Children Literature

Ann Thwaite

The Tiger Who Lost His Stripes, By Anthony Paul and Michael Foreman, Andersen #163;8.99. - 0 86264 597 2.

My G-r-r-R-reat Uncle Tiger, By James Riordan and Alex Ayliffe, Orchard Books #163;8.99 - 1 85213 697 9.

Tom's Tail, By Linda Jennings and Tim Warnes, Magi #163;8.99. - 1 85430 268 X.

Geraldine's Baby Brother By Holly Keller, Julia MacRae Books #163;8. 99 - 1 85681 631 1.

Za-Za's Baby Brother, By Lucy Cousins, Walker Books #163;8.99. - 0 7445 3759 2.

The Scarecrow's Birthday, By Frances Martin and Jane Abbott, Bodley Head #163;8.99. - 0 370 31817 X.

Tattyboglem, By Sandra Horn and Ken Brown, Andersen #163;8.99. - 0 86264 596 4.

The picture books that survive from one generation to the next are, of course, the ones that give rise to night-after-night, day-after-day requests for repeat performances - and which have equal charm for reader and listener, so that the reader can bear to respond to the requests.

The days are long past when a picture book was thought to be the sole property of the under-fives. If the text is one that can be part of the mysterious process of learning to become a fully-fledged reader, its value is far beyond mere entertainment, even if it is not compulsive listening.

Michael Foreman's limpid paintings decorate prettily a descendant of Kipling's Just So stories. The Tiger Who Lost His Stripes was first published 15 years ago. Anthony Paul gives the child no idea how he lost them, but sets out a series of encounters with python (a pale cousin of the Bi-Coloured-Python-Rock-Snake), elephants, crocodiles, monkeys, until the extraordinary picture where the happy General MacTiger can squeeze back into the missing stripes. It's an attractive book by a marvellous illustrator. But make sure the children get some Just So stories as well to listen to.

My G-r-r-r-reat Uncle Tiger is equally stylish, with broadly striped end-papers and rich colour throughout from Alex Ayliffe. The story by James Riordan is perhaps too slight for the brightness of the presentation, but the brief clear text would persuade many stumbling readers to enjoy the simple jokes. The child knows, as Marmaduke's friends don't know, what a tiger looks like. They will also recognise the boring moral that no good comes of boasting.

The book is worth having for the pictures; even children who can't draw cats may well be inspired by the multi-coloured curtained windows under the roof across which the cats file on their tree way to find the tiger.

Tom's Tail is that old story - this time in a version by Linda Jennings - of learning to like ourselves as we are. Tom Pig - as seen by Tim Warnes - is a complaining fellow, who thinks his curly tail looks silly and compares it unfavourably with the tails of dog, horse, cow, rat. Tom resorts to all sorts of painful attempts to acquire a straight tail until finally (of course) he decides he was better off in the beginning. Another possible text for reading practice; one to be avoided by an adult reader.

Geraldine's Baby Brother and Za-Za's Baby Brother are two recent additions to a long line of books which might briefly be described as "how to learn to love the beastly new baby". Holly Keller's is definitely the more attractive. Geraldine, a pig clad in a blue pinafore and striped jersey, is wonderfully resourceful in showing how little she cares that everyone else is obsessed with the new piglet. She reads, wearing earmuffs,ties knots in his nappies, borrows her mother's makeup and clothes, and ignores all efforts to feed and conciliate her. The way Geraldine is won over is both touching and convincing. In comparison Za-Za's Baby Brother by Lucy Cousins seems crude and boring - but children familiar with the Maisy books will recognise the style; the end papers are splendid.

Scarecrows inevitably seem old-fashioned and rarely have the character that old Worzel Gummidge had. My young reviewers enjoyed listening to the long story by Frances Martin, The Scarecrow's Birthday, and looking at the rather ugly pictures by Jane Abbott, but decided, once they knew what happened, that they certainly would not want to hear it again, and that the other scarecrow, Tattybogle by Sandra Horn, with pictures by Ken Brown,was far more interesting. Brown's transformation of scarecrow stick into living tree is worth a place on any classroom bookshelf.

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