Publishers' playtime; Are books becoming toys? Take your pick
Click to follow
Some light-years after the pop-up book comes its natural successor: the book-as-toy. Some of the biggest bestsellers this Christmas will be a range of books with absolutely no pretensions to readability or instruction; with, indeed, no words.

An instant smash hit among the 4-8 year-olds we road-tested it on is Maisie's House by Lucy Cousins (Walker Books, pounds 12.99). It's not a pop- up book as much as an open-out triple stage on which the eponymous mouse's kitchen, bathroom and bedroom stand arrayed in their finery. The big attraction is the sheet of detachable cardboard belongings - clothes, utensils, jugs, cakes, brushes, toothpaste - that can be stuck into Maisie's cupboards. An accompanying book helps the barely-literate find their way around.

Almost as absorbing is The Magic Show by Richard Fowler and the children's dramatist David Wood (Hazar, pounds 12.99) which features levitating elephants, magic paintboxes, card tricks and saw-the-lady-in-half illusions and will electrify any three-year-old prestidigitator.

Creepy Towers (Joshua Morris, pounds 12.99) is a generously-designed mixed- media cardboard chest containing a spooky board game, a chortling skull with light-up eyes, a jigsaw, a surprise in a coffin and - mirabile dictu - a little story book about Lord Skully and his creepy relatives. Lots of fun for an hour, but the whole is rather less than the sum of its parts.

The RIP House Haunting Kit from Random House Children's Books (pounds 8.99) has a more substantial book, 96 pages of lurid ideas for scaring your little friends with shadows and dismembered hands. It comes with a tube of fake blood, a cassette of scary noises, and a stunningly unconvincing spider's web.