangs. The emphasis is more on the pull-out pictures than on the story, but attention to detail (even the teddy bear has fangs) guarantees a blood curdling read. 5-8

Cosy Christmas with Teddy Bear by Jacqueline McQuade (David Bennett pounds 8.99). A beautifully illustrated account of Teddy Bear's countdown to Christmas. A vivid purple dominates in a book where the bears look almost real enough to cuddle. The story is simple and would make a perfect Christmas present for all young readers. 3-5 s.

Winnie in Winter by Korky Paul and Valerie Thomas (Oxford pounds 7.99). Winnie is fed up with winter. So fed up that she decides to cast a spell and have summer in her garden. But unfortunately Winnie forgot that the animals were hibernating. She also forgot that there would be other people fed up of winter and that they might want to share her summer. The echo of Wilde's Selfish Giant does not detract from a hugely entertaining story with bright double page pictures. 4-7

Drop Dead by Babette Cole (Cape pounds 9.99). Why are you such bald old wrinklies? the children ask their grandparents, but the olds are cool about this. They explain how they started out as bald young wrinklies, and the delightful illustrations show them trying out smoking and falling in love as teenagers, partying, working as a stunt-man and a movie star. The suggestion that old people could ever have fun is radical, and so is the end of the book, which develops into a cheery discussion of reincarnation ("We might be recycled as anything at all! A moose, a pickled onion, an alien). A happy, comforting book that acknowleges death. 4s and upwards will appreciate the humour.

The Lost Treasure of Captain Blood by Jonathan Stroud, illus Cathy Gale (Walker pounds 9.99). Captain Blood has hidden his treasure and the hunt is on. But finding your way through this complicated book is a challenge in itself. Cartoon speech bubbles add to the confusion of very detailed pictures; plenty of puzzles, mazes and brain teasers provide hours of fun. Up to 10s.

Enchantment in the Garden by Shirley Hughes (Bodley Head pounds 9.99). Set in Italy, this beautifully illustrated book tells the story of Valerie, the only child of rich parents, and her new-found friendship with a statue that comes to life. Sure to capture the imagination of all 5- and 6-year- olds, or older children who can read alone.

Fetch by Giles Pilbrow (Oxford pounds 8.99). A rather far-fetched storyline in this exquisitely illustrated comic strip picture book. Basil chases his bouncing ball to the corners of the earth and beyond. There are also games and puzzles on every page. 4-7

Cloudland by John Burningham (Cape pounds 9.99). Albert, a dreamy little boy whose head is in the clouds, goes out walking with his parents. He slips and falls off the mountain: luckily the children who live in the sky cast a spell to make him as light as they are. They play at racing on clouds, surfing in jet-trails, banging drums when it thunders. The panoramic cloudscapes are done in wonderful photographic collage overlaid with painting. Innovative and appealing for 3s and over.

Angus Rides the Goods Train by Alan Durant, illus Chris Riddell (Viking pounds 10.99). One night Angus wakes to find himself on board with the freight of milk and honey, steaming through a Rackham-esque landsape. Then something changes ... a mother sits in a desert with no milk for her baby, and a little girl cries alone and hungry in a war-damaged farmhouse. The driver (who looks remarkably like Uncle Sam) refuses to stop until he gets to the king, lounging with his lackeys. With devastating simplicity, Angus ask why "there are so few of them for so much food": he commandeers the engine and heads back to effect a more equitable distribution. An early lesson in humanity, too well-crafted to be pious, that even leaves a lump in the throat. 5-9

by Chloe Walker & Fiona Sturges


The Clue of the Missing Cuff-Link by Hazell Townson (Andersen pounds 7.99). In this, number 14 in the popular Lenny and Jake series, Lenny Hargreaves and Jake Anderson discover a stolen baby in a telephone kiosk and declare themselves heroes - an image soon dispelled by the ensuing chapter of accidents. After disastrous car chases, magical shows and bus rides, their only chance of redeeming themselves is to catch the thief, but will they ever succeed? A fast, funny and hugely entertaining read. 8+

A Mouse in Winter by Anne Merrick (Bloomsbury pounds 3.99). Behind the walls of Mr and Mrs Jones's home lives another community altogether: the Mousehold. Living off Mrs Jones' crumbs they lead a peaceful life, safe from the threat of cats and traps. But rumours are spreading that the ghost of the evil Malignity has returned to haunt the house. Cassity clambers around in pursuit of the truth, leaving her brother Uppity to rescue her from danger. A delightful story for Christmas, including a map to find your way around the Mouse Parlours. 6-9s

The Five Sisters by Margaret Mahy (Hamish Hamilton pounds 9.99). One hot summer afternoon Sally's Nana cuts out a row of five paper dolls, draws a face on the first and calls her Alpha. Before she has had a chance to complete the dolls they are whisked away on a magical journey. Many years later Sally rediscovers the sisters, by which time they have all acquired names and faces. But since Sally last saw the girls, they have been on an incredible voyage, encountering treetops and lawnmowers, fires and chemistry books. A wonderful fantasy tale exploring youthful emotions and interests. 9+

Tufty Bear by Jane Gardam (Walker pounds 6.99). A collection of three enchanting stories revolving around the friendship between a talking bear and his two young guardians Harry and Tilly. During the summer holidays, both children stay at Sandy Cottage in Dorset, the home of Tufty Bear, where they discover his magical traits. After a chance meeting back home, the families are brought together for more trips to the cottage. Here the two children learn the importance of respect for others, including their talking bear. Well written, with its fair share of moral instruction. 6-9s

Chuck and Danielle by Peter Dickinson (Doubleday pounds 9.99). This amusing double-act lead us through the various trials and tribulations of cats, cows, neighbours, burglars and saving the universe. Chuck is a small whippet, terrified of almost everything but eager to please her owner, Danielle. Danielle is terrified of almost nothing and eager to please her owner, her mother. Between the jokes and the sentiment, we are left with an encouraging tale of overcoming fears and maintaining values. 7-9s

Belly Flop by Morris Gleitzman (Macmillan pounds 9.99). In the Australian town where Mitch Webber lives it has not rained for eight years. The farms are dry, the sheep are dying, the people are flat broke. Sadly for Mitch, his father's job, as the local repossessor, makes them the most unpopular family in town. But at least Mitch has one friend, or thinks he does: his guardian angel Doug. With Doug's help he strives to make friends and to become a champion diver. This is a hard-hitting, often nail-biting story with some risque language. 9-12

Connie and the Water Babies by Jacqueline Wilson (Methuen pounds 8.99). Everybody is scared of something. Connie's gran is scared of her video recorder, her Mum is scared of gerbils, her Dad is scared of the dentist. So why will no one understand that Connie is terrified of water? The prospect of school swimming lessons gives Connie nightmares. Will Nurse Meade and her magic blue hair beads jump to the rescue? A simple story that shows a good understanding of children's trepidations and fears. 8+

Dennis Dipp on Gilbert's Pond by Nick Warburton (Walker pounds 3.50). Dennis Dipp hates water, too (it seems to be a theme this year). Even the sight of a puddle can turn him green at the gills. So when the sinister Phil Buckett sets him the challenge of rowing across Colonel Hardley-Skint's newly constructed lake, without being sick, the odds are stacked against him. But it is not just his pride that is at stake. The Colonel's art collection is also in jeopardy, put up as part of the wager. This is an amusing tale of good triumphing over evil, with plenty of cringe-worthy jokes and puns thrown in. 8-10