Paperbacks

2nd June 1995 at 01:00
Sian Griffiths selects picture books. The Big Baby. By Anthony Browne Red Fox Pounds 4.50. Vain, selfish and a hypochondriac, John Young's dad deserves his wife's nickname - Big Baby. But one day he quaffs a bottle of Elixa de Yoof and wakes up in a nappy. Surreally liberating; offering children the opportunity to satirise the shortcomings of grown-ups, inadequate dads in particular. The best jokes are visual: teats corking whisky bottles, for example. Sharper than most picture books.

Professor Puffendorf's Secret Potions. By Korky Paul and Robin Tzannes Oxford Pounds 3.99.

Enzo, the eccentric professor's greedy assistant, steals his boss's secret potions and tests them on the lab guineapig - with predictably disastrous results. Gripping, amusing story with busy pen and ink illustrations including delightfully wonky inventions held together with bits of string. Full marks for making the prof - the greatest living scientist - a woman.

Granny's Quilt. By Penny Ives Puffin Books Pounds 3.99.

The story of the patchwork quilt is, as Granny says, "the story of my life". The girl listens, rapt, as each patch, cut from aged dresses, reveals glimpses of three generations of her family - from Granny's Edwardian childhood to a wartime evacuation dress. A charming introduction to family history.

Draw Me a Star. By Eric Carle Puffin Pounds 4.99.

An unusual "how to draw" book doubling as a record of the development of artistic talent. Carle's gran taught her grandson how to draw a star in eight lines; as an adult he dreams of riding a shooting star.The variegated landscape is built up item by item by an artist who starts as a tousle-haired child and ends a white bearded man. Imaginatively thought-provoking - and you learn to draw the star.

Ellen and the Penguin. By Clara Vulliamy. Walker Books Pounds 4.50.

Ellen finds making friends difficult, taking comfort in her woolly penguin. But then she meets lonely Jo and her monkey Bill. Vulliamy offers comfort to insecure children grappling with social skills, while not shying away from showing the cruelty of youngsters to the vulnerable outsider. Holds out the promise that everyone finds a friend eventually. Modern urban illustrations.

What is the Sun? By Reeve Lindbergh. Illustrated by Stephen Lambert. Walker Books Pounds 3.99.

Any adult who has faced a small child's barrage of questions will admire this book's good-humoured gran and her gentle answers, coupling fact with rhyme. Dreamy llustrations convey the bed-time boy's fascination with the natural world.

Donald and the Singing Fish. By Peter Lubach. Macmillan Pounds 3.99.

Bagpipe-playing Donald is amazed when a singing fish pops up from the waves to accompany him. The fish's fame spreads but on the night of his grand debut he succumbs to stage fright . . . The comic strip format adds to the humour of the tale, which is remarkable for its complete absence of words; encouraging children to tell their own stories. Winner of the Macmillan children's book prize.

Kijo the Baby Gorilla. By Jill Jago and Gerry Livingston. Macdonald Pounds 3.99.

A book with a conservation message, but one lightly delivered. When baby loses mum during a raid by human hunters his future looks bleak. Close-up drawings of African forest animals zoom in on faces as expressive as any human's. And a final fact page links Kijo's plight to the risks facing gorillas throughout the world as their forest habitats are destroyed.

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