BOOKS FOR CHILDREN
Sunday 02 April 1995
8 Come Back Grandma by Sue Limb, Red Fox £4.50. The death of a grandparent is often a child's first intimation of mortality. Limb's text, well supported by Claudio Muoz's Ardizzone-like pictures, deals sensitively with a 4- year-old girl's bereavement.
8 Island Baby by Holly Keller, Red Fox £4.50. The Caribbean setting is lightly but effectively stressed in this story of a 4-year-old helping an old man run his bird-hospital. Bold poster-paint pictures.
8 The Magic Bicycle by Brian Patten and Arthur Robins, Walker £3.99. Cursed by a witch, Danny becomes a two-wheeled Flying Dutchman on an involuntary world tour. Patten's lumpy verse-metre is appealing and Robins's hectic pictures are excellent.
8 Moving by Michael Rosen and Sophy Williams, Puffin £4.50. Rosen's free- verse narrative poem tells of a house-move from the viewpoint of the family cat. Fives and sixes will enjoy the mystery of entering a cat's mind, and should also like illustrator Williams's pastel realism.
8 My Best Friend by Pat Hutchins, Red Fox £4.50. Hutchins's backlist of storybooks for the very young is long and distinguished. In her latest, a best friend comes to stay and is a very paragon, (un)comfortably superior in every activity. Not till the very end do we discover her one saving disgrace.
8 Red Fox on the Move by Hannah Giffard, Francis Lincoln £3.99. An unusual illustrative style - watercolours with the look of linocuts - lends energy to this story of an evicted fox family, den-hunting from country to town.
8 The Sheep Gave a Leap by Hilda Offen, Red Fox £4.50. Jolly rhymes and pictures to give toddlers a lead in leaping, twirling, and other exertions. But why are these Red Fox paperbacks 51p more expensive than all their competitors?
8 Sweetie by Jonathan Allen, Picturemac £3.99. In an amusing variation on the old theme, a cub skunk couldn't make a bad smell to save her life. But with the family threatened by a hungry, stink- stimulated bear, only Sweetie's fragrance sees him off.
8 Fleas' Best Friend by Charles Fuge, Picturemac £3.99. A dog-flea goes the round of the posh breeds (see below), looking for a high-class hide to settle in. But none proves as comfortable as the scruffy-coated mutt next door.
8 Winnie Allfours by Babette Cole, Puffin £3.99. Cole's off-beat, bug-eyed illustrations are well matched by a story-line in which horse-mad Winnie turns into a pony and cuts a swathe of destruction through her parents' lives. Great satire for 5-year-olds and upwards.
ILLUSTRATED STORIES: 5-10s
8 Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes, retold by Marcia Williams, Walker £3.99.Williams is one of our very best re-tellers of the classics, not merely illustrating but decorating them so that the whole page delights the eye, while the story is told easily and without fuss.
8 Stanley Bagshawe and the Ice-Cream Ghost by Bob Wilson, Puffin £3.99. Bagshawe is a wonderful character, a deadpan, short-pants ingnu who thinks "nothing much ever happens" to him, while he's constantly getting embroiled in lunatic escapades. Here Stan's outing to a stately home is enlivened by a raid from Specs and Big Sid, villains we fondly remember from a previous story. Period (Fifties) and place (industrial North) are lovingly evoked in Wilson's unique strip-cartoon style.
8 The Starlight Cloak by Jenny Nimmo, Picture Lions £4.99. This Irish folk tale begins as a version of the Cinderella story, complete with ugly sisters, handsome prince and lost slipper. But the Celtic imagination cannot be satisfied by a merely domestic intrigue, and goes on to involve an attempted murder, a charger made of blazing flames and a hungry whale. Suitably incandescent illustrations by Justin Todd.
8 Sanji and the Baker by Robin Tzannes and Korky Paul, Oxford £3.99. This excellent combination of writer and illustrator is new to me. Tzannes's words tell of Sanji, a poor traveller who settles down in a Middle Eastern city above a baker's shop. He likes the smell of fresh bread wafting up to him, though he can hardly afford to buy any. The baker, how- ever, is affronted by Sanji's free pleasure and ruthlessly demands that he pay for it. Paul's pictures are atmospheric, detailed and funny.
