BOOKS FOR CHILDREN; Don't go to Boresville

Click to follow
The Independent Culture
Out of It by Maureen Stewart, Puffin pounds 3.50. Clay falls in love with Carrie, an attractive 15-year-old; however she deals drugs and soon he is whipped into the scene. This is a strongly written and for once unbiased book about drugs, yet Stewart hasn't quite got the feeling and language convincing enough. It's is meant to be aimed at 15-year-olds but often is more suited to a nine-year-old. There are flaws in the story and the ending lacks a twist. Still, it's two-thirds of the way to being an excellent book. FW

Dinotopia - River Quest by John Vernholt, Red Fox pounds 2.99. The concept is quite hard to get used to - humans and talking dinosaurs. However, this provides all the imagination-expanding features needed for a "young girl saves the world" book. It starts on a distant, perfect island where dinos and humans live in harmony. Soon utopia comes under threat when a river dries up, and two newly installed "habitat partners", a 13-year- old girl and Paddlefoot the dinosaur, are sent to save the capital. As you might expect, the journey is fraught with dangers. It does make you want to read on, even if not on seat-edge. Not a bad read for under-14s. FW

The Kid Who Only Hit Homers by Matt Christopher, Little, Brown pounds 2.99. Obviously geared towards Americans, this fails to teach you the game (baseball), or the jargon if you don't already know it. When a mystery figure helps Sylvester Coddymer III get into the team and hit a home-run every single shot, you'd think it would be too blatant a copy of the other books in the series to get published - however he's added a "surprise" twist. Would you believe that this man is actually a ghost ... wow! When he goes, Sylvester's golden streak leaves him, and it leaves you wondering why the ghost ever came, and why Matt Christopher wrote this book. The latter question is easily answered. FW

The Good Book By Alan Durrant, Bodley Head pounds 8.99. Are football hooligans only motivated by football? This is the surprising story of one who is into the Old Testament. Ross is leading a gang of stereotypical fans, The Judges, into battle when they discover a small Sunday School. His mates are disgusted but Ross is secretly impressed and wants to learn more. This book is very well-written; you understand how Ross's mind works, and why he is so confused. It carries no aggressive religious message, so should not be considered as pious propaganda. Perhaps there are a few too many biblical quotations, but it lives up to its title. Essential reading for under-15s. PF

Jesus: The Teenage Years by John Farman

Bodley Head pounds 9.99. What was Jesus like as a teenager? John Farman attempts to give us some idea: who he dated, what his grades were like at school, everything's here. Everything? No; certain things have been misplaced. Well-written and constructed sentences, for example, and perhaps some type of plot. Like too many books based on a half-decent inspiration, the author gets carried away. What starts off good-humoured, if a little thin, soon becomes patronising. PF

Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli, Hippo pounds 3.50. Magee is an orphaned 11- year-old drifter who has been on the run for two years, until he stops at a small town, where he is seen as a legend when he performs what seems like a miracle - he unites the black and white children of Two Mills. Although this book never gets much further, it is still very original. Spinelli switches the mood so smoothly that your own reactions change without your noticing. Occasionally he slams home the same point in three different ways on one page; but it is very readable and bursts with enthusiasm. PF

Sweet 'n' Sour By Nina Milton, Lions pounds 3.99. Low is a young boy living in Malaysia with his grandmother until his father turns up and takes him to England. He finds it near-impossible to learn the language or adapt, and makes no friends. But after an accident he dreams that he is the young Chinese boy who lives across the street. He is caught up in slavery and danger. Go to Boresville, go directly to Boresville, do not pass Go! At times the plot loses itself, spinning off in different directions. Low's character never develops and the book is put together in a random and disconnected way. PF

Make Lemonade by Virginia Euwer Wolff, Faber, pounds 9.99. 14-year-old Verna lives in an American city. She takes a baby-sitting job for two children with a 17-year-old single mother. Verna knows that she can't cope, but she wants to make money and can't refuse to help the mother, who has become a friend. This book is original and wonderful, written in jumpy stream- of-consciousness. Unlike many fast-moving books, however, you never get lost. Everything is developed with such craft that it is only at the end you notice how different each character has become. It is aimed at readers around 15 but in fact I can't think of anybody who will not get something out of it - children, adults (or babysitters). PF

Reviews by Phineas Foster and Finn Williams