Parents' Choice by PAT JONES
EON THOORENS has chosen a distinctive subject for his novel The Golden Compass — the time when printing was, to quote the publishers, "as new, exciting and dangerous as astronautics and nuclear research are today".
The scene is Antwerp in 1555, the family the Plantins, and the eldest • daughter it was who designed the characters known to this day as Plantin type. Her father Christopher was a remarkable man, and had to suffer much; so did ,his family, for it was a time of religious and political upheaval, and just being a printer could place a man in jeopardy.
But the excitements of the plot apart. this book is of a new era. Children have grown up reading books, innocent adventures, yet overlaid with hitter prejudice, books in which all Catholics were villains, and often Spanish villains at that, or all Protestants frightful enemies of all that was good.
Set in the heart of the Netherlands' troubles with Spain, and times of religious and political bigotry, this book lights all with a compassion new to the world of children's novels. In this country, at least. it marks a breakthrough. (Epworth, 15s.) There are no fewer than three Gaelic books this month. In lilting language Sorche Nic Leodhas has produced Thistle rind Thyme, tales and legends from Scotland. (Rodley Head, 21s.). All of them were told to the author long ago, and so good is the writing that one can still hear the voice of the storyteller.
, By the same author, for the younger ones, is All in the Morn ing Early. Partly prose, partly verse, it is one of the tales which, as each incident unfolds, teaches the child its numbers, Sandy, a little boy, goes to the mill, and along the way is joined by more and more followers. Thus:
Sandy with his sack of corn, One huntsman winding his horn, Two old ewes by the shepherd shorn.
Over the burn and over the And down the road that leads to the mill,
Where the old mill wheel is never still— Clicketly—clicketty— clickett v—clack!
All in the morning early.
Illustrated by Evaline Ness (as was "Thistle and Thyme") and published by Bodley Head at 12s. 6d.
Anra the Storm Child by Margaret MacAlpine (Faber, I5s.) is a tale of the Scottish Highlands, the fishing village, and people like Grandmother Fergus who believe in such things as storm maidens. Anra is the son of Conal Fergus and a storm maiden who became human, but disappeared at the lecieht of a storm leaving behind her newly-born son. It is to be expected that, when he reached the threshold of manhood, strange things should happen to Anra.
0 for a Mouseless House! is a little classic by Ursula Moray Williams (Chatto & Windus. 15s.). Only Gilbert, holidaying with his uncle the vicar, seems to be interested in the old church on the hill, which is neglected by the parishioners who prefer television or a hit of gardening to the tong climb on a Sunday.
The church mice keep it clean and tidy, until the fateful day when the balance of nature is severely upsetsby an invasion of large black
mice, delinquents to a mouse every one of them. The story includes a really dramatic siege, and much battling between good and evil.
Classical Songs for Children, by the Countess of Harewood and Ronald Duncan, is published by Anthony Blond at 42s. Three of the pieces have been specially commissioned from Britten, Poulenc and Kodaly, to show children how different modern composers tackle Shakespeare's "Tell Me Where is Fancy Bred".
The scope is wide; apart from the inevitable "Hey nanny" school of thought there are selections from Handel and Bach, Mozart and Haydn. romantic opera, arid songs grouped under "national influences".
The little ones are well served this month. At the top of the list is The Year Cots Round by Vasiliu (World's Work, I2s. 6d.) whose pictures and words will entertain for hours, as well as giving a sense of what that immense dimension, a whole year, can he, Calling All Bears is a hig bright book with that "value for money" look, for it costs only 5s. It is a true book about the world's bears, and Mary Brooks draws lively, cuddlesome pictures of these most uncuddlesomc creatures. Published by Blackie.
Charlotte Steiner is an established favourite, and Kiki and Muffy is her latest (World's Work. 10s. 6c1.). Kiki is a little girl, and Mutest is her white kitty-muff. There is also a real kitten in the story, called Smoky.
Pat Deyenport produces little books with realistic pictures, and only a few words on each page— and these in big print. The House in a Tree, June at she Zon and John at the Seaside all cost 5s. from Hutchinson.
And finally, the Pere Castor books from France, translated by Antonia Ridge, and each one sure to give pleasure. They are A Rabbit Story by P. Francois, The Animals Who Went Looking for Summer try N. Caputo, and A Dog's Life by Mido (Harrap, 35. 6d. each). The latter is about a dachshund, just like a brown one I know called Shandy. Each book is very well illustrated. RECENTLY two more books have appeared in the "Young Historian" Series. They ore Imperial Rome by H. E. L. Mellersh, and Ancient japan by Edward Kidder. The publishers are Weidenfeld and Nicolson 'and each volume at 12s. 6d. Is very good value Indeed.
The picture above (left) shows custoiners stopping at a clothier's shop in a crowded Roman street. It once formed part of a tombstone.
Mr. Mellersh writes a colourful, breezy prose. Of second century Rome A.D., he says: "You would have found a city as noisy as it is now • . . It would have been,' of course, a different noise: not motor cars ond scooters, but peopie", This is worth pondering—and applying. London, for instance, is much less noisy today than it was a century ago when the traffic was horse-drown.
Mr. Kidder's book an Japan deals with the country's ancient myths and tells how the gods erected its Eight Islands by stirring the water with a jewelled speer.
The picture above (right) shows a row of sacred gates at a shrine dedicated to Inari, the messenger of the gods. At their shrines and in their early art. the Japanese represented marl os a fox. They chose this animal because of his swiftness of foot.