This handy, pocket-sized volume is both substantial (376 closely printed pages) and user-friendly. With cover surface area smaller than a 6x4in photograph, it fits inside a pocket or handbag.
The problem with most books of this type is that individual titles are described too sketchily, in a sentence or two. Nicholas Tucker has avoided trying to be too inclusive, but concentrates on the books he can recommend unreservedly. All of the entries are at least a page in length, many extending for two or three. The result is a marvellous collection of infectiously appreciative commentaries, reflecting the long-standing commitment Tucker has shown to children's literature.
Intended primarily as a guide for parents whose knowledge of children's books extends little further than the latest hyped title or series, it also contains much to inspire the teacher and satisfy the children's books expert. Tucker's review of The Owl Tree by Jenny Nimmo, for example, draws an interesting parallel with a 19th-century classic, The Gentle Heritage by Frances E Crompton.
Indeed, Tucker is at his best writing about older and modern classics. But his entries for Roald Dahl and Enid Blyton show that he also understands the appeal of other types of book. Of Blyton he writes: "Her plots are always totally unlikely, but they are very close to how children of this age group often wish that things might be in their daydreams."
Positioning of titles within three age-band divisions is, at times, a little questionable. It is a shame, for example, that only five to seven-year-olds have picture book recommendations; especially because two of the titles, Weslandia by Paul Fleischman and Kevin Hawkes and How To Live Forever by Colin Thompson, are much more suited to older children.
In his introduction to the nine to 11 section, Tucker writes: "Some of the books recommended are aimed at readers aged over 11, but there is nothing wrong with thatI " Parents and teachers may want to make up their own mind on this point by checking out the books first.
There is a companion volume for pre-school children, The Rough Guide to Children's Books: 0-5 years. Both titles are liberally illustrated with book jackets and artwork from the selected titles.
Michael Thorn is deputy head of Hawkes Farm primary school, Hailsham, East Sussex