Summer Reading: Books for Children: Picture Books: Picnics, pirates and hullaballoos

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The Independent Culture
Springy Jane by Alexander McCall Smith & Elke Counsell, Blackie pounds 8.50. A larky fable in an Edwardian setting about a girl with springs in her knees. One last heroic feat makes them rust. An elegy for lost youth?

The Horrendous Hullabaloo by Margaret Mahy & Patricia MacCarthy, Hamish Hamilton pounds 8.50. A moral tale of a pirate who goes carousing nightly, but never takes his domestically enslaved aunt with him. Eventually she has a wild time of her own, and sails off over a moonlit sea 'in search of passion fruit, pineapples and palm trees', leaving the pirate to do his own tidying up. With exuberant, jewel-bright illustrations.

Jolly Roger and the Pirates of Abdul the Skinhead by Colin McNaughton, Walker pounds 4.99. Irreverent romp about a Mum-pecked nine-year-old who runs away to join the smelly pirates of the Golden Behind.

Leonora O'Grady by Leah Komaiko & Laura Cornell, Viking pounds 8.50. Riotous celebration in verse and pictures of an unlikely heroine - the sort of old lady who sleeps in the park and puts bread in her hat for the birds. A delightful, upbeat and humane story with a lyrical conclusion. Probably good for a child's soul.

Don't Forget Granny by Michael Dugan & Kevin Burgemeestre, OUP pounds 5.95. A good joke for kids who know their fairy tales, based on a story made up by two children. Little Red Riding Hood (a sulky teenager) falls for the wolf; Goldilocks, Sleeping Beauty et al behave badly at the engagement party; Granny shows up and dispatches the undesirable boyfriend: 'Prince Charming is coming to tea tomorrow and I am sure you will like him.'

First Class: Six Stories by Rose Impey & Sue Porter, Orchard pounds 7.99. Ruled pages contain amusing, true-to- life stories of mischievous children in a classroom: the child who won't slow down, the child who wanders off, the child who insists he's Frogman. Likeable, clear and detailed pen-and- watercolour illustrations.

Puffin at Sea by Delia Huddy & Sue Heap, Julia MacRae pounds 5.99. Surreal marriage of biological accuracy and anthropomorphism, about a puffin who is hatched from an egg and goes on to befriend a workman on an oil rig. Simple but satisfying words, and Quentin Blakeish cartoon illustrations which follow the current fashion for comic- strip speech bubbles supplementing the text.

The Picnic by Ruth Brown, Andersen pounds 6.99. Scrupulously representational

illustrations carry this story of country rabbits and mice threatened by the baby and the dog accompanying a picknicking family. Quite frightening from the rodents' point of view, but a good 'green' book to teach a lesson in protecting nature.

Grandmother by Franz Hubner & Kirsten Hocker, trs Anthea Bell, Picture Book Studio pounds 7.95. Tommy loves his gran, who is terrific fun, but tells him she won't always be there, and will be gone when the flower in her garden dies. Tommy desperately protects his flower, but, come winter, it and his grandmother are dead. In spring, as she promised, the flowers are back. A moving story with tender illustrations, intended to console a child about death; but it may make adults weep.

Li'l Sis and Uncle Willie by Gwen Everett, Rizzoli pounds 8.95. An exciting venture with unusual text and pictures. The story is based on the life and work of a real painter, William H Johnson, whose pictures of African-Americans are used as illustrations, along with photographs of him at work. His grown-up art works perfectly in a children's book.

When Grandma Came by Jill Paton Walsh & Sophy Williams, Viking pounds 8.50. Grandma has seen the wonders of the world, but she has never found a greater marvel than little Madeleine. Rich, painterly pictures and haunting, minimal text, perfect for cosy sessions between mutually adoring grannies and infants.

B is for Book] by Frank Rodgers, Viking pounds 8.50. Beasty and Biff, bane of their teacher, Miss Snitchell, wreak havoc in the library until subdued by a ghost story that comes to life. Funny and just spooky enough.

Has Anyone Seen Jack? by Tony Bradman & Margaret Chamberlain, Frances Lincoln pounds 6.99. Jack and the Beanstalk revisited in this engaging lift-the-flap version, with an unmannerly giant ('Snore Burp Grunt') designed to provoke giggles of delighted mock-terror.

Who is Sleeping in Auntie's Bed? by Kathy Stinson & Robin Baird Lewis, OUP pounds 6.25. No, not loose morals, but the tale of what ensues when there aren't quite enough beds to go round and Meg is kept awake by Auntie's snores. Cheerful, reassuring entertainment for the very young.

Filio the Tree by Ivan Gantschev & Dimiter Inkiow, trs Anthea Bell, Picture Book Studio pounds 7.95. Superior, highly atmospheric illustrations in a simple, ever-so-gentle Austrian tale about the lonely tree who befriends owls, rabbits, badgers and other assorted fauna.

Hannah's New Boots by Celia Berridge, Deutsch pounds 5.99. Very young owners of shiny red wellies will identify madly with Hannah, who uses hers as a toy box, posts them through the cat flap, drops them in the kitchen bin and finally wears them to bed.