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And pigs might cry

OUR BABY. By Tony Bradman and Lynn Breeze. - 0 00 664510 0

FOXY AND THE SPOTS. By Colin and Jacqui Hawkins. - 0 00 664537 2 Toddler series. Collins Pounds 3.99 each

WIBBLY PIG SERIES. By Mick Inkpen. Hodder Pounds 2.99 each. WORDS FOR EVERYDAY SERIES. By Zoe Davenport. Frances Lincoln Pounds 3.99 each

Toddlers and babies don't mix easily and a parent blessed with one of each can have a tricky time. A toddler envious of the attentions given to a baby can cause one almighty rumpus.

That's where books like Our Baby by Tony Bradman and Lynn Breeze can be a lifeline. The book gives an account of all the things that the baby cannot do and the toddler can: "Our baby can't get down from the table . . . but I can." It also deals with what parents cannot do that the toddler can: "And sometimes, Mum and Dad can't stop our baby crying. But I can."

It helps the toddler deal with the difficulty of a baby through a sense of fun, presenting illustrations with bold shapes that a toddler can easily recognise; good, strong colours and a tremendous sense of pattern. The curving text, which follows the contours of the pictures is successfully woven into the image.

In a similar vein Foxy and the Spots is a lighthearted attempt to introduce children to chickenpox and to take the fear out of illness. It's nearest thing you can find to making chickenpox fun. The clear illustrations sit well on the page.

All publishers seek a winning formula the one that's going to run and run and Mick Inkpen's Wibbly Pig series has all the hallmarks of a best-seller. The books are robust, easy to handle, lively and enchanting. Wibbly Pig, a character rendered with a simple but lyrical line, is lovable and engages in the imaginative life of children.

The sentimental depiction of pigs might be questionable, but let's not be politically correct about this, Wibbly Pig is an animated individual who will probably prove irresistible.

The Words for Everyday series by Zoe Davenport claims to give a fresh look to familiar things, but these highly schematic pictures rarely lift themselves above the diagrammatic, which presents immediate difficulties to children. The cat in Animals, for example, has poor feline quality, and the sandwich in Mealtime looks like an inedible piece of cardboard.

The strong, graphic quality of the work is intended to achieve clarity but in fact leads to confusion. In addition, the closeness of tone of the colours would present real difficulties for any child with colour recognition problems.

Elaine Williams is a freelance critic and mother of three

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