8 The Bed and Breakfast Star by Jacqueline Wilson, Yearling £2.99. This story of a family fallen on hard times and living in a DSS hotel is told in the voice of 10-year-old joke-crazy, would-be comedian Elsa. She is under no illusions about her family's situation, nor about the mixed motives of those allegedly there to help. An unsentimental and truthful book that is even better for a strong sense of mischief.
8 Children of Winter by Berlie Doherty, Mammoth £2.99. Three children sitting out a storm in a barn on a remote Derbyshire hillside are suddenly whisked back 300 years. They become their own ancestors, similarly marooned by their parents to avoid an outbreak of plague in the valley. An artificial premise, but mitigated by sympathetic writing as the children learn to fend for themselves.
8 A Fortune Branches Out by Margaret Mahy, Yearling £2.99. Mahy is a world-class children's author who happens to live in New Zealand. This amusing, slim, story concerns 10-year-old Tessa and her ambition to be "a rich corporate executive with a cellular phone". Her money-making skills are put to the test when she and her friends resolve to raise money for the Telethon. This latest in Mahy's Fortune family sequence offers spirited story-telling for the over-8s.
8 Granny by Anthony Horovitz, Walker £3.99. When Granny is a socio-path, life can be difficult even if you're rich, as 12-year-old Joe Warden and his parents discover. As Granny decides to move in with them, she sets in motion a chain of events which will drive the Wardens to flee to Heathrow Airport and thence to Africa, Asia, America - or anywhere. Cheerfully dotty stuff.
8 Ruth and the Blue Horse by Charles Ashton, Walker £3.50. Lonely Ruth knows a blue horse which seems to understand everything she says to it. But the relationship gets difficult: the blue horse appears to grow jealous as Ruth becomes friendly with a classmate at her new school. A magical and delicate tale enhanced by Emma Chichester-Clark's lovely pen-and-ink pictures.
8 Taking the Cat's Way Home by Jan Mark, Walker £2.99. The story of two small girls outwitting the class bully when he lies in wait for them on their way home. A well-constructed "real book", yet ideal for L-plated readers beginning to build up their confidence.
8 The Upside-Down Mice and Other Animal Stories ed Jane Merer, Piccadilly Press £4.99. An unpublished Roald Dahl mouse-tale is the coup of this collection, sold in aid of child cancer. It's a variant on the climax of The Twits, with pestiferous mice being caught in con- fusion when a householder glues his furniture to the ceiling. Stories by stalwarts Colin Dann, Penelope Lively, Dick King-Smith, Brian Patten and others complete the anthology, which is also in hardback at £7.99.
8 Bully by Jan Needle, Puffin £3.75. For issue-orientated school novels, bullying can be one of the most fruitful problems to treat because the children are often left to deal with it without adult support. This is a well-plotted example of the genre, although the class-conflict at Needle's Comprehensive is slightly pre-digested.
8 In the Money by Helen Dunmore, Red Fox £3.50. 11-year-old Paul's family, suddenly enriched, moves to a big old country house where he comes upon a strange, wild girl hiding in the cellar. But how can she claim this is 1892 instead of 1992? And why does she warn him of the "bad money" which built the house? The questions multiply as gradually the secrets of a hundred years ago merge into the dangerous mystery of his parents' newly acquired wealth. An enthralling half-thriller, half-ghost story from a writer now also making a name as an adult novelist.
8 Private, Keep Out by Gwen Grant, Mammoth £3.50. You could call this classic story a Midlands One End Street. Set in 1948, it's the "diary" of a girl, the youngest (she seems to be around 11) in a working class family. The events are described in no-nonsense style and, if low-key and with an appropriately limited horizon, they are jolly and life-enhancing.
8 Ticket to Freedom by Rosemary Harris, Faber £4.99. Lallie has come up the hard way. The family's disintegrating, her boyfriend Paul's in trouble with the police and she has to see a shrink once a week "to cure me of being me". Startlingly different from Harris's magical children's classic The Moon in the Cloud, this is a strong piece of realism for young teenagers.
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