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A quarter of walk-in centres have closed

Books: Cover Stories At the Frankfurt Book Fair

LORD WEIDENFELD, in his opening speech at the 50th Frankfurt Book Fair, likened the first event to a scene from Brueghel. Today, Hogarth comes to mind: if the world is edging towards recession, there's no sign yet that publishers are feeling the chill. Bars and restaurants in the dozen halls were heaving, despite their cost. Hotels are packed; taxis impossible. Only the prostitutes find business slow: publishers prefer to sleep with each other.

Books For Children: First Fiction

The new reader - too smart for picture books and too young for teenage novels - needs plot that's compelling, but not so scary it impinges on his dreams. He needs subtly developed characters whose feelings and motivation he can recognise. Most of all, he deserves bright, sharply original prose that doesn't bore or preach or patronise - fierce, useful language that fizzes with possibility and inspires genuine excitement about words.

Books: Children's books

It's probably too late now to get hold of a Teletubby in anything other than book form - astonishingly there are still plenty of copies of Laa-Laa's Ball and The Flying Toast (BBC, pounds 2.50 each) around, as well as the Teletubbies Annual 1998 (BBC, pounds 5.50). Two year-olds are addicted to these fat, furry aliens and their horribly jaundiced baby companion in the same way that they were once addicted to Postman Pat and his black and white cat - for hopelessly passe kids, Collins have produced A Special Delivery From Postman Pat by John Cunliffe incorporating three new adventures in a single package (pounds 9.99). The drawback to giving any of these books is that you will be required to read them out loud at some point; discerning adults (or at least those who wish to remain calm over the Christmas hols) should search out a copy of The Night Before Christmas by Clement C Moore instead (a new edition of this classic poem, magically illustrated by Christian Birmingham, is published by Collins, pounds 12.99). Children of all ages are entranced by this tale. Persuade them to read it turn and turn about on Christmas Eve, and they will revel in the growing sense of suspense and the old-fashioned world of firelight, snowy moonlit nights, stockings hung up and the distant sound of sleighbells it conjures up.
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