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STORYBOOKS (6-10s)

2 Sir Gadabout and the Ghost by Martyn Beardsley, Dolphin pounds 2.99. Latest in a long, honourable tradition of maladroit knights, Sir Gadabout wants to show the rest of the Round Table that he's not the ninny they think he is. Breezy, old-fashioned humour.

2 You Cannot Eat Your Chicken Pox, Amber Brown by Paula Danziger, Macmillan pounds 2.99. In a strongly realistic narrative, 9-year-old Amber, who can do nothing to stop her parents' impending divorce, crosses the Atlantic to spend a few days with her father in "London, England". The child's viewpoint and her strength of character are skilfully caught.

2 Not Yeti by Alan Gibbons, Dolphin pounds 3.50. A very Dahl-like plot about a boy brought from Liverpool to live with unloving relatives in a miserable town. Life promises to be hell until he meets a Yeti and finds himself on the trail of his disappeared parents. Lacking Dahl's dark jollity, but still plenty of fun.

2 The Meteorite Spoon by Philip Ridley, Puffin pounds 3.99. Filly (10) and her brother Fergal (7) are cursed with parents who fight so explosively that their house falls down. The children crawl from the rubble into the land of Honeymoonia, where they meet new, lovey-dovey versions of their parents, an experience which changes their perspective.

2 The Time Sailors by Ian Whybrow, Walker pounds 3.50. Edward is his family's last link with Grandad since his parents stopped speaking to the ungrateful old codger. But one day, on a visit, he's invited to time-travel back into Grandad's own childhood in 1919, where he joins an adventure with the Dare Gang - himself, Grandad Wilson as a boy and his friend Futter. Beautifully judged storytelling.

2 The Day Matt Sold Great-Grandma by Eleanor Allen, Puffin Chillers pounds 2.99. A simply-told ghost story about a young boy who pawns his Great-Grandma's portrait photo to buy a gift for his mum. Great-Grandma's ghost is affronted, and calls to him in his dreams to redeem her. In this new series the supernatural, for once, isn't played for laughs.

2 A Fortune Branches Out by Margaret Mahy, Yearling pounds 2.99. Third in the Fortune cousins quartet, and full of Mahy magic as entrepreneur Tessa (10) thinks up a good wheeze for making money - for charity, mind you.

2 Mary Poggs and the Sunshine by Vivian French, Walker pounds 2.99. A gentle satire about a medieval village and a little girl's realisation of her own intelligence - and what she might do with it.

FICTION (9-12s)

2 Bottle Boy by Stephen Elboz, Lions pounds 3.99. An orphan boy, Mouse, struggles against poverty and a modern-day Fagin, who uses him to carry out burglaries. Mouse falls back on his wits and at last comes through spectacularly in this exciting, unpretentious story.

2 Heads and Tales by Susan Price, Faber pounds 3.99. The title accurately sums up the grisly idea behind this tale - set 200 years ago - of a sister and brother who watch their storytelling father die in a canal-navvies' camp and then carry his severed (but still talking) head across country to safety. Along the way, the head sustains them with stories reworked from legends, fables and fairy tales. An oddity, certainly, but powerfully written.

2 The Shadows of Owlsnap by Angela Bull, Dolphin pounds 2.99. Scientifically gifted 12-year-old Alistair moves with his family into "haunted" Quarmby Hall, once the headquarters of 18th century coiners. Alistair's tidy, rational mind goes into free fall as he finds himself in contact with the ghosts of the counterfeiters, and sharing their dangers. An atmospheric time-shift novel.

2 The Secret of Platform 13 by Eva Ibbotson, Macmillan pounds 3.50. A fantasy about an island in a magical parallel world. The King and Queen have a baby son who is accidentally brought to London via a mysterious connecting gateway known as a "gump". Nine years later a rescue party is sent to get him, causing muddle and cross-purposes at every turn. An agreeably high-spirited comedy.

2 Maphead by Lesley Howarth, Walker pounds 3.99. Another parallel-world story, but much more subtle. Maphead and his father are aliens adrift, looking for the human mother the boy never knew. The migrant's psychological insecurity, his shaky grasp on language and customs, are beautifully caught. But Maphead has skills and powers of his own to help him make his way.

FICTION (11+)

2 Stone Cold by Robert Swindells, Puffin pounds 3.99. In his mid-teens, Link leaves his mother and stepfather behind in Bradford and becomes a London dosser, where his life is a daily round of begging and looking for shelter. The method is documentary, first-person realism. But the social evil of homelessness is soon overshadowed by something darker as the book turns into a thriller about serial murder. Won last year's Carnegie Medal.

2 The Baby and Fly Pie by Melvin Burgess, Puffin pounds 3.99. Another tense novel about homeless children, this time more Dickens than Thomas Harris, but none the worse for that. Burgess's voice for Fly, the rubbish-picking kid who, with his sister and friend, find themselves custodians of a baby in a hostile city, is accurate and sympathetic; hyper-realism as opposed to quasi-documentary.

2 Children of Bach by Eils Dillon, Faber pounds 3.99. The author was a veteran adult's and children's novelist who died last year in Dublin. This fine historical novel (her last) concerns four Hungarian-Jewish children caught in the Holocaust. Their life in hiding and their bid to escape is told with a simplicity which is heart-rending.

2 Gold Dust by Geraldine McCaughrean, Puffin pounds 3.99. A charming story about a Brazilian town where gold is dug up in the main street. The fever that spreads brings the place to the brink of destruction; events (seen through the eyes of two local children) move fast as the town adopts desperate measures to rid itself of the gold-rushers.

2 The Wild Boy and Queen Moon by K M Peyton, Corgi pounds 2.99. Dreamy mystery about a beautiful grey mare, a bareback boy rider in the moonlight, and dirty dealings at the livery yard. Vivid writing; top-class storytelling.

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