10 New Picture Books and more.

So daddy came home at the beginning of last month with a spring (s’cuse the pun) in his step, said to the kids: “Look what I’ve got!” and plonked a posh paper bag down on the kitchen table in anticipation of their adoration. They peered in. A paper bag with handles might be the bakershop norm’ these days in the leafy sub-shires of Dulwich and Clapham but for us lot in Penge the only thing that comes in a sturdy bag with a gusset are re-heeled shoes from the cobbler. Their indignant response to four expensive hot cross buns was gratifying. “But, it’s not Good Friday..” warned Trasha. Ah, I have trained them well. As far as my children are aware, it is actually illegal to eat one before Easter. “I’ll put them in the freezer then..?” their dad suggested with rhetorical glumness before getting his coat.

I will soon however, be ‘breaking the law’ and taking a bag of hot cross buns across the channel before the Easter bunny has zipped up his fly as a gift for our neighbours in Normandy. As I am customarily stopped by customs on both sides – my resemblance to an international terrorist being undeniable – I am looking forward to the baffled expressions of the gendarmes when they strip the car only to find weird cinnamon rolls. But how marvelous to be in France at this time of year, eh?

A Walk in Paris

by Salvatore Rubbino

A Walk in Paris-Salvatore Rubbino

Rubbino thinks so too, slyly building a series to rival the iconic Sasek city books, he captures the breezy mood beautifully in the pale blue sky and freshly foliaged trees as granddad and the boy emerge from the metro at Place Maubert. With a fold out Tour d’Eiffel at the back, all the other old landmarks are here and the newer ones too, including the maverick Centre Pompidou, its appearance as much of a surprise on the page as it is when you turn the corner in real life.

£12.99 Walker Hardback
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by Mini Grey

Hermelin-Mini Grey

This author gets better and better at the art of combining accessible text with action in pictures; from a tiny snow-globe of the Eiffel Tower and discarded Sherlock Holmes novel to thundering headlines, there is so much to look at. Armed with an old fashioned typewriter (see FamiliesSE passim – didn’t I say these would be all the rage?) the detail is delightful as our diminutive detective sets about tracking down lost teddies and keys and personal fortunes (as you do). Sadly, our hero’s success in rescuing a small child doesn’t give him immunity from anti-mouse prejudice as the party thrown in his honour results in guests shrieking and standing on their chairs, and I found myself yelling at the page: “It’s a mouse you nutcases, not Bin Laden!”

£11.99 Random House Hardback
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Shh! We Have a Plan

by Chris Haughton

Shh! We Have a Plan-Chris Haughton

That shush wasn’t next-door telling me to pipe down (though they’d be perfectly justified in shushing their heads off after Trasha had her coven round for a sleepover last weekend – talk about earsplitting noise, that lot could cackle for England – apologies to all at number 18), it is the divinely talented author of A Bit Lost and Oh No, George! Rightfully elbowing his way to the front of the children’s section, this is his best yet: simple, original, very blue (literally, not linguistically, I hasten to add) and hilarious. No, HILARIOUS! With a quote from Einstein at the start – ‘Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding’ – every single school in the country should have a copy. I shall get onto Gove pronto.

£11.99 Walker Hardback
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Troll and the Oliver

by Adam Stower

Troll and Oliver-Adam Stower

The third troll title sees our voracious mythical monster chasing his trickiest dinner yet – the infuriatingly joyful Oliver. Or is that innate happiness really cunning in disguise? But, yikes! A slip-up! However, all is not lost when troll discovers to his cost that small boys taste absolutely disgusting (as Trasha can testify) and better still, he regurgitates his prey just as the timer goes off on an oven full of cakes

£6.99 Templar Paperback
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by Jonny Duddle

Gigantosaurus-Jonny Duddle

Like many small children, I’m a sucker for anything ‘saurus’ and no doubt, “Stick saurus on the end and you are onto a winner,” is the current mantra in every publishers’ editorial meeting up and down the country (previously it was anything that aped vintage Boys Own and before that, meerkats). As a result, there is and will continue to be lots of utterly mediocre dinosaur picture books for years – possibly whole geological epoques – to come. Thanks to the stupendous illustrations, this isn’t one of them.

£10.99 Templar Hardback
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Sarah & Duck Meet the Penguins

by Sarah Gomes Harris

Sarah & Duck Meet the Penguins_Sarah Gomes Harris

Apparently this is on telly? Clearly it has been a while since I parked a child in front of the box in order to buy myself some quality time to sort out the washing and weep quietly. NB to self: must do more sitting around watching stuff for research purposes. Anyway, this has more than a little of the Kitamura about it, which is why it appeals to me. I especially the poignant sea cow at the end.

£6.99 Puffin Paperback
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by Sally Sutton, illustrated by Brian Lovelock

Demolition-Sally Sutton Brian Lovelock

What an entirely apt title for a board book. With bucketloads of ripping, shredding, scraping, crashing, gauging and clanging – if you can’t beat the toddlers, join ‘em.

£5.99 Walker Board Book
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This is Me, Eating!

by Neal Layton

This is Me Eating-Neal Layton

For a slightly more sedate, though no less messy, toddler experience, please refer to This is Me, Eating! by Neal Layton. Also available, This is Me, Dressing Up! And hold fire on the gender stereotyping rant – daddy wears a tie, mummy a pretty dress – ‘cos granny then puts on a motorcycle helmet and roars off

£5.99 Walker Board Book
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I Didn’t Do My Homework Because…

by Davide Cali & Benjamin Chaud

I Didn't Do My Homework Because-Davide Cali

One for the older child in your life, I’m assuming that with those authors’ names, this originated across the channel. This would explain one or two of the excuses such as I didn’t do my homework because… “A famous director asked to use my bedroom to shoot his new movie” (sounds best delivered with ze spoof accent) or the deliciously dark “…I was at my cat’s funeral.” Cue a depiction of Gallic bafflement (see customs officers above) when the innocent feline pokes his head out of a shoebox in the graveyard

£8.99 Chronicle Hardback
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Far From the Tree

by Andrew Solomon

Far From The Tree-Andrew Solomon

Hundreds of families interviewed and their stories remain in the mind long after I put this veritable brick down. It is a far too big and important book to suffer my bargain basement critique and I’m not going to tell you how many pages there are because it will frighten you off. And there’s no way I can claim to have made it through the whole thing. Suffice it to say, every page I have read contains a revelation and though I’ve parented (if I must use that ghastly Americanism) for a gasquillion years, I realize that I know absolutely nothing.

£11.99 Vintage Paperback
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The Smart Girl’s Guide to Getting What You Want

by Mary Hartley

The Smart Girls Guide to Getting What You Want-Mary Hartley

My inbox is full, the shopping list on the fridge is running to three pages, I’ve got art GCSE homework to do (not mine) and I’ve just cancelled a cuppa with little Ghengis and his mum because I forgot that I am teaching in a cold pool all day. I like to think that I’m not the kind of person that requires a title like this to get by – a pushover, moi? But a quick glance draws me in as I cannot resist the promise of learning how to be assertive with “wit, style and grace” and I am finally forced to admit even I could do with the ‘power of the pause’…

£7.99 Watkins Paperback
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