Kids' book reviews

We’ve scoured libraries and book stores for our top 10 reads for four- to seven-year-olds


1 Cars, Trucks And Things That Go
By Richard Scarry, Dhs45, Magrudy’s
With pages busier than a junior Dubai socialite’s diary, vehicle- obsessed little ones will pore over the lovingly drawn illustrations in this book for hours on end without getting bored. Of course, there are words, too – the story follows various animal families and their journeys through the traffic – but let’s face it, they are of little consequence when you’ve got this many cool pictures of tanks, fire trucks and diggers to distract you.

2 The Cat In The Hat
By Dr Seuss, Dhs33, Kinokuniya
Iconic blue, white and red illustrations accompany this classic ’50s tale of a mischievous cat who visits two bored youngsters one rainy day. Told in playful rhyming verses, you’ll pray that your own little kittens don’t get any ideas when reading about the Cat in the Hat’s naughty games and daring juggling feats, which involve a rake, a goldfish bowl (complete with terrified goldfish) and a birthday cake, among other things. You might, however, want to read the last pages, when the cat dutifully packs away all his mess, with particular clarity…

3 Elmer
By David McKee, Dhs39, Magrudy’s
Even those unfamiliar with the storyline of Elmer will recognise the brightly coloured patchwork elephant from the massive line of merchandise based on him. The book carries an important message: essentially, Elmer gets fed up one day of looking different from all the other members of his herd. He sets about making himself grey in order to fit in, but soon learns that everyone loves him exactly as he is (and, thankfully, the book carries this off without being sickly sweet or too preachy).

4 The Enormous Crocodile
By Roald Dahl, Dhs39, Magrudy’s

No literary upbringing would be complete without a healthy dose of Dahl, and The Enormous Crocodile is particularly good for younger children due to its rich illustrations and simple structure. The storyline follows a crafty croc who roams the jungle bragging of his ‘secret plans and clever tricks’ – namely to disguise himself as a coconut tree, or a seesaw, or a fairground ride and eat some fat, juicy children. Young readers will not fail to fall in love with Dahl’s trademark roguish humour, which is laced throughout the book.

5 The Jolly Postman
By Janet and Allan Ahlberg, Dhs77, Kinokuniya

Ridiculous amounts of fun can be had with this absolute gem of a book. The jolly postman is doing his rounds and on his travels he encounters a host of fairytale characters, from Goldilocks to the beanstalk-dwelling giant. With each delivery there’s an envelope with a real letter inside (a publisher informs Cinderella that her story is to be turned into a book and the witch from Hansel and Gretel receives junk mail advertising products including ‘big brooms for the larger witch’). In our experience kids just won’t tire of taking them out and discovering the contents time and time again.

6 Katie And The Dinosaurs
By James Mayhew, Dhs39, Magrudy’s

The Katie series, in which the intrepid tot embarks on adventures that lead her to learn about subjects as wide-ranging as the characters she meets, is a firm favourite at Time Out Kids. Even if it weren’t for the beautifully detailed illustrations, the stories alone would be enough to secure Katie’s place in our top 10: Mayhew manages to disguise educational facts within magical tales with finesse. So, why do we love the dinosaurs book above all others in the series? Because of the pronunciation guide in the back, which enables us to read it to our little ’uns without tripping up on words like ‘ichthyosaur’ and looking silly.

7 Mr Mischief
By Roger Hargreaves, Dhs13, Kinokuniya

A whole 30 years since they were originally created, the Mr Men still haven’t lost their charm – in fact reading this book was a bit like falling in love all over again (OK, maybe we need to get out more). Though it was hard to pick a favourite, we settled on Mr Mischief because kids just can’t get enough of his antics and declarations of, ‘Oh, glorious mischief, I do so love it!’ From making Mr Greedy a mud cake to filling Mr Funny’s hat with treacle, the cheeky chap makes as much mischief as he can, until one day a wizard decides to teach him a lesson. The best thing, though, is that this book will make your little devils seem positively angelic.

8 The Tale Of Peter Rabbit
By Beatrix Potter, Dhs39, Magrudy’s

If a book is still in print more than 100 years after it was written, you know it’s got to be special – and few could deny Beatrix Potter’s classic watercolour-based animal tales are anything short of spectacular. This book, the first of the series, is all about naughty Peter Rabbit disobeying his mum and sneaking into Mr McGregor’s garden to munch on his freshly grown vegetable patch. He gets caught and a terrifying chase ensues. Buy a modern edition and you’ll find more illustrations than were included in the originals, which makes a modern day reading of The Tale Of Peter Rabbit even more special.

9 The Velveteen Rabbit
By Margery Williams, Dhs43, Kinokuniya

This book is the longest of this month’s selection and perhaps carries the most complex message. It’s all about a toy rabbit who is haunted by a sense of inferiority compared to the other shinier residents of the toy box. He desperately wants to be ‘real’. (In the toy world the term means ‘loved’ rather than ‘real’ as we would understand it.) Over time, he becomes his owner’s favourite toy, but this is not the end for the rabbit, whose lesson-packed journey leads to a most unexpected conclusion.

10 Where The Wild Things Are
By Maurice Sendak, Dhs39, Kinokuniya

One night Max, a menace of a boy, is sent to his room with no supper and suddenly finds himself in a vast land full of terrible monsters and dark shadows. Although he manages to conquer the beasts and become king, he soon realises he’d actually rather be back home and hotfoots it back to the real world. Sendak’s lovingly sketched illustrations are the real highlight of this book. We love it as it’s great for reminding little monsters they’d be lost without their mums. (It’s such a classic, it’s even been made into a film.)
Magrudy’s, Al Wahda Mall (02 443 7172), Khalidya Spinneys (02 681 3110), Jashanmal, Abu Dhabi Mall (02 644 3869); Kinokuniya, The Dubai Mall (04 434 0111)

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