Under Fives:

n Alfie and the Birthday Surprise by Shirley Hughes (Bodley Head #8.99): see main article.

n Rhymes for Annie Rose by Shirley Hughes (Red Fox #5.99) Hughes brings the same humour, vitality, and insight to these little poems for small children, now in paperback, as to her stories and illustrations.

Alfie's little sister appears only on the fringes of her earlier books but in this delightful anothology moves into the limelight. The most militantly childless couple could be converted to the prospect of parenthood by these images of the chirpy toddler.

n Everyone Hide from Wibbly Pig by Mick Inkpen (Hodder #10.99)

Launched to sizzling acclaim at a bacon-free breakfast in Dublin, Inkpen's most appealing piglet moves into a lift-the-flap version.

n Do Monkeys Tweet? by Melanie Walsh (Heinemann #6.99)

Little children like nothing better than correcting their elders. We had lots of giggles with the oinking rabbits and buzzing lambs and it's such as refreshing change from all those tedious ''What does the cow say?'' books. Pleasant, subtly-coloured, two-tone spreads.

n The Friendly Walk by AA Milne and E H Shepard (Methuen #3.99)

The cardboard cut-out version of Pooh and Piglet, sensibly attached to the book by a ribbon, which enables the young reader to take them for a stroll through the pages to meet their special friends.

Four to eight-year olds

n Mrs Armitage and the Big Wave by Quentin Blake (Jonathan Cape #9.99)

Long-awaited follow-up to Mrs Armitage on Wheels, with the same zany humour. Today the formidable Mrs A dons her bermudas and paddles out through the surf but waiting for that wave is a complicated business. Quentin's genius is in the way he captures expression and gesture in his quickfire sketches and makes it look easy.

n Bobby Boat and the Big Catch/ Bobby Boat in Trouble at Sea by Thomas Chalmers (Scottish Children's Press #3.95)

Possibly the first books ever launched in a Kilsyth fish shop. Chalmers happens to be the owner but hopes to net lots of children with his latest venture, two salty adventures set around Aberdeen and Oban respectively. Anthropomorphised animals are a commonplace in children's literature but could this be the first talking fishing boat?

n Millie and the Mermaid by Penny Ives (Puffin #4.99)

Another fishy tale or is it tail? Ives's solid Beryl Cook-like figures and lovely pastel shades fit beautifully with a simple story of how a little girl uses her imagination to teach her how to swim.

n Michael by Tony Bradman (Andersen Press #4.50)

Everyone knows an unconventional genius like Michael but it takes a combination like Bradman and wacky cartoon-style illustrator Tony Ross (he of the angry red cheeks and tiny turned-up noses) to bring him to life so effectively.

n The Cow who Fell in the Canal by Phyllis Krasilovsky (Mammoth #4.50)

Reissue of an old favourite, vintage 1958. A burlesque adventure about a hat-eating Dutch cow who decides to go doon the watter (a canal, naturally) for a taste of city life.

Eight to 12-year-olds

n The Lottie Project by Jacqueline Wilson (Doubleday #9.99)

one of the characters in this very clever book announces: ''I love the way you tell things, Charlie. Making it ever so exciting and funny.'' Lots of youngsters feel the same about Jackie Wilson, winner of both the Smarties Prize and the Children's Book Award.

Charlie comes from a broken home and her problems really get her down until she meets her alter ego, Lottie, a Victorian nursery maid.

n Northern Lights by Philip Pullman (Scholastic #4.99)

Now out in paperback form, this is the spellbinding novel which deservedly scooped both the Carnegie and Guardian Children's Fiction awards.

A fantasy redolent of C S Lewis, it combines marvellous characterisations with a gripping storyline to make this book absolutely un-put-downable.

n The Sleepover Club at Frankie's (introductory price 99p)/The Sleepover Club at Lyndsey's by Rose Impey (Collins #2.99)

The ultimate easy read, these books about a mischievous but likeable group of girls, will thrill parents who thought their daughters would never read anything except Sweet Valley books. Definitely not for boys.

n Water Wings by Morris Gleitzman (Macmillan #9.99)

Another hilarious adventure from one of the few fiction writers boys will read. This time Pearl, her gran, and Winston the guinea pig learn a few lessons the hard way.

n Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J K Rowling (Bloomsbury #4.99)

A brilliant debut from Edinburgh teacher, Joanne Rowling. An utterly absorbing fantasy novel which takes off on the first page.

Well-drawn characters and a marvellously imaginative fast-paced story about an orphan who is forced to live with his beastly suburban relatives - that is, until he discovers that he is a wizard.