Beastly by nature

17th November 2000 at 00:00
Babette Cole continues her series of full-frontal treatments of tricky subjects with Animals Scare Me Stiff (Jonathan Cape pound;9.99). With the same unrelenting wit and inspired drawing she used to tackle sex, divorce and death, she turns to animal phobias.

The picture of spiders crawling up a horrified boy's nose certainly confronts the issue. But what's the most frightening? Horses, bulls, insects and arachnids, or the sight of the boy's spotty bottom? Comorting, in a cold-turkey fashion. For gentler creatures, see The Snail House by Allan Ahlberg, illustrated by Gillian Tyler (Walker Books pound;8.99). Here, grandmother as narrator is telling a story to her three grandchildren about some remarkably similar children who shrink small enough to live on a snail's back in the garden. This curious, heart-warming fantasy brings us close to the nature at our back door through Tyler's botanical watercolours. EW

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