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Shelf life.

Byline: Jayne Howarth

Jabberwocky is one of the best nonsense poems in the English language. It was first published in 1872 in Lewis Carroll's classic Through the Looking Glass and has captivated young and old alike with its musicality and rhyme.

Now the much-loved poem is available in an impressive picture book form. Jabberwocky (Walker Books. Hardback. pounds 9.99) has been imaginatively and wonderfully illustrated by Falmouth-based fine-artist Joel Stewart.

The poem, with such immortal lines as 'Twas brillig and the slithy toves Did gyre and gimble in the wabe' and 'O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!', and imaginary creatures the Badersnatch and Jubjub bird, conjures up vivid pictures in the mind's eye.

And Stewart has captured the essence of Carroll's words with some extraordinarily beautiful pictures created using mixed media, in muted tones of green, blue and pinks. The use of Tempus font makes for a very classy looking book indeed. All in all, it is a splendid book to own, and although aimed at the threes and over, would not look out of place on the book shelves of any self-respecting lover of English literature.

When I was a little girl, all those years ago, I adored the Meg and Mog books produced by Helen Nicholl and Jan Pienkowski. It wasn't just the simple and magical stories but the amazing pictures that accompanied them.

Pienkowski, who has twice won the Kate Greenaway Medal for his books, knows how to win a child's interest through illustration and now he has combined computer-generated technology with his own talents with pencil and paint to create a very special pop-up book for little hands to contend with.

There are no prizes for guessing which biblical story he used in The Animals Went in Two by Two (Walker Books. Hardback. pounds 9.99), but there are a few surprises along the way.

Expect excited children to have a rousing sing song with this book and they'll also have the added bonus of getting interactive with pulling the tabs and lifting the flaps when joining the animals and Noah on the Ark.

This book is recommended for youngsters aged three and over, probably a good age as toddlers do have a tendency to yank at the pages and rip the tabs - something which upsets me greatly.

Smile Crocodile, Smile by An Trombaut, who created the 64 Zoo Lane television series, is a hugely enjoyable book for little ones, with the much-required ingredient, repetition, at its heart.

The book (Oxford University Press. Paperback. pounds 4.99) tells the story of the animals in the Mango House Tree who wake up and brush their teeth, including Clarabella the crocodile. But when her friends go out to play and have their lunch, Clarabella is still brushing all her teeth. Only when it is bedtime, does she finally end her chore, but by then all her friends are ready for bed.

Her friends come to her rescue (you'll have to read it to see how) so they can all play together the next day. It is a very sweet and warm tale, introducing the idea of problem-solving and togetherness to very young minds. The jewel-like coloured pastel drawings complement the short tale.

More lessons are to be learned about wrongly blaming others in Emma Chichester Clark's book, It Was You, Blue Kangaroo! (Collins. Paperback. pounds 4.99). The third of the blue kangaroo books sees little girl Lily behaving in a most unacceptable way, blaming her beloved toy whenever she is naughty.

But when Lily goes one step too far her mother takes away blue kangaroo and insists she cannot have him when she goes to bed. In the middle of the night, blue kangaroo hops down from the shelf and draws a special picture to say sorry to Lily's mother and slips it under her door. When Lily's mum finds it, all is forgiven and she wants to know who drew it - but Lily knows the answer.

There isn't a child in the land who doesn't do the same as Lily so the moral to this charming story will be recognised by both reader and child - and perhaps a few lessons in how to behave might be discussed too.

Francesca Simon is best known for her Horrid Henry books, but she has moved away from the brattish little boy to publish a new take on Greek myths for young children.

Helping Hercules (Orion. Hardback. pounds 6.99) isn't a book that purists will necessarily approve of as it takes eight myths and twists them so a modern youngster can relate to them.

The essence of each legend does not change, so the ancient stories do not lose their magic, and the tradition of strong storytelling remains which means the story will stay in the mind and prove to be a great introduction to this genre of literature.

In the book, Susan finds a coin from ancient Greece given to her by her uncle and, just in case it is magic, makes a wish asking to meet Hercules. Before she can say Dionysus, she is whisked back in time.

But it isn't all about meeting mythical characters. She becomes involved in the stories, discovering that cleaning Augean stables is even worse than being asked to clean her room. Other characters from Greek myth she meets include Paris, Pan Medusa, Pegasus and Perseus.

It might not be the most original of ideas, loads of children have written homework projects about going back in time or meeting gods and goddesses, but Simon is able to engage a child's interest with her bouncy and enthusiastic writing style.

The book is illustrated throughout by Tony Ross, one of the most successful of illustrators of children's books, whose rebellious Little Princess books must grace the bedrooms of almost every young girl in the country.
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Title Annotation:Books
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jun 7, 2003
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