Topsy-turvy little gems

In The Owl and Billy Stories (Walker Pounds 7.99), Martin Waddell looks at relationships for readers growing in confidence. His account of a small boy's friendship with a lonely pensioner is both funny and sensitive.

Waddell has a rare talent for unravelling the deeper significance of children's throw-away commentary.

Two more gems for this group of readers, Dick King-Smith's Thinderella (Puffin Read-It-Yourself Pounds 3.99) and Robert Leeson's Why's the Cow on the Roof? (Walker Pounds 7.99), turn traditional tales topsy-turvy. Leeson's terse, hilarious and inventive story lends itself to being read aloud. Thinderella is King-Smith at his most humorous. Here is a writer who understands that children never tire of subversive versions of their nursery repertoire.

Sam McBratney, a writer of immense wit and clarity, also understands that children never tire of Nessie and throws new light on the Scottish beastie by describing her adventures with her long-suffering Irish cousin in The Lough Neagh Monster (O'Brien Press Pounds 3.99).

The Panda series for beginner readers (O'Brien Pounds 3.99 each) offers short, zany tales which hold attention, such as Fireman Sinead! by Anna Donovan and The Little Black Sheep by Elizabeth Shaw.

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