A question about narrative complexity. I am buying a birthday present for my five year old nephew and as dutiful uncle tend to err on the side of books. What books do you get a kid who is only just starting to read? Previous brithdays I have upped the anti every year, with nice big picture books, andincreasingly more words – I assume to be read to him. Just because a story needs to be told in less words though, does not mean it has to be about ridiculously twee subjects.

All the suggested books for five year olds either seem too young or are about animals. Which is fine if you look at kids as living in some sort of sweet innocent paradise, but since his main recreational entertainment is television, all seems a bit babyish for him. Scooby Doo (a favourite of his from age two) is more mature in both subject matter and – yes even narrative complexity – than books supposedly aimed at five year olds. But then the point I suppose is to get him to read, which means it has to have shirt, easy words. But doe sit need to also have overly simplistic ideas too.

(Genuinely I remember a frustration at this age between what the school thought I should be reading, and what I was/wanted to read. But i was an early starter and obnoxious show-off which my nephew isn’t.)