Toby wakes with one objective - to see the moon. His father (no mums in this dreamy picturebook) offers him a wee, a piggyback . . . but to no avail. The pair end up in the garden waiting for clouds to scud across a stormy sky and give the child his illogical yet magical wish. The father's warmth makes this a must for dads everywhere, single or not.
(Red Fox Pounds 3.99) Bully. By David Hughes Pessimistic (but realistic?) exploration of the most sinister playground game - bullying. The cordoned-off pictures on each page capture the speed at which children switch allegiances as well as the terror of exclusion and the difficulty of resistance. Disturbing and powerful. Hughes offers no wishywashy liberal excuses for the behaviour of these eerily anonymous schoolfigures. (Walker Pounds 4.99) Not a Copper Penny in Me House. By Monica Gunning. Illustrated by Frane Lessac.
John Canoe dancers in devilish Xmas masks, peddlers selling guineps to passing motorists, river laundry, velvet leaf soap, hibiscus shoe polish, breadfruit trees - the list of exotica in this picture-book of poems from the Caribbean will spur questions from British-bred youngsters, even those of Caribbean lineage. Few rhymes but a liberal use of pidgin English and flat bright illustrations. Informative rather than intriguing. (Macmillan Pounds 3. 99) Martha Speaks. By Susan Meddaugh. Martha the mongrel eats a bowl of alphabet soup. Result: one talking dog. But Martha has imbibed none of the social graces that usually accompany speech and her frank comments and monotonous monologues infuriate her family. A hilarious picture book to provoke childish curiosity about the nature of human speech and what can and can't (should and shouldn't) be said. Martha and her speech bubbles get the best as well as the last laugh.
(Macmillan Pounds 3.99) Come Back, Grandma By Sue Limb. Pictures by Claudio Munoz.
Grandma (bendy thumbs, speckled eyes and a way with birds) is Bessie's favourite person. So when she dies young Bessie is inconsolable; until she grows up and her own (speckled-eyed, bird-taming) daughter is born... There are other picture books about death for young children but this, with its limpid, touching illustrations and humanist stress on the cycle of life is one of the most convincing.
(Red Fox Pounds 4.50) The Ship-Shape Shop. By Frank Rodgers When Granny and co step in to help their retired sailor chum, the result is a shop shaped from Salty's old ship. The "One and Only Ship-Shape Shop" enrages their snooty neighbour, but invokes nostalgic childhood memories in the townsfolk. The illustrations bring alive the themes of good and bad taste, nice and nasty neighbours and perfectly capture the atmosphere of an olde worlde seaside town. A winner with little boys. (Puffin Books Pounds 3.99).