The gift of a book at Easter lasts a lot longer than a chocolate egg

Looking for an alternative to Easter eggs? Mary Arrigan selects 10 volumes for children to feast their eyes on.

The gift of a book at Easter lasts a lot longer than a chocolate egg

THE gift-bearing Easter Bunny is a welcome visitor. But there is always the danger that he’ll deliver one chocolate egg too many.

Consider instead the gift of a book — the enjoyment will last long after the Easter Bunny has vanished down his rabbit hole.

Here are 10 of the best:

KIDS UNDER FIVE

CLASSIC NURSERY RHYMES

edited by Edna Walter [Bloomsbury; €17.30 HB]

Young readers will not recognise the moralising tones of rhymes such as Little Bo Peep, and the satirical intent of Little Jack Horner, but will delight in the repeated recitation of same.

This centenary edition has the watercolour and wash illustrations of Dorothy M Wheeler, each one a delight. All the favourites are included, with musical score.

This is an absolute treasure.

THE STAR TREE

by Catherine Hyde [Frances Lincoln €14.90 HB]

Waking at midnight at Midsummer, young Mia sets out on a fabulous journey, first on a horse, then on owl-back, followed by a sea voyage in Little Red Hare’s boat. Finally, she reaches

The Star Tree and having collected what she came for-a star-she returns home on a goose’s back. The star now takes the place of the nightlight in her bedroom.

This beautiful, peaceful story is a fitting vehicle for Catherine Hyde’s magical illustrations.

THEY ALL SAW A CAT

by Brendan Wenzel [Chronicle Books €13.10]

This attractive book shows how the same cat is viewed by humans and animals, and is possibly a child’s first lesson in perspective.

The sense of movement is superb-witness the cat chased by a hungry fox, and then a mouse sizing up what must seem a fearsome feline monster.

Particularly eye-catching views of the cat as seen by a bird, a fish, and a bee.

Ingenious ending when the cat sees his reflection in the water, unperturbed as usual.

HAVE YOU SEEN ELEPHANT?

by David Barrow [Gecko Press €15.50]

In this charming story a young boy is challenged by an elephant to play hide and seek.

Incongruous yes, but the author’s clever sense of colour fades the elephant into various backgrounds. The relationship between the smug animal and the little boy is a joy for young readers.

Both parents haven’t seen the elephant, and a puzzled dog accompanies the boy to the end.

Another absurd challenge, this time to race, is issued by an equally confident tortoise.

A BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO BEAR SPOTTING

by Michelle Robinson & David Roberts [Bloomsbury €19.10 HB]

A small boy sets out to learn about various types of bears and what they do. Brown bears cannot climb trees — a nuisance when chasing squirrels, or even small boys.

A scary black bear spells trouble, so tiptoe away. As for hungry bears — don’t even think about it! A beautiful, informative and humorous look at wild bears.

KIDS UNDER 10

THE MOON SPUN ROUND

WB Yeats for Children, illustrated by Shona Shirley Macdonald [O’Brien €19.99 ]

This introduction to the poetry of W. B. Yeats could well be classed as Yeats introducing an exciting new illustrator.

The superb selection of illustrations, sometimes reminiscent of Clarke, Rackham and P J Lynch, are breathtaking in scope and composition.

The movement of the nine and fifty swans at Coole, the interaction between stolen child and the fairies, the fluid lines as The Fiddler of Dooney strikes up a tune, and the dark menacing colours in He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven expertly complement the lyrics of some of Yeats’s best-known poems.

ILLUMINATURE

by Carnovsky and Rachel Williams [Wide Eyed €25.99]

The book takes 10 diverse environments and invites the reader to study the various elements of nature, using a tricoloured magic viewing lens.

The red lens highlights the daytime animals; blue, the creatures of the night, and green, the plants and other aspects of the natural world.

This is both an alternative to mechanical gadgets and a challenge to explore the variety and scope of the illustrations. Lots of information with each spread.

MARY AND THE HOMELESS BUMBLEBEE

by David Greaves [Friends of the Earth €16.90]

A bumble bee searches for a suitable habitat without monstrous tractors, hedge-cutters or sprayed chemicals. Kind-hearted Mary provides a welcoming meadow, especially for bumblebees.

Young readers can help them too by encouraging their parents to let part of their garden grow wild; provide the bees with a water supply, and set some wildflowers.

By logging on to www.homelessbee.co.uk children can purchase a personalised copy of the book.

A STORK IN THE BAOBAB TREE

by Catherine House & Polly Alakija [Frances Lincoln €11.40]

This entertaining African version of The Twelve Days of Christmas has as its link item the stork in the baobab tree.

And though the dancers remain in this version, the excesses of the original carol give way to an array of much more practical gifts: thatched huts, baskets, khangas, wooden carvings, goats, and finally, 12 storytellers. Warm earthy colours add to this vibrant retelling of a magical carol.

IRISH LEGENDS — NEWGRANGE, TARA AND THE BOYNE VALLEY

by Eithne Massey [O’Brien €12.99]

How The Boyne Was Born sees Princess Boann visiting the prohibited Well of Wisdom.

But when she removes the wooden covering it releases a torrent of water which sweeps her and her dog to the sea where she becomes the goddess of the Boyne river.

In another legend, Boann reappears to help her son acquire some territory from her husband Dagda.

Beautifully illustrated stories in which legendary characters appear and reappear.

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