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Picture Books for Older Children

The full colour illustrations and small amount of text make picture books appealing to less confident readers. Although most of them are written for the very young, here are some picture books that have stories and jokes that will appeal to older children.

Manfred the Baddie
by John Fardell
(Quercus)
Manfred the Baddie is the baddest baddie of all time. He kidnaps inventors and forces them to create fiendish devices so he can use them to carry out equally fiendish crimes. But when he catches a cold, he discovers that the problem with being bad is that no one like him enough to want to look after him. So Manfred becomes Manfred the Goodie with another whole set of fiendish inventions and is good nearly all the time. The story is fun and the inventions are great - just right for boys.
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Captain Yellowbelly: The Tale of the Terrible Pirate
by Preston Rutt and Leo Timmers
(Meadowside Children’s Books)
Captain Yellowbelly is the most useless pirate on all the seven seas. But after a string of disasters leave him looking different, he find his new appearance helps him defeat Redbeard – the meanest, scariest pirate on all the seven seas. The disasters are just the type that make children laugh ( including getting his foot stuck in a bucket and getting bird poo in his eye) and their effects cleverly build to the final climax.
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The Lamb who came for Dinner
by Steve Smallman and Joelle Dreidemy
(Little Tiger Press)
The wolf can hardly believe his luck when lost and lonely lamb turns up on his doorstep. He'd just been thinking how much he would like lamb hotpot for dinner. But a myriad reasons intervene to stop him cooking the lamb and, before he knows it, he finds himself in the caring role. This is a wonderfully funny book for all ages with illustrations that are packed with humour.
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The Monkey with a Bright Blue Bottom
by Steve Smallman, illustrated by Nick Schon
(Little Tiger Press)
There's nothing quite like the word 'bottom' to make children sit up and take notice. Hopefully, it may also make them pick up this book and read it. The story, which is told in rhyming text, is set when the world was new and only the birds were colourful. All the animals 'looked as dull as an elephant poo' so the monkey waits until everyone else was asleep and sets about making them all look more interesting. When the others wake up to find themselves covered in strips and spots, they grab his paints and wreak their revenge - hence, the blue bottom of the title.
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Scaredy Squirrel
by Melanie Watt
(Happy Cat Books)
Scaredy Squirrel is frightened of so many things that he never leaves his nut tree. But when the arrival of a killer bee makes him jump out of his tree, he discovers he's a flying squirrel and changes his lifestyle very slightly. This funny book uses lists, diagrams and timetables to get over the ridiculousness of the squirrel's behaviour. It's sure to make children laugh and easily leads on to follow-up work on advantages and disadvantages, fears, timetables or planning. (Maybe some over-zealous health and safety officers should read it too.)
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The Runaway Dinner
by Allan Ahlberg and Bruce Ingham
(Walker Books)
When Banjo Cannon’s sausage, not to mention the three fat peas, four baby carrots and a handful of fries, all up stakes and make a run for it one dinner time, there begins a crazy chase of food, cutlery, crockery, furniture, humans and assorted animals down the road, across the crossing and into the park, around the pond, cricket pitch and so on … During this madcap chase, incident filled chase the various comestibles make their escape (Gingerbread Man style) till we are left with, yes, you’ve guessed it, just Melvin sausage (for each and every item has a name) our number one escapee slowing to a stroll just in reach of Banjo when …
Sounds incredible doesn’t it but, as Allan Ahlberg tells us, ‘it’s all true.’: and so convincingly is the story told that one can do nothing but believe it. Equally convincing are Bruce Ingham’s throwaway style illustrations, which offer additional delicious details not mentioned in the text. This has been a ‘laugh out loud book’ for everyone I’ve shared it with, be they young, adult, individual or group, (large or small).
(reviewed by Jill Bennett)
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Way Home
by Libby Hathorn and Gregory Rogers
(Andersen Press)
The dark and moody illustrations in this book perfectly conjure up the dangers of the city as Shane, a street-wise boy, finds a kitten and takes it back to the place he calls home. This is a book that touches on serious issues and can be used to stimulate discussion in a group situation.
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The Wolves in the Walls
by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean
(Bloomsbury)
When Lucy hears noises in the walls of the house, she is sure there are wolves in there. The rest of the family have other explanations. They don't want to believe her because If the wolves come out of the wolves, then it's all over. Of course, it is wolves and, when they do come out, it's Lucy who finds the solution. Written in picture book format with more than the usual number of pages, this unusual story is scary and funny at the same time. The illustrations combine photos with drawing and painting, and their darkness adds to the mood of the story and gives the book a mature feel ideal for older readers.
