BOOK shopping for chil
dren this Christmas could be a somewhat overwhelming task, as there are so many attractive hooks to choose from. Instead of reviewing just a few books at length this month. 1 thought it would be more helpful to sort out some of the best buys among the new books into age groups.
Picture Books For The Very Young The Good Bird Nepomuk. (Whiting and Wheaton, 15s.). A simple story about a bird who befriends a hungry pet goldfish, told entirely by the huge illustrations in attractive muted mauves, pinks and gold. The two year-old 1 gave it to seemed to think it was a good idea.
The Rain Puddle. (Bodley Head, 12s. 6d.). Beautifully printed. funny story about the reactions of a farm yard of animals to their reflections in a rain puddle. Duvoisin's highly individual illustrations which you may or may not like.
Picture Books For Young Readers
Adventure at Mont Saint Michel. (Macdonald, 15s.). quite an experience to read this book, which almost has no age limit. The atmosphere is immediately established, and the illustrations have a fascinating hold. Story concerns a little girl who-wants to follow the fishermen over the horizon to discover where the sea goes.
Someday. (World's Work, 10s. 6d.). A hook for all ages. Very amusing. Searle-like illustrations in delicate colours. Part-time Dog. (World's Work, 15s.). Nicely illustrated, good characterisation, and a story that shows the value of trust. Smokey. (Andre Deutsch, 15s.). Favourite theme of an old train threatened with being thrown on the scrap heap. Needless to say, he is saved from this .fate in a suitably fantastic manner. Bill Peet's marvellous illustrations and galloping verse are great fun.
Ella. (Andre Deutsch, I5s.). Another Bill Peet. This time about . a circus elephant who lets success go to her head, and learns humility the hard way. Days at Wickham. (131cs, 18s.). Really for older children and nostalgic grandmothers. An account of childhood in the upper classes during the nineteen twenties. Has charm.
Fiction For Eight To Tcn-Year-Olds
Many in this age group enjoy stories about 'humanised' animals. The following three books have this in common, while remaining quite different in style.
Paddington At Work. (Collins, 10s. 6d.). Michael Bond's hilarious bear in more trouble. In an attempt to earn some money, he dabbles in stocks and shares, tries his paw at decorating, and has a 'go' at ballet dancing—all with more or less disastrous results. Excellent value.
Here Comes Thursday. (Harrap, 15s.). Delightful story by the same author, about an orphaned mouse and the family of mice that adopt him. Good for reading aloud, as the characters and witty style will have a general appeal. Miss Bianca hi the Salt Mines. (Heinemann, 15s.). For the child with a sophisticated vocabulary. Although the dark jacket and small close print is stn-inviting, the story is interesting and exciting.
For the same age group, Where the Wind Blows. (Faber, 13s. 6d.) is an unusual and beautifully written story which would appeal to the highly imaginative solitary sort of girl.
A Blazing Torch. (Andre Deutsch, 13s. 6d.). A lovely little story, full of tenderness and strength. Two children, in difficult circumstances, learn to make their own happiness. The ink drawings are poor, giving no consistent image of the children, but it doesn't matter, because the writing does it all. Recommended for any child going through a difficult time. Satchkin Patchkin. (Faber, 12s. fid.). Utterly charming, superbly written fairy story, enhanced by Shirley Hugh's drawings. As near perfect as a hook can get.
Fiction For Older Children
The Growing Summer, (Collins, 15s.). For those who like a story about a family of children this is an ideal choice. When their mother rushes to the bedside of their sick father in the Far East, the four Gareth children are bundled off to an eccentric but remarkable great-aunt in Ireland. There they have to learn to care for themselves completely, and thereby grow up considerably. Add a dash of mystery in the shape of a run-away boy in dark glasses and with a strange foreign accent, the sure touch of Noel Streatfeild, and eve Live Ardizzone drawings, i Tkall that a bargain]
The Call Of The Valley. (Collins, 15s.). It is worth persevering through the rather heavy opening chapter, because this is a first-rate story. The young hero is determined to escape the confines of the small Welsh valley where he has been brought up. He succeeds, only to return and make good in his native village. The characterisation is strong.
The Bonny Pit Laddie (Oxford Children's Library, 75. 6d.). A very adult book. Presenting a picture of the conditions in which boy miners worked at the turn of the century, it is only suitable for a young person with a serious turn of mind. The strike as seen from the eyes of a twelve year old boy arouses many emotions in the reader. Brian Wildsmith has done the drawings.
The Otterhury Incident. (Bodley Head. 13s. 6d.). This is a reprint of an excellent story by C. a Lewis, about two rival gangs of boys who play at war on an old bomb site. They unite to raise money for a particularly touching school fellow who is blamed for smashing a school window and ordered to pay for it. However, they accidentally uncover the dirty dealings of a couple of `spivs' (that dates it for you) and the final chapters are enormously exciting.
The Battle Of Saint George Without. (Faber, 16s.). Another' street gang hook. No particular child stands out. but the little community as a whole has a very individual character, and the story is exciting and humorous.