Dogging and side-boobs – are children’s books really bulging with filth? | Stephanie Merritt

The authors of Biff, Chip and Kipper are accused of slipping something rude in. Pugwash and Pooh have withstood similar blows. Let’s get to the bottom of this

“Christopher Robin went up the stairs, trailing Pooh behind him.” My son considered this the all-time funniest line in literature when he was small – it’s fortunate he never discovered the 90s spin-off Cooking With Pooh (still available from Amazon, complete with set of shaped cookie-cutters, for those who are into that sort of thing). The original Pooh was apparently named after a swan, though it’s hard to imagine AA Milne didn’t know what he was doing. Generations of kids have squealed with delight at the scatological bear’s antics (particularly the one in which Pooh gets stuck in a tight hole), before they graduate to the unintended hilarity of all the Dicks, Fannys and Tittys in other well-loved 20th-century classics.

Innocent ...

On a Magical Do-Nothing Day by Beatrice Alemagna review – alive to the power of nature

A ramble in the woods proves transformative in this award-winning celebratory tale

Anyone keen to pass on a love of the great outdoors will welcome the latest picture book from Italian-French talent Beatrice Alemagna, about a child lured away from technology to find fun in a forest. Using a beautiful earthy palette and intricate lines, loops and curls, the author/illustrator evokes a woodland world so full of textures and sights you can almost feel the shafts of sunlight on your back.

It’s a wet day and, in a scene familiar to most parents, a mum (herself glued to a laptop, presumably working) snaps at her offspring to do something other than play computer games all day. The child, whose gender seems ambiguous (great for little readers who can decide for themselves), skulks off into the woods in a neon orange raincoat that dazzles against the foliage – the child is ...

This Zoo Is Not for You by Ross Collins review – an irresistible pleasure

This beautifully illustrated tale of a put-upon platypus is given extra bite by the author’s mischievous sense of humour

Some books seem to carry a memory of the fun their creators must have had conceiving them and the latest from Scottish author/illustrator Ross Collins – about a platypus enduring a series of job interviews with some snooty zoo animals – is shot through with a particular brand of mischief. Told in rhyming couplets with beautifully expressive illustrations, it bounces along, a pleasure to read aloud.

First to grill the platypus is Chi Chi the panda, who resembles a podgy, ageing star, surrounded by his own merchandise: “I’m special, rare/ and famous too/ To get me here/ was quite a coup/ But you don’t even eat bamboo!/ I think, this zoo/ is not for you.” And it’s downhill from there: to the flamingos the platypus looks like “a worn-out ...

Children’s books roundup: the best new picture books and novels

From a retelling of Rapunzel to a tentative romance, there is something for all ages from toddlers to teensAuthor-illustrator Bethan Woollvin returns to enthral picture-book fans with a retelling of Rapunzel (Two Hoots) in her characteristic, starkly beguiling graphic black and white. The contrasting waves of Rapunzel’s hair, in over-saturated buttery yellow, light up a heroine every bit as defiant, quick-witted and tough as Woollvin’s award-winning Little Red. Another strong-willed girl features in Sean Taylor and Kasia Matyjaszek’s I Am Actually a Penguin (Templar), in which the narrator dons a seabird persona along with her beloved new costume and refuses to behave in any way unbefitting a penguin. It’s warm, hilarious, with acutely observed behaviour and a delightful twist. Continue reading...