Claude in the City by Alex T. Smith (Hodder paperback, £5.99)

There was a time in the publishing world a while back when, for young children advancing from picture books to early readers, there seemed to be a corresponding diminishing in the quality of the illustrations, which was a great shame.

Nowadays, however, we are blessed with a wealth of early reading books with fabulous illustrations. One prime example of this is the Claude books by Alex T. Smith, starting with Claude in the City, which is huge fun to read together with your child, or perfect for the young independent reader.

Claude is a small plump dog who wears a beret, and his best friend is Sir Bobblysock, who is indeed a sock, a grubby sock who smells of cheese, and is a bit of a hypochondriac.

Each day is an adventure for our two heroes. In this book, Claude and his sock sidekick visit a restaurant (huge puddings are consumed), a shop (plenty of berets are bought), and an art gallery, where a dramatic theft is taking place. This in turn leads to a hilarious mix-up at hospital when Claude tries on a doctor’s outfit.

Claude has a splendid time throughout but does not always have a full sense of what is going on around him and his heroics tend to be of an accidental nature: “Claude’s paws were so full of boxes and his brain full of juicy bone baguette that he did not see her.”

All the Claude books (and there are a good ten or so of them now) have a real charm to them: the illustrations in black, white and red are very appealing, while the extras are an engaging mix of old-fashioned chic, twirly moustaches and mock-shocked facial expressions. Plus Claude is a dog after my own heart with his love of elevenses and smart little berets.

So the entire Claude series comes highly recommended for that early reader in your family. For devoted fans of Alex T. Smith, meanwhile, we now have in stock very limited signed copies of How Winston Delivered Christmas, his new lavish festive story written in 24 and a half chapters, with daily Christmas activities throughout.

Review by Philippa Morris, Little Apple bookshop