Italian job lot

11th May 2007 at 01:00
The Invention of Hugo Cabret. By Brian Selznick. Scholastic. Out this autumn

Geraldine Brennan finds books to enjoy at the international children's book fair

Within hours of arriving at the book fair in Italy, I was intrigued by two novels about unusual children set in Liverpool. Adult sci-fi supremo Stephen Baxter's first novel for 11-plus this autumn is set in the era of the Beatles and the Cuban missile crisis, and follows a teenager on the run with a deadly secret (The H-Bomb Girl, Faber).

Next year, Frank Cottrell Boyce's new story for 10-plus, Cosmic (Macmillan in June 2008), is firmly in the funny-but-deep Millions mould: a boy ends up in outer space because he's tall for his age, but there's more to it than that.

More thoughtful comic wisdom in the stellar Emily Gravett's scrapbook of phobias. Little Mouse's Big Book of Fears is a picture book for six-plus (Macmillan in summer 2008) which comes with a fold-out map of the Isle of Fright (from Mount Apprehension to Loose Bottom) and leaves children space to write and draw their fears away.

Molly and the Night Monster by Christopher Wormell (from Jonathan Cape in 2008) is a picture book that boldly confronts familiar going-to-bed fears using shades of just one colour: midnight blue.

Meanwhile, the book fair's New Horizons prizewinner, The Black Book of Colours from Ediciones Tecolote, a Mexican publisher, breaks new ground by using not only a Braille text but black-on-black raised "images" to explore colour through the other senses. There's a printed text too, useful for primary Spanish until a UK publisher is confirmed. See

The Crocodile Blues by Coleman Polhemus (Templar, spring 2008) seems rainbow-hued by comparison but still uses only blue, black and yellow in the story of a man, his parrot and an anonymous egg. There's no written text either, but there are sound effects.

A weighty-seeming novel that celebrates silent film is in fact 80 per cent illustration. Brian Selznick's The Invention of Hugo Cabret (Scholastic this autumn) will draw in unwilling readers from 10 to adult with its tale of a Paris street urchin and a clockwork creator (pictured below).

Two books to keep handy for reading aloud sessions in primary and early secondary are The Trick of the Tale, a sumptuously produced global collection of trickster tales by folklore specialists John and Caitlin Matthews (Templar, spring 2008) and what promises to be an excellent centenary celebration, the Oxford Book of Poetry for Children by Michael Harrison and Christopher Stuart-Clark (Oxford University Press, seven-plus, autumn 2007).

Finally, two modern fairy tales: David Lucas's The Robot and the Bluebird is a profound variation on The Happy Prince (Andersen Press, autumn 2007) and Carol Ann Duffy's The Princess's Blankets (coming next year from Templar) promises to be spectacular

More news from the Bologna book fair at

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