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My Cat Jack by Patricia Casey, Walker pounds 4.99. A primer of the family cat's behaviour, simply observed in affectionate words and vigourous pictures.

The Magical Bicycle by Berlie Doherty, Picture Lions pounds 4.99. Another problem book about a small boy wrestling with the occult mystery of how to ride his new bike. Hyper-realistic pastels by Christian Birmingham.

Kate's Giants by Valiska Gregory, Walker pounds 4.99. Virginia Austin's pictures conjure some scary monsters in this treatment of a little girl's night terrors, and how she conquers them.

Ian Beck's Picture Book, Hippo pounds 5.99. Rather complex pictures to talk about with single word captions - "cat", "swing", "teddy" - in large, pleasant type.

Good Zap, Little Grog by Sarah Wilson, Walker 5.99. Little Grog's alien planet, full of weird flora and fauna, is still reassuringly familiar in this dawn-to-dusk poem, glowingly illustrated by Susan Meddaugh.

Spot Bakes a Cake by Eric Hill, Puffin pounds 4.99. Spot the puppy's flap-lifting adventures here extend to baking for his dad's birthday.

Adam Pig's Big Book by Selina Young, Dolphin pounds 5.99. This bright, friendly- looking book - with stories about Adam Pig's everyday life, painting and making suggestions and pictures to talk about - is a sort of updated Richard Scarry.


Mums Don't Get Sick by Marylin Hafner, Walker pounds 4.99. With Mum sick and Dad at the shops, Abby spends an accident-prone morning trying to cope around the house. Full of character and fun, Hafner's pen and watercolour pictures dominate the page in a style reminiscent of the great Helen Oxenbury.

The Swan's Gift by Brenda Seabrooke, Walker pounds 5.99. A grindingly poor nordic farming family comes close to starvation. Face to face with a swan, the father has the chance to shoot it, but he cannot "kill beauty". His reward is a shower of diamonds. For Andersen fans: I prefer my fairy tales a bit more Grimm.

Schnitzel von Krumm's Basketwork by Lynley Dodd, Puffin pounds 4.99. A dachshund gets a new, hygienic bed, yet mourns his chewed-up old one. Dodd's pictures are good, but the rhyming verse is even better - delightful to read aloud and soon learned by heart.

Badger's Party by Hiawyn Oram, Picture Lions pounds 4.50. At Badger's party, Mole is reluctant to get in the mood. The characters of this sentimental tale are apparently borrowed from K Grahame and its artwork (by Susan Varley) is equally indebted to E H Shepherd.

When Martha's Away by Bruce Ingham, Mammoth pounds 4.99. Little does Martha know that her cat Lionel cooks, phones his cousin, paints, watches telly and plays doctors and nurses while she's at school. Ingham's words are spare and his pictures strongly individual.

Elmer & Wilbur by David McKee, Red Fox pounds 4.50. Elmer the patchwork elephant is searching the forest for his black and white cousin Wilbur, a trickster who proves hard to find.

Scrumpy by Elizabeth Dale, Andersen Press pounds 4.50. Ben is inconsolable when his dog Scrumpy dies and can only gradually accept a replacement. This book pushes the "ownership" of big mutts by very small children, the sole drawback in evidence being the dog's possible death. Be prepared to be pressurised.

The Nodland Express by Anna Clarke, Macmillan pounds 4.99. At bedtime Mum sends Isaac and Maude off to the Land of Nod. So, deciding to catch the train - they embark on a surreal journey, fantastically illustrated by my colleague Martin Rowson.

Tyrone & the Swamp Gang by Hans Wilhelm, Hippo pounds 3.99. Anthropomorphic young dinosaurs may not be to every parent's taste, but a lot of kids will like this story of the wickedness and comeuppance of Tyrone, "the world's first bully".

Three Cheers for Tacky by Helen Lester, Macmillan pounds 3.99. Tacky is a scruffy, klutsy but lovable penguin whose efforts to help his team win a cheerleading contest are nearly disastrous. A US import, energetically illustrated by Lynn Munsinger, and great for children who know what cheerleading is.


Emerald Blue: A Caribbean Childhood by Anne Marie Linden, Mammoth pounds 4.99. A hazy glow of nostalgia lights this tale of childhood paradise, lost through emigration. Katherine Doyle's pastelly pictures match the tone.

Alistair and the Alien Invasion by Marilyn Sadler, Puffin pounds 4.99. Alistair Grittle, obsessively neat boy-genius, uses his self-built spaceship to collect unusual plants for his class science project, only to meet a bunch of aliens heading for earth on a similar mission. Witty and involving, with excellent pictures by Roger Bollen.

The Truth About Cats by Alan Snow, Picture Lions pounds 4.99. Illustrator/writer Snow uses the idea behind the Beano's Numskulls to reveal the sinister secret life and true purpose of cats. Inside every cat is a team of tiny cats controlling him like a robot. Their mission? To dominate the earth and control fish stocks.

The Bear by Raymond Briggs, Red Fox pounds 4.99. Familiar territory for the Crayon King - a huge polar bear arriving to share a little girl's bed. As in The Man, the idyll brings practical problems next day (what to do with the creature's poo?) but what especially marks Briggs out is his willingness to hint at the sexual side of such fantasies.

The Adventures of Robin Hood by Marcia Williams, Walker pounds 5.99. In her latest comic-strip retelling, Marcia Williams faithfully recounts the Sherwood Forest legend, with all her customary irreverence adorning the edges.

Blodin the Beast by Michael Morpurgo, Frances Lincoln pounds 4.99. An old man and a boy end the tyranny of a nature-destroying monster, with the aid of a carpet. This fable about courage is much enhanced by Christina Balit's marvellous Schiele-like illustrations.

The Last Train by Kim Lewis, Walker pounds 4.99. A brother and sister rebuild a falling-down hut beside an abandoned railway line, and watch ghost- trains steaming by. Dollops of nostalgia await a grandparent reading this one aloud.