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Princesses are not Quitters
by Kate Lum and Sue Hellard
(Bloomsbury)
Princesses Allie, Mellie and Libby are so bored by their life of leisure that they swap places with three of their servants. Their exhausting day of chores is a revelation. They had no idea how hard other people worked or how satisfying it can be to eat food they've prepared themselves. As a result, they make changes at the palace that make everyone happier. The illustrations perfectly enhance this light-hearted tale, adding masses of funny details for keen-eyed readers to spot.
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Once upon an Ordinary School Day
by Colin McNaughton, illustrated by Satoshi Kitamura
(Andersen Press)
Once there was an ordinary boy who lived an ordinary life and went to an ordinary school. But everything changed when Mister Gee came to arrived in class. Instead of giving an ordinary lesson, he played music and told the children to write about the pictures it made in their heads. As a result, the ordinary boy discovers he has an extraordinary imagination which opens up whole new world of stories. This story about creativity could resonate with those reluctant readers who enjoy painting pictures in their own heads and even those that don't may enjoy the contrast between his grey, ordinary world and the colourful places he imagines.
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Nice Work, Little Wolf
by Hilda Offen
(Happy Cat Books)
Little Wolf made a big mistake when he climbed out of his pram to go exploring. He ends living with the Porker family whose son, Brian, mistakenly thinks he is a dog and decides to keep him as a pet. Poor Little Wolf has to do all the work and even build a swimming pool and a new house. The Porkers are so busy telling him what to do that they don't notice him getting bigger and bigger, until eventually they push him just a little bit too far. A very funny story where readers have the satisfaction of always knowing more than the Porkers.
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Old Tom
by Leigh Hobbs
(Little Hare)
Old Tom is a recalcitrant old cat with disgusting manners but Angela Throgmorton loves him anyway. When she wins a luxury holiday, she leaves Old Tom behind (or so she thinks). Readers who can spot the details in the pictures will know better.
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King Smelly Feet
by Hiawyn Oram and John Shelley
(Andersen Press)
In the days before shoes, there was a king with very smelly feet. He couldn't see the point in washing them because they just got dirty again. The only way to get rid of the smell was to find a way to keep his feet clean. This funny story has plenty of the insults children love, including pong-soles, wifferfeet and stinkitoes. It's a pity one of the reviews on the back cover suggests the book is for 3-5 year olds as its potential readership is much wider than this.
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Arthur's Tractor
by Pippa Goodhart
(Bloomsbury)
Arthur's so keen on his tractor that he doesn't notice the fairy tale goings-on around him. As a princess shrieks for help, a prince thuds up on his horse and a dragon crashes into battle, he assumes that all the noises come from his beloved machine. The text tells the story from Arthur's point of view while the illustrations reveal what's really happening. Naturally there's a fairy tale happy ending when the princess turns out to like tractors too. The story is packed with humour and phrases like "Oh dollops of dung, the blim blam blade has broken."
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Wonder Goal
by Michael Foreman
(Red Fox)
The world is full of boys dreaming of becoming football stars. This is the story of one whose dream came true. Great pictures full of action combine with straightforward story to tempt football fans.
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Dr Xargle's Book of Earth Tiggers
by Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross
(Andersen Press)
Dr Xargle is a teacher like no other. With five eyes, green fur and tentacles, he teaches the young aliens on his home planet about a distant place called Earth. His knowledge of our world is based on observations so he spots connections we may have missed, draws some rather off-beat conclusions and invents wonderful names for things. According to Dr Xargle, Earth Tiggers eat meatblob, plant stinkpods in the garden and, when confronted by an Earth Hound, "they fold in half and puff air into their waggler". The text and the pictures work perfectly together to produce an extremely funny book about cats.
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George and Sylvia
by Michael Coleman and Tim Warnes
(Little Tiger Press)
George and Sylvia are gorillas who are madly in love with each other. The only problem is neither of them have told the other one how they feel. George thinks he is too fat to be loved while Sylvia thinks she is too thin. But when they try to change their appearances, things don't turn out the way they planned. This funny story is an enjoyable read and its strong underlying message about being yourself could be useful to trigger discussion.
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