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Robots, gods and a few miracles

The Sorcerer's Apprentice. By Ted Dewan. Doubleday Pounds 9.99.

Instead of magic, this Apprentice is powered by electronics - not that it matters: to most of us, electronics are magic. The Apprentice here is a quirky robot, who follows his creator's blueprints to make a duplicate of himself, which then makes another, and so on.

The delight of the book lies in Dewan's sinewy, vigorous line, and in the sheer pictorial zest which matches the Sorcerer himself for inventiveness. There's a glee in these pages that is infectious, an energy visible in the Sorcerer's very elbows. Shortlisted for the Kurt Maschler Award. Philip Pullman (TES, October 3) See book offer, page 16

The Orchard Book of Greek Godsand Goddesses. Retold by Geraldine McCaughrean. Illustrated by Emma Chichester Clark. Orchard Pounds 12.99.

Refreshes and reframes tales that will not be over-familiar to most children. Hermes, the cheeky messenger of the gods, lulls Argus to sleep with his tales of domestic upheaval in the Cloudy Citadel and rumblings in the corridors of Hades. If Athena gives Zeus a headache, it's nothing compared to the thunderbolt-sized hangover Dionysus dishes out to the drunken pirates. Geraldine Brennan

Noah and the Ark. By Antonia Barber. Illustrated by Ian Beck. Doubleday Pounds 9.99.

Beck's illustrations display all the conviction and intensity of the Northern Romantic approach. The text flows in unrhymed verse and biblical ca dences, while humorous asides and occasional use of the vernacular lighten the gravitas. Barber's imaginative retelling includes her elegiac description of the year passing. Design is also outstanding. Jane Doonan (TES, October 17)

Peter Pan and Wendy. By J M Barrie. Illustrated by Michael Foreman. Pavilion Pounds 4.99.

The star of Pavilion's bargain series of pocket-sized classics with full-colour illustrations. As always, royalties go to Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital. The series also includes The Wind in the Willows and the Just So Stories. Geraldine Brennan

A Small Miracle. By Peter Collington. Jonathan Cape Pounds 9.99.

A sidelong, unsentimental glance at the Christmas story. An old gypsy foils a thief who has robbed a church and gathers up the scattered Nativity figures. When she falls ill in the bleak midwinter, they repay her good deed. No text, just Collington's atmospheric paintings. Geraldine Brennan

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