Fortunately, this autumn, a glut of these books has come along, like red ripe apples falling from the trees. These are hugely enjoyable short novels that look fabulous - wittily and fantastically illustrated - but which also, once bitten into, ooze with funny lines and fabulous narrative twists.
Among these is Fortunately, The Milk (Bloomsbury, £10.99), from writer Neil Gaiman and illustrator and political cartoonist Chris Riddell. This is a tale about story-telling or, rather, gigantic, great big fib-telling. Its hero - and this is my one gripe - is a reworking of the slightly over-familiar modern stereotype of the useless and irresponsible dad. Here is the kind of father who keeps his head tucked in the newspaper while Mum is listing instructions for looking after the kids while she is away on a business trip.
Things go wrong in her absence, of course, though not that seriously. The milk runs out, and Dad has to pop out to buy some. Only he takes a very long time - so long that, as we follow in a page of elegant illustration panels, the kids have time to read comics, play table-tennis, draw pictures, jump on each other's toys. Much of the book is the very long tale he tells when he gets back about getting abducted by "globby" aliens and being rescued by a time-travelling Stegosaurus, but still, "fortunately" managing to bring the milk eventually back home. Naturally, his kids suspect that he may well just have run "into one of this friends at the corner shop and they got talking and he lost track of time".
Almost as zany, but more whimsical and delightful, is Oliver And The Seawigs (Oxford University Press, £10.99), by writer Philip Reeve and illustrator Sarah McIntyre. This book is a thing of beauty. McIntyre's goggle-eyed illustrations of rock giants, mermaids and humans are bewitching and transporting - and give the story some of its kooky humour. Ten-year-old Oliver Crisp is rather concerned when he discovers that not only have his explorer parents disappeared, but also, it seems, the islands they had been visiting. In his bid to track them down, he ends up travelling the world on Cliff, one of the "Rambling Isles", who is actually not really an island but a rocky giant who likes to move around the sea. It's relentlessly funny and surprising. Among its comic stars is the field of seaweed, known as the Sarcastic Sea, a chorus of continuous taunts and teases.
By comparison, The Worst Witch: And The Wishing Star (Puffin, £9.99), the latest in Jill Murphy's now classic series about Mildred, the accident-prone trainee witch, seems quite old-fashioned and down to earth. So many current books - including the Harry Potter series which many thought may have been partially inspired by Murphy's books - are laced with evil and supernatural dread. But the worst one can expect from Murphy is for Miss Hardbroom to be rather mean, or accident-prone Mildred to make a real mess of things, or her rival Enid to get her into trouble.
Girls may ride around on brooms, crashing into things and splashing down in puddles, but mostly common sense is the order of the day. In this instalment, the seventh (the first was published in 1974), Mildred is back, a little older and, despite her ineptness, now being given some responsibility in the school, with the job of lantern duty. And it's charming to see her back, still messing-up old-style, even now that Harry Potter is done and dusted.
For slightly older kids, and for adults who have never quite grown up and left Star Wars behind, is comic book artist Jeffrey Brown's graphic novel, Star Wars: Jedi Academy (Scholastic, £8.99). I have to admit that I could be found occasionally laughing to myself long after I put this book down. Brown's reworking of Yoda is a work of comic genius. This is not the first of Jeffrey Brown's Star Wars inspired tales, in which he transplants the family dynamics and insecurities of modern children on to the mythology of the movie series - already he has produced the popular Darth Vader And Son. But this is the most complex and narratively-driven. In it, Roan is a young boy who dreams of being a fighter pilot but has been rejected by pilot school and found himself recruited instead to Jedi academy - a place with all the regular bullying and awkwardness of every-day school-life.
As it happens, Yoda is one of his teachers, and he is hilarious - or at least Roan's observations about him are. At one point he notes that Yoda "may actually be teaching instead of being full-time Jedi, because he's going kind of senile". In his notebook, he writes, "Everything up-mixed, says he. Backwards, he talks."
Meanwhile, Jacqueline Wilson continues not to miss a beat with her perfectly-pitched books for girls. Diamond (Doubleday, £12.99) is the second book "from the world of Hetty Feather", 19th-century foundling, and as such follows another character struggling as a child in Victorian times. Through various rather tragic twists and turns Diamond finds herself, alongside Hetty, performing in Tanglefield's Travelling Circus.
Diamond, small for her age but a crafty survivor, is the daughter of a drunkard and a mother so devout she named her sons after the Gospels, who dies in childbirth. When Diamond tries to make some money by performing acrobatic tricks in the market, her father condemns it as "the devil's dance", and is only too happy to sell her to a passing circus clown. Thus she ends up at Tanglefield, a colourful but brutal place, of tough training and harsh beatings.
Often it seems as if Wilson's melodrama is hot-buttoning our emotions with familiar themes and heart-rending plot-twists: a lost mother, rejection, the search for new parents. But the pace, sparkle and verve are definitely all hers - and Diamond, with her relentless wit and chirpy determination, makes an irresistible heroine.
This autumn also brings another slice of adventure and suspense from Michelle Paver, author of The Outsiders. The Burning Shadow (Puffin, £12.99), the second in the Gods And Warriors series, set in the Bronze age, sees its young hero, Hylas, caught into slavery and put to work in a mine. It's writhing with plot twists and surprises.
There's no doubt, though, of the current book to read for older readers, and that is Anne Fine's Blood Family (Doubleday, £12.99). It starts rather horrifyingly with a neglected child, with scenes rather reminiscent of those we hear of in the news all too often: police officers entering a flat that is stinking, with rubbish strewn over the floor, and a scrap of a woman curled up in chair, her limbs black and blue, and a child sitting in the corner. Only this child, Edward, unlike some, has survived. In some ways he seems like a little miracle, gifted and bright, educated through a series of videos of children's programmes. But of course things are never that easy, and Fine doesn't flinch from showing the knock-on effects.
This is a new, darker, more disturbing territory for the author. Most of her families are dysfunctional, but Edward's is at the extreme. Fine, therefore, uses her characteristic humour masterfully but sparingly. Deftly and compellingly, she switches between multiple viewpoints, building up a picture of Edward and his life from all angles. A tale that looks at what darkness really is.