written by Kes Gray and illustrated by Nick Sharratt (Bodley Head, Pounds 10.99, ISBN: 0-370-32586-9)
This humorous book charts the bossy conversations that might become commonplace at home if you don't watch out. Take nose-picking, for instance. When the girl Daisy picks her nose, it's just that, but when her mum does it, she's actually just scratching it, of course. Mum always finds a quick riposte to her daughter's comments, but the daughter manages to expertly bat them back. Illustratively, the scene where they are talking about each new problem is placed on the left-hand page, with the mum's excuse or justification on the right-hand page. The justifications appear as part of a pinhole camera idea, so signifying looking back to something that has happened. The pictures are sharp and colourful, and the tickling scene at the end rings very true.
Billy Tibbles Moves Out!
by Jan Fearnley (Collins, 9.99, ISBN: 0-00-714333-8)
Billy is a cat, and the day comes when he is asked to share his bedroom with his baby brother, Little Eric. Billy thinks about the prospect - 'About sharing his toys. Even sharing his new skateboard' - and shouts 'I DON'T WANT TO!' But Dad wags his cat-claw at Billy and says that everyone in their house has to share. This gives Billy the perfect opportunity to get his own back when, due to vigorous bouncing, the bed is broken. A solution is suggested: that everyone sleeps in Mum's and Dad's bed.
Unfortunately, you guessed it - Dad is not too keen on sharing until Billy reminds him that everyone shares in their house. I like the illustration of Billy sitting in the shed clutching his favourite toy, amid creeping spiders and smelly wellies.
What Kind of Monster? by Mark Birchall (Andersen, 9.99, ISBN: 1-84270-177-0)
Mulligan the monster goes on the rampage, and wherever he goes he challenges cleanliness, calmness and tidiness. He begins as he means to carry on - by messing up someone's home to find out what kind of monster he is. Is he a scary monster or a messy monster or a singing or acrobat monster? After Mulligan has involved the children who live in the house and the dog who likes digging in the garden in the big trouble, he's still not sure of the answer to his big question. He manages (among other things) to smash the guitar, splash paint on the walls, and turn the garden into a hilly landscape. The dog and children get told off for all of these. At the end, Mulligan is still looking for a definition of the kind of monster he is... until a big arm sweeps him up. It's his mum. I'm not so keen on the reference to naughty little monsters when the children and monster are merely splashing puddles, but there are lots of humorous details, like the portrait on the wall of the angry composer, who is grimacing out at Mulligan in the musically-challenged scene.
Lovely Ruby and the Mermaid by Nancy Trott (Ragged Bears, 9.99, ISBN: 1-85714-275-6)
This story about best friends who have to part because one of them moves away is touchingly written. The story has a gentle rhythm, and gives a clear impression of an evolving narrative. Ruby, who remains by the sea after her friend has gone, meets a mermaid who 'whispers about magical princesses in underwater worlds. Mermaid whispers make such happy dreams'.
These dreams lift Ruby's spirits. She sends the shell she believes the mermaid intended her to find on the beach, to her friend who now lives far away. The characters and scenes are soft and appealing.
The Ravenous Beast by Niamh Sharkey (Walker, 10.99, ISBN: 0-7445-9265-8)
This text is great to read aloud. There's lots of repetition like 'hungry, hungry, hungry!' on the first page - words uttered by this likeable looking monster with TV aerial-style antennae, who proceeds to chomp a house. But there's hunger rivalry going on... new creatures appear on each spread and declare to the Ravenous Beast that in fact, they are hungrier than him.
These creatures list the things that they can gnaw and nibble and stuff down, including (according to a dog): 'a roller skate, a birthday cake, a rubber duck, a ticking clock... Slurp 'em, burp 'em! Woof 'em down! Now THAT'S what I call hungry!' When the elephant enters the scenes, she says 'Not on your nelly!' and tells them what kinds of things she likes to eat.
But in the end the Ravenous Beast insists that he definitely is the hungriest one of all. To prove it he gobbles them up and swallows them down. The picture of a cross-eyed beast on the last spread is very appealing.