MOTHERS about to embark on a holiday with a child between two and five years old, will find • it well worth spending time and trouble choosing a book to read to the child at night. How well I remember the wonders this did in settling my children down for sleep in strange surroundings!
Two cheerfully jacketed little books, admirable for this purpose are Boots and Wheels (Constable Young Books), by Katherine Hoskyns and Jenny Joseph. Both feature the same two children, Ruth and Martin, and manage to convey a happy atmosphere of security. Although the text is simple, there is a good deal of action, and the illustrations are clear and jolly.
Worth buying the pair at 5s. each, for they will be happily read over and over. The print is well spaced and bold enough for six and seven year olds to read themselves, and they will find them amusing.
For reading aloud that the whole family can enjoy, the A. A. Milne books can scarcely be bettered, and if you have a wide age group to consider, get the father of the family to read a chapter a night from The House at Pooh Corner. Most children from four to ten will enjoy this—and most parents too!
Methuen have brought out an excellent paperback edition, with all the much loved drawings, all for a mere 2s. 6d. each. or 10s. the set of four.
It is not always easy to find hooks with print large enough for the six to nines, yet with plots capable of sustaining their interest. A new paperback series called Collie Books (Transworld Publishers) fulfil all these requirements, and it is perhaps churlish to complain that some of the stories and illustrations date badly.
However, I can unhesitatingly recommend The Edge of the World, a reprint of this beautiful story of two French boys and the Saint Anne, an old ship which they find beached after a severe storm. This and Danger on Glass Island will absorb boys of eight and nine.
Less "meaty" are Andy and the Mascots, for the army minded, and The Country Bus, which girls will enjoy as well. This is a kindly tale, sympathetically told, which moves along well.
Two for dog lovers are Bertram and William's Wild Day Out. While Tricycle Tim is more for boys around six. The cover pictures are colourful and lively, and the books cost 3s. od. each.
To stave off that all too familiar phrase, "What can I do now?", there is a good batch of adventure stories for the nine to 13 year olds.
For the younger end of this age group, there are two new books in the Pied Piper series by Methuen, The Way Over Windle (10s. 6d.), by Mabel Esther Allan, is set in Lancashire. Ten year old Simon finds it strange and bleak on first arriving there from the Chilterns. The moors, however, intrigue him, and with Betsy, a neighbour of his own age, to guide him, he begins to explore and love them.
The arrival of William, a cousin so superior in his own eyes because of his four years seniority, strengthens Simon and Betsy's resolve to rediscover the old road over Windle moor to the village the other side, taking William, in order to comply with their parents' wish that they should not go alone.
It proves a hazardous adventure, through which William learns a few of his limitations and the younger children realise something of their capabilities.
The hero of Tam Svenson, Desert Detective by Ake Holmberg, is surprisingly an adult. But that's not the only unusual thing about him. He also travels by flying carpet, is addicted to cream filled hot cross buns, and the case on which he is engaged concerns the theft of t a portable refrigerator which plays music when the door is opened, and turns dried meat balls into de
licious pies and bilberry sauce!
The Swedish names give it an added glamour, and the zany humour will be particularly enjoyed by boys. Both these books have been produced with great care. Just the right size, beautifully printed on good paper with a dozen or so pen and ink drawings, they set a standard that at 12s. 6d. is hard to beat.
Castle for Four, by Winifred Finlay, (Harrap, I6s.), is set on the Northumbrian coast. Young Ricki Norton receives a mysterious letter offering him a castle for the summer holidays. Being the youngest of a family of three, he glories for a while in self-importance, but grandly invites his teenage brother and sister to share his good fortune.
Unfortunately, his elation is short lived, for two unpleasant surprises await him at the castle. One is the castle itself, the other is Lesley, the spoilt daughter of the owner who finds it hard to discriminate between fact and fiction.
Overcoming his disappointments, Ricki learns a few lessons in human nature, while becoming involved in a plot as complicated as any adventure addict could wish. Written with an acute perception of young people, and with descriptive colour, it will fascinate 10 to 12 year olds of both sexes.
Archie's Italian Adventure (Constable), is peppered with the sort of schoolboy humour that will keep a smile on the lips of most boys, and have the girls in perpetual giggles. Archie has decided that as he is too short to be a policeman, he will settle for police photographer when he is old enough.
When the story opens he is on a camping holiday in Italy, taking innocent photographs, so he thinks, of typical Italy for a competition. Almost at once he finds himself in a mystery, and detecting being his major hobby, he is off in hot pursuit of the criminals, reluctantly followed by a handful of his school friends.
Their adventures in the process of bringing the villains to justice, are hilarious and exciting. All the characters are well conceived, and Archie is an especially likeable hero.
The dust jacket gives a very good impression and would arouse the curiosity of 11 to 13 year olds. Robert Bateman has written other Archie adventures, and they cost I 2s. 6d.
Just to even things up a bit, the detective in No Clues for Caroline (Dent, 16s.), is a girl. Caroline is engaged by a travel agency to keep a check on the expenses charged by their courier during a trip on the Rhine.
She soon finds that there is something sinister about a certain English tourist. Thinking he has murderous intentions towards one of the women passengers, she courageously decides to accompany her everywhere.
The finale is tremendously exciting, and Pamela Mansbridge has made her heroine such a likeable girl, that girls of 13 to 15 will warm to her.
Randal Dowland, the 14 year old hero of The Punch Back Gang, is a "towny", just moved into a new estate in an old village. The villagers, adults and children alike, resent the intrusion, and the Downlands find that life in the country is far from the pleasant dream they had treasured.
Soon it is a question of the estate versus the village. The feud reaches a climax at the same time as old Charley, the village simpleton reaches a mental crisis. How the differences are resolved, is both credible and interesting, and although the story is rather slow moving, Richard Parker writes with enough humour to carry it along.
The character of Randal unfolds naturally, as a normal teenager finding his feet. The title is misleading, I think, but the jacket illustration might even lure the most avid magazine dipper to start the book. and that would be something!
For anyone off on a river holiday, there is a fascinating book by Marcus Crouch, called Rivers of England and Wales (Constable, 18s.). With photographs on every page and an easy chatty text, it is intensly readable. Combining history and geography, it is informative about roads, mills, castles and bridges as well as rivers. Suitable for 12 year olds upwards, parents will appreciate it too.
When the long holidays get tedious, many children prefer Interest books to novels, and there are two by Betty Cavana which carry out an excellent idea.
Written in the form of a narrative about a boy, they give a vivid picture of life in Mexico, in Carlos of Mexico, and Australia in Doug of Australia (Methuen, 12s. 6d. each). The photographs by George Russell Harrison are imaginative and varied, and sunny enough to make one feel on holiday!
ONE of the most delightful series of children's books are those published by Methuen under the general title of Children Everywhere. The books, all well illustrated with pictures, set out to show youngsters how others live in various parts of the world.
There have already been the tale of an Eskimo Boy, one in Ireland, Bala Child of India, a Maltese boy, a Lapp girl, the life of our Swedish cousins. Holland, Norway, Yugoslavia, Japan, Israel and Hawaii figure in other titles.
The most recent is the story Nikolai lives in Moscow which has some wonderful shots of the way a child lives in this vast little-known city. At I Is. 6d. they are very good value.
If one may offer one small criticism it is that there is not quite enough text. In the book under review, for instance, it does not seem adequate to just say "Nikolai and his father when by underground". Just a few lines on this Russian wonder would make the story that much more absorbing.