Children's Books

BRITISH funny man Frank Muir's hilarious creation, What-a-Mess, the scruffy Afghan pup, is featured in a new Ladybird series.

In What-a-Mess the Beautiful the incorrigible puppy, officially named Prince Amir of Kinjan, tries to spruce himself up, with disastrous consequences, to win a starring role in a TV commercial.

Jovially illustrated by Joseph Wright, this is suitable for young readers or to be read to pre-school children.

What-a-Mess reappears in larger format, in Picture Corgi's What-a-Mess and the Hairy Monster ($50). This time the Afghan prince has to come to terms with his fear of the dark to protect his friend, Esmeralda, the white mouse Hilaire Belloc's inconsequential rhymes in The Bad Child's Book of Beasts (Red Fox Picture Book, $79), starkly illustrated by Tony Ross and dedicated to a prospective Oxford don, will fox many an adult let alone a small child.

The perverse view of animals presented in these short rhymes, such as the usefulness of whale blubber for making lamp oil, occasionally fall into the bad taste category.

It is not A. A. Milne's classic bear that features in Ladybird's Winnie the Pooh's ABC ($40) but Disney's popular version. This nicely-presented board book, with simple, clear pictures, will no doubt compete well with the numerous other ABC titles.

Benedict Blathwayt provides a flight of fantasy in the brilliantly-illustrated Bear in the Air (Red Fox, $44). The teddy bear achieves his dream of flying when a bunch of balloons lifts the basket he is sitting in into the air.

Mama Do You Love Me, lyrically told by Barbara M. Joosse and illustrated by Barbara Lavallee (Little, Brown, $88), is a more unusual story about the power of relationships. It is set within a community of Eskimos.

Though their way of life is very different, the nature of a mother's love and a child's ability to test it are universal. The book includes a two-page glossary explaining life in the Arctic and some Inuit (Eskimo) words used in the story.