Children's Books

A CHILD'S world is very small and explaining the Earth's vastness, its myriads of people and different terrains is no easy task. Sue Scullard has the answer with a picture book that should become a firm favourite - The Great Round the World Balloon Race (Macmillan $68).

Rebecca and William Fanshaw's intrepid Aunt Harriet invites competitors from all over the world to enter the race which begins at the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

Children can follow the mass of colourful hot air balloons from page to page as they encounter obstacles, such as a sandstorm and an erupting volcano, across Europe, the Sahara, the Himalayas, the jungles of Borneo and beyond, making this beautifully illustrated adventure a first geography book to treasure.

Ten Out of Bed by Penny Dale (Walker $135), is another stimulating children's fantasy and an ideal bedtime picture book.

In this adaptation of Ten in the Bed a boy imagines his toys come to life to play trains, theatres, pirates, flying, monsters and more, with one friend falling asleep until all are tucked in bed. Each page in this hardback is lavishly illustrated.

Father Christmas goes the extra mile to deliver a forgotten present to the boy who lives atop Roly Poly Mountain in John Burningham's touching Harvey Slumfenburger's Christmas Present (Walker, $170). As his reindeer are tired he uses whatever other transport comes to hand. The drawings utilise a mix of mediums - pencil, crayon and watercolour. Large type and plenty of repetition will appeal to young readers.

Lucy Cousins, one of the most popular illustrators of children's books, retells the story of Noah's Ark (Walker, $153) in simple language and bright pictures.

Pictures for children and printing techniques have come a long way since Victorian days. Green Tiger Press have republished leading Victorian illustrator Walter Crane's Favourite Poems of Childhood ($140).

This collection of traditional nursery rhymes has a nostalgic charm and restrained gentleness, but lacks the imagination and exuberance of the work of the best of modern-day children's artists.

One of those is Emma Chichester Clark whose zany watercolours accompany an unusual collection of 117 nonsense rhymes and tongue twisters in I Never Saw a Purple Cow (Walker $118). It includes classics such as The Owl and the Pussycat and funny versions of well-known rhymes such as Twinkle Twinkle Little Bat. Animals from Quangle Wangles to the purple cow appear in all.

Macmillan is publishing a series of Little Classics, first titles including Anna Sewell's humane story about the world's most famous working horse, Black Beauty, and Robert Louis Stevenson's adventure Treasure Island ($119 each).

These small, boxed versions illustrated in traditional style but by contemporary artists, are particularly attractive, ensuring the classics will have a continuing place in the hearts of young readers.