Picture BooksEarly years

7th November 1997 at 00:00

Why do Stars Come Out at Night?

By Annalena McAfee Illustrated by Anthony Lewis Julia MacRae pound;9.99 A little girl's questions reveal not only curiosity about the natural world, but her worries about her own.

Lewis draws fluently, is bold with the watercolour effects and selective with detail, and there is something about the vigour of the child which is reminiscent of Edward Ardizzone's Little Tim. JaneDoonan (TES, September 26)

Cat and Mouse By Tomek Bogacki Barefoot Beginners pound;9.99 Curiosity, far from killing the cat or the mouse in this delightful picture book, becomes the basis of friendship. The words are simple, the pictures full of character, the overall effect one of charm and tenderness. John Mole The Baby who Wouldn't go to Bed By Helen Cooper Doubleday pound;9.99 Fantasy adventure tale of a little boy who flees the midnight hour in a souped-up toy car. Won this year's Kate Greenaway Medal for its handling of colour, texture and scale. Geraldine Brennan Ginger

By Charlotte Voake Walker pound;9.99 One human, two cats, only the most essential scenery . . . as perfect a book for the very young as I can bring to mind. The ending is absurdly funny and - like the rest of the book - entirely true to cat behaviour. Unusually, the pictures give equal attention to child and feline. The text, in its beautiful large print, is a lure to halfway readers. This brilliant little book will be enjoyed by more than the target audience of one to four-year-olds. Shortlisted for the Smarties Prize and Kurt Maschler Award. Naomi Lewis (TES, March 7) Henry's Bed By Margaret Perversi and Ron Brooks Viking pound;10.99 Beautiful treatment of a thorny parental conundrum - getting a child to settle in its own bed. The warm reds, ochres, inky blues and soft line of Brooks's illustrations take the child through a sleep-evoking, night-time pastoral, where every animal has its own cosy nook. A classic. See also Henry's Bath. Elaine Williams Animals in the City

By Patricia Casey Walker pound;10.99 Breaks out of the romantic mythological farmyard to reclaim nature for the city and its children. It shows that you don't have to get in your car and drive miles to see real animals. They are under your feet, over your head and in your bins. Clever, funny and absorbing. Elaine Williams Charlie the Chicken By Nick Denchfield and Ant Parker Macmillan pound;5.99 Just the best kind of pop-up - bold, simple, durable, witty. An ingenious and memorable way to teach toddlers about little and large.

Elaine Williams Angel and the Box of Time By Michael Foreman Andersen pound;9.99 A travelling showman's trunk is Angel's passport to her family's roots in Sicily via prairies, Klondyke and high seas. All this is captured in Foreman's landscapes, which generate as many awed intakes of breath as the succession of dancing goats. Geraldine Brennan A Year Full of Stories: 366 Stories and Poems By Georgie Adams Illustrated by Selina Young Orion pound;20 Georgie Adams has a good voice for very young children; her best stories have a nice sense of fun, are well written and, like fairy tales, pared to their essentials. Adams also has a talent for writing simple, appealing poems for the very young. Selina Young's illustrations are a delight. The sort of book I longed to receive for Christmas at about six. Morag Styles (TES, October 31) Jigsaw Text by Miriam Moss Pictures by Tony Smith TemplarRagged Bears pound;9.99 This engaging book is not be to devoured in a gulp. Nature? Fairy tale? Teasing eerie thrill - with a jigsaw puzzle as bonus? Start at the seductive opening pages: reeds and grasses; dense green foliage; fine silvery tree-stems; a thornbush of wild roses (the most ravishing of these pages). Some creatures, too - dragonfly, bird and hare. And imposed on every page is a jigsaw piece (but of what whole?).

Lovely so far. But read the very brief text - "Quite close bya glistening eye By a thorny rosea very sharp nose" - and you can perceive a menace in the wood. Still no humans? Wait for the end. A little girl reads a book; dark wood in the background; a wolfish creature approaches. Strange! Her open page is a tiny image of our book's page: girl, dark wood, open book, approaching wolf. Here, on the last page, all the jigsaw pieces meet and the puzzle can be removed. But there's even more to the tale if you look closely. Naomi Lewis Hairy Maclary, SIT By Lynley Dodd Spindlewood pound;7.99 " 'STAY!' roared the leader, husky and hoarse, but out of his clutches slipped Hercules Morse." And with him went Hairy Maclary, Bottomley Potts, Bitzer Maloney, Custard and Noodle. Another classic from New Zealander Lynley Dodd and her pack of curiously asexual dogs, all hooligans from the Kennel Club's obedience class set on a rampage in the park. Read it aloud, preferably in the bath. Jill Craven Monsieur Thermidor By richard and lindsey kidd Frances Lincoln pound;9.99 Fantasy about an underwater chef, told in animation-style frames peopled by salt-dough sea creatures. Wallace and Gromit meet Clochemerle and Jacques Cousteau. Geraldine Brennan (TES, September 12)

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