Classic editions

1st December 2000 at 00:00
THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR. By Eric Carle. Anniversary edition Hamish Hamilton. pound;9.99.

Carle's caterpillar never ceases to astonish and delight. This handsome hardback marks his 30th birthday.

THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA. By C S Lewis. Illustrated by Pauline Baynes. Collins Children's Books.

The line drawings by Pauline Baynes, Lewis's first illustrator, have formed an enchanting vision of Narnia for generations. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the second and most popular of the Narnia books, the seven novels appear as collectable paperbacks (pound;5.99 each) in which Baynes has hand-painted her original illustrations.

The books also contains her original colour artwork from the 1950s. The line drawings lose nothing and gain much from Baynes's light and sensitive use of colour.

Collins has also repackaged The Complete Chronicles of Narnia with the painted illustrations in a substantial, less child-friendly, single hardback volume at pound;29.99. More enticing is The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe in hardback with 19 stunning colour plates by Baynes as well as coloured illustrations in the text (pound;16.99).

MOG THE FORGETFUL CAT. By Judith Kerr. Collins Childrens Books hbk. pound;10.99.

Another classic character nudging 30, and another celebratory edition. Kerr's fine, lucid and witty pictures and text seem as fresh as ever. As part of the 30th anniversary she has also created a new title, Mog's Bad Thing. Mog is back - and not happy with what's happening to her garden.

BRENDON CHASE. By B B. Jane Nissen Books. pound;5.99.

This is the sort of book that will never be written again," writes Philip Pullman in his introduction. It is the story of three brothers who run away from home and vow to live like outlaws in the forest, surviving by shooting and trapping rabbits, birds, deer and a pig.

B B (real name Denys Watkins-Pitchford), a former art master at Rugby School, fostered a love of nature in thousands of children with his better-known novel The Little Grey Men, in which he describes with exquisite sensitivity the shifting patterns of vegetation, animal life and the changing seasons.

Brendon Chase, written more than 55years ago, seems of another time. Why read it, asks Pullman, in these days of animal rights? Because, as he argues, it is a "ripping yarn" that teaches valuable lessons about nature.

The novel is one of many old favourites being resurrected by Jane Nissen, a former editorial director at Puffin who has created her own imprint. Her list also includes Fattypuffs and Thinifers by Andre Maurois (pound;4.99), the hilarious tale of two brothers who find themselves on opposite sides in an underworld kingdom where the fat and the thin are at war with each other, and Hobberdy Dick by K M Briggs (pound;5.99) about a hobgoblin who saves a manor house from destruction.

ELSIE PIDDOCK SKIPS IN HER SLEEP. By Eleanor Farjeon. Illustrated by Charlotte Voake. Walker Books. pound;10.99.

Farjeon's classic story of a girl who skips better than mortal or fairy, first published in 1937, is brought to new life by Voake's delicate and animated watercolours. The poetic, incisive prose is well-matched by the featherlight line and muted palette of the pictures. A book worth treasuring.

KING OF THE GOLDEN RIVER. By John Ruskin. Illustrated by Juan Wijngaard. Walker Treasures. pound;7.99.

This strange, Victorian Gothic children's fantasy by Ruskin, the tale of good-hearted Gluck and his two mean, greedy-for-gold older brothers, is richly imagined by Wijngaard in deeply coloured, detailed and atmospheric pictures.

Ruskin's style may seem lurid for contemporary tastes, but the message is timeless - that goodness lies in being, not owning, and that the simplest things are the most precious.

LITTLE GREY RABBIT CLASSIC LIBRARY. By Alison Uttley. Illustrated by Margaret Tempest. Collins Children's Books. pound;5.99 each.

Alison Uttley's cosy Little Grey Rabbit stories of country life have enjoyed a resurgence in popularity due to the CITV animation series. The restraint, balance and gentle wit of the Uttley and Tempest partnership is captured in these small hardback editions of 11 titles. Collins has also published Little Grey Rabbit paperback picture books with abridged text based on the TV scripts. They are handsome and likeable, but they lack the love of language, life and lyricism of the originals.


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