Childrens’ books

ONCE Upon a Bedtime is a collection of animal tales (Little Tiger; €11.93 HB). With authors such as Ragnhild Scamell, AH Benjamin, Andrew Murray and Anne Mangan and illustrators including Michael Terry and Jack Tickle, these affectionate short stories about baby animals are perfectly structured for the very young.

The Smallest Bear gets the brush-off from the older bears when he asks to share their honey. “Every bear must find his own honey,” he is told. But, as in all good stories, fate provides. When Mouse sets off on a journey, all sorts of dangers come his way, but as the title says — It Could have been Worse. The other two stories concern a sleepy sloth and a rubbish-collecting hedgehog. Delightful bedtime read-aloud.

Nick Sharratt’s loud, distinctive illustrations are always sure to attract pre-schoolers. Shark in the Dark, a sequel to Shark in the Park, will delight his followers. At bedtime a boy scans the world outside with his telescope. Could that triangular shape be a shark? Turn the page — it’s a luminous sail on a distant yacht. And so it goes. Told in jaunty rhyme and full of humour — especially the nice twist at the end — this is one for ages four and up to read in the half-light for full effect.

The cute, captivating kitten on the cover of Dustbin Cat by Ingrid Lee (Chicken House; €7.10) is entirely misleading. It is in fact a gritty story based in a gun- happy American town. The introductory pages go straight to the upsetting incident of a cat being taken far from home and dumped.

Starved and half-dead, she is discovered by Billy Reddick, who hides the cat in his room, but his town is running a campaign against the increasing population of feral cats and nobody is more vociferous against the feral cats than Billy’s dad. When he gives Billy a gun for his birthday, Billy realises he’s being drawn into the cat-hunting. Perhaps not for sensitive younger readers, but a thoroughly well-layered story for age 10 and up.

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