Sophie Johnson Detective Genius by Morag Hood (Simon and Schuster paperback, £6.99)

Somebody has stolen Lion’s tail and there’s only one person to solve the case: Sophie Johnson, detective genius.

We first came across our glasses-wearing hero last year in the delightful picture book Sophie Johnson Unicorn Expert, where she introduced us to her busy daily routine looking after 17 unicorns: a motley assortment of toys, pets and the occasional younger sibling, all with stick-on horns.

“Magic is more important than mess,” she proudly exclaimed, a line likely to resonate with young readers. Well now Sophie is back in a new adventure, complete with magnifying glass, Sherlock outfit and an extensive library of books on detection. She also has a canine assistant called Bella, who Sophie declares to be ‘not very good’.

Without giving too much away, it soon becomes clear to the reader that the canine assistant is rather better at detection than an unaware Sophie herself, as an exciting Bella-foils-the-baddies plot unfolds in the background. All the while, Sophie keeps up a barrage of complaints about how useless Bella is: “Bella wouldn’t notice if a crime happened right under her nose.”

It’s all very funny indeed. We as the reader are in on the joke from the start, and kids can have a lot of fun working out what is really going on. The bold proclamations and unswerving conviction of the main character are very familiar and I love the imaginary play element of the book, perfectly showing how kids create an entire fictional world from toys, teddies, pets and anything that comes to hand. The illustrations by Ella Okstad are full of character: sharp pen, vibrant colour and fine detail combine into something very contemporary and a little bit 1970s too. A lovely picture book for ages 5 and under.

Tim Curtis