Best kids books in Dubai

We look at the best books for children in Dubai this month.

1 Cookie
By Jacqueline Wilson, Dhs91.
Ages 9-12.

Cookie sees Wilson return with yet another corker of a book – and we’ve come to expect nothing less. Beauty, a little girl who is actually, in her own words, ‘Small and squat with a big tummy’, gets picked on at school and has a brutish bully for a dad. Told in Wilson’s inimitably accurate and relatable style, you can’t help but get fully drawn into the story and genuinely care whether Beauty and her timid mum will escape the big oaf and make it on their own, and if Beauty can throw off the horrible nickname of ‘Ugly’ and replace it with the infinitely preferable ‘Cookie’. Nick Sharratt, who has long been the illustrator for Wilson’s books, has once again proven his worth through insightful and entertaining sketches which, unlike some other kids’ books’ pictures, demonstrate that he has carefully read the text and put real thought into what he’s drawn. This is a book that children will want to read again and again.
Grade: A+

2 Maisy’s Christmas Day
By Lucy Cousins, Dhs38.
Ages 0-3.

A pleasant book with pages thick enough to withstand the advances of the most determined teething youngster. The story, such as it is, follows festive proceedings in the household of Maisy the mouse, whose friends include a crocodile and an elephant (hey, we’re all for multiculturalism). We had to do a double-take when we saw the picture of the clock, though: forget immaculate conception, kids waiting until 7.30am to open their Christmas presents would, in our households at least, be a miracle in itself.
Grade: A-

3 Astrosaurs Academy: Terror Underground!
By Steve Cole, Dhs38.
Ages 6-9.

The latest in Coles’ series about dinosaurs who reside in a boarding school in space tells a story about Teggs the Stegosaur and his friends becoming stuck in an underground cavern, after a particularly unsuccessful flying lesson. The narrative is packed full of drama and suspense, the illustrations are fun, and, as ever, there are collectors’ cards in the front of the book for regular readers. A word of warning, though: it will be pointless telling your own little T-Rex that he can just read until the end of the chapter, as each one ends on a cliff-hanger that’s more precarious than the last…
Grade: B+

4 Dumb Clucks: Rotten School
By RL Stine, Dhs30.
Ages 8-12.

Our first thought upon opening this slightly old-fashioned-looking hardback was that the paper it’s printed on should be restricted to the meager supplies in a particularly unpleasant public toilet. Things do pick up, though: we couldn’t help but let out an immature smirk at seeing landmarks such as ‘Pooper’s Pond’, ‘Scabby Road’ and ‘Library (most students think it’s a storage shed)’ on the detailed map at the front of the book. The story, which with its constant talk of burping and nose-picking is definitely one for the boys, is about Bernie, a fourth-grader with an entrepreneurial spirit. His immodest tales are entertaining enough – although the hideously ugly caricature-style pictures actually made us recoil. Our advice? Small boys will love it, but let them keep it for their ‘independent reading’ time.
Grade: B

5 Rainbow Magic: Gabriella the Snow Kingdom Fairy
By Daisy Meadows, Dhs45.
Ages 6-9.

This is the latest in Meadows’ series about a group of friends who team together with fairies to right the wrongs of the ever-mischievous Jack Frost and his dim-witted goblin helpers. Kirsty and Rachel are on a winter skiing holiday – which, whilst seasonal, takes some imagination while we’re barbecuing turkeys on the beach – and this time, Jack Frost is on a mission to ruin Christmas for everyone. Amongst other trinkets essential to a happy Christmas in Fairyland, he steals a magic snowflake which keeps the snow fluffy and white, festive cheer, and a magic firestone. The girls have to put their heads together and, along with Gabriella the Snow Kingdom fairy, come up with clever schemes to outwit Jack Frost and save the day for fairies and holidaymakers. The holographic cover makes it the coffee table book du jour for under-10s, and jaunty line drawings will make it a popular bedtime staple for younger readers.
Grade: B+

6 A Bear Called Paddington
By Michael Bond, Dhs98.
Ages 4-7.

The 50th anniversary edition of this children’s classic is beautifully written. With an appeal across a broad range of ages, the stories teach family values and tolerance, and paint a vivid picture of 1950s Britain. Paddington, from ‘darkest Peru’, is the archetypal expat child, making mistakes because everything is new to him. Ultimately, his new family is always there for him. Some of the language is dated, naturally, and it’s terribly British (which may limit the appeal), but there’s something in these stories that allows even the little ones to tune in, despite the sparsity of illustrations.
Grade: A

7 Humph’s Travels in the United Arab Emirates
By Chrissie Jenkins, Dhs56.
Ages 4-7.

There’s a charm to this book, no doubt, and the illustrations will ensure a captive kiddie audience on the first read. But the test of a good children’s book is whether it will engage them time and again, and this is where Humph’s Travels falls short; there’s no getting away from the weak narrative. Humph visits the World, the Palm, the Burj, Wild Wadi, he races a dhow, plays golf, eats tabouleh and rides an abra. An enduring children’s story? No. A good souvenir of Dubai? Certainly.
Grade: C

All books available from Magrudy’s, Deira City Centre (04 295 7744)

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