This Is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen (Walker, £11.99)
A sequel to the bestselling I Want My Hat Back, this is as funny and minimalist as its predecessor. The audacious little fish who steals a hat from a much bigger fish is sure he'll get away with it … readers know better. Any darkness in the subject is more than compensated for by the lightness of the storytelling. (3+)

Rosie's Magic Horse by Russell Hoban, illustrated by Quentin Blake (Walker, £12.99)
What use are ice-lolly sticks when all the lovely sweetness has melted? No use! That's what most sticks think, but luckily, one of the sticks collected by Rosie has a more positive spin on the future: he dreams of a wonderful new life in which he becomes a horse. Russell Hoban's enchanting story sets Quentin Blake's prancing lolly-stick horses galloping across cities and jungles and over oceans and deserts on a quest for pirate gold. (3+)

Carlo Collodi's Pinocchio, illustrated by Fulvio Testa (Andersen, £16.99)
The classic story of the little wooden puppet who longs to become human has lost none of its humour and pathos. Pinocchio is best known for his most unfortunate characteristic – every time he lies, his nose grows longer and longer. The moral is never far from the surface, but the touching father-son relationship between Pinocchio and his maker, the poor woodcarver Geppetto, is just as important. Fulvio Testa's illustrations capture the jaunty tone of the storytelling. (5+)

The Nonsense Verse of Edward Lear, illustrated by John Vernon Lord (Jonathan Cape, £14.99)
The reissue of this beautiful book is a bicentennial tribute to Edward Lear. All the best known verses, such as "The Owl and the Pussy Cat", "The Jumblies" and "The Dong with the Luminous Nose", are included, but there are also less familiar but equally captivating poems as well as hundreds of pithy limericks. The result is a fantasy feast, the absurdity of which John Vernon Lord captures perfectly in his detailed and literate illustrations. (6+)

Tom Gates: Genius Ideas (Mostly) by Liz Pichon (Scholastic, £6.99)
"DISASTER", "CRASH", "HILARIOUS" and "BRILLIANT" are just a few of the outcomes when Tom Gates has his (mostly) genius ideas. Utterly normal, if a little accident-prone, the schoolboy is back for a new, high-octane and highly entertaining slice of life as told through his diary and doodles. Liz Pichon's first book about Tom won the Roald Dahl funny prize. (7+)

People by Blexbolex (Gecko Press, £12.99)
There's no story apart from the one you tell yourself as you look at juxtaposed collages of different people, each with a bold, single-word caption, and think about the ways they may or may not be linked. Set on facing spreads, the pairing of simple but descriptive images makes readers think: are a painter and a graffiti tagger related by their work or completely different? Both a lumberjack and an executioner have long-handled axes, but there the similarity ends. What's the difference between a traveller and a migrant? Beautifully produced, this is a witty and thoughtful book giving multiple opportunities for reflection and story-telling as well as stimulating drawing. (7+)

The Adventures of Achilles by Hugh Lupton and Daniel Morden, illustrated by Carole Hénaff (Barefoot Books, £15)
The stirring exploits of the Greek hero Achilles, destined for greatness by the gods even before his birth, unfold in a handsomely told version that is not squeamish about the sex and violence. Originally created as part of an audio project by two outstanding storytellers, the inclusion of two CDs makes this a rich multimedia resource that honours the oral tradition. (9+)

Cleopatra: The Last Pharaoh by Clint Twist (Templar, £14.99)
The life of the great Cleopatra, and her dramatic death from a snakebite, are richly reconstructed in this busy, multi-format book packed with maps and pictures, which draws on contemporary evidence as well as later sources. Cleopatra was only 18 when she became Queen of Egypt and the richest and most powerful woman of her time. Although she was ultimately defeated by the Romans, her legacy continues in stories told around the world. (9+)

Big Questions from Little People … Answered by Some Very Big People, edited by Gemma Elwin Harris (Faber, £12.99)

The cumbersome title introduces a surprisingly successful way of encouraging children to find out about the world. The random nature of the questions – such as "Why do we cook food?", "Why do we have music?", "Why do we have lots of countries, not just one big country?" – means the scope for learning is huge. With no mandate to teach, the answers from famous people who are also experts in the field – Heston Blumenthal, Jarvis Cocker and Dan Snow respectively, for the questions above – are individual, creative and sometimes light-hearted. This is not a resource for exams but an invaluable spur to asking questions and thinking about answers. It takes two authors and a scientist to respond to what is apparently the thorniest problem of all: how do you fall in love? (9+)

101 Poems for Children, edited by Carol Ann Duffy, illustrated by Emily Gravett (Macmillan, £9.99)
Poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy drew on her own childhood favourites and set some of the finest contemporary poems alongside them to create a bountiful collection that feels personal and passionate. There is no chronology and no hierarchy; simply a feast of poems set to become the favourites of a new generation. Emily Gravett's illustrations add a dash of sprightliness to the whole. (9+)

• To order titles with free UK p&p call Guardian book service on 0330 333 6846 or go to


Julia Eccleshare

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