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Bologna highlights

Coming this summer and autumn.

Primary fiction.

* Polly's Running Away Book by Frances Thomas, illustrated by Sally Gardner (Bloomsbury Children's Books). This is Bridget Jones for eight-year-olds ("I am saving up. So far I have got 75p and one Double Decker."). Polly and Lauren Child's Clarice Bean would have lots to talk about. Polly rants about her "irritating" family, the baby on the way "that nobody wants", her least favourite teacher ("She smokes Silk Cut in the staffroom. She should not wear pink.") and her soon to be ex-best-friend: "Annoying Things About Kelly: 1. She is going on and on about Disneyland." A delightful text and what promise to be sharp illustrations by Sally Gardner, whose big project this year is The Fairy Catalogue for Orion.

* Lizzie Zipmouth by Jacqueline Wilson (Corgi). Lizzie, troubled by adjusting to her new stepfamily, stops speaking. Promising territory for this compassionate author.

* A amp; C Black's Rockets series "for children who have just launched into reading" has interesting new titles including Scoular Anderson's tale of Eric Wizzard and his father who is hopeless at magic. There are also new Comix - adventure stories in graphic novel format - which will appeal to more confident readers.

Story collections.

* The Orchard Book of Egyptian Gods and Pharaohs by Robert Swindells, illustrated by Stephen Lambert. The turbulent and bloody world of Ra, Thoth and Isis is explored relatively rarely in children's children's fiction and this is an inventive authorillustrator combination, in a solid Orchard tradition of well-told tales for reading aloud or alone. Stephen Lambert's light-suffused paintings look enticing.

* Rocking Horse Land and other Classic Tales of Dolls and Toys compiled by Naomi Lewis, illustrated by Angela Barrett (Walker Books). Like several forthcoming books on Walker's list, this collection is dedicated to Wendy Boase, the late editorial director at Walker. Angela Barrett's illustrations will tempt the contemporary child towards E Nesbit, Andersen and Mrs Fairstar ("Memoirs of a London Doll").

* Women of Camelot: queens and enchantresses at the court of King Arthur by Mary Hoffman, illustrated by Christina Balit (Frances Lincoln). Nimue (the Lady of the Lake), Morgan, Guinevere and other strong females from the Arthurian legends give their versions of events (see audiotapes, right).

Older readers.

* The Seeing Stone (Orion Children's Books), the first in Kevin Crossley Holland's long-awaited Arthur trilogy, is set at the turn of the century, in 1199. The narrative balances war and peace, the ideals of Islam and Christianity and reason and superstition. Arthur of Camelot has a supporting role as inspiration to the young hero, a would-be knight also called Arthur who sees visions of scenes from the legends in a mystic stone.

* In Times of War: an anthology of war and peace in children' literature, edited by Carol Fox (Pavilion Books), is the result of a collaborative project between the UK, the Netherlands and Portugal, funded by the EU education organisation Comenius. This has led to a moving selection of European perspectives alongside UK contributors including Raymond Briggs, Peter Dickinson and Theresa Breslin.

The extracts, short stories and poetry cover war in Bosnia, Rwanda, the Gulf and Northern Ireland as well as the two world wars. See also POW, Martin Booth's new novel (Puffin), about a ship's boy captured after the 1916 Battle of Jutland, and Rachel Anderson's Warlands (Oxford University Press) about the legacy of the Vietnam war for an orphan who builds a new life in Britain. Billy the Kid by Michael Morpurgo, illustrated by Michael Foreman (Pavilion) is the life story of a Chelsea Pensioner whose career with Chelsea FC was cut short in 1939.

* Witch Child by Celia Rees (Bloomsbury Children's Books). This author shifts from gripping gothic horror to historical fiction, in the form of the diary of 14-year-old Mary, whose grandmother is hanged for witchcraft in the 1650s. She flees to New England, which proves to be dangerous territory.

* Shylock's Daughter by Mirjam Pressler (Macmillan) builds on one of Shakespeare's more shadowy characters, setting Jessica's forbidden love in the context of the history of Jews in Venice.

* The Rope and other stories by Philippa Pearce. A new collection to celebrate the author's 80th birthday. Puffin promises a downloadable resource sheet on its website.

Information books.

* Antarctic Journal: the hidden world of Antarctica's animals by Meredith Hooper, illustrated by Lucia de Lewis (Frances Lincoln). Author and illustrator spent three-and-a-half months with the US National Science Foundation on Palmer Station on the Western Antarctic Peninsula, watching the rich and brief burst of summer growth. Their account has an on-the-spot immediacy.

* The Story of Jake Carpenter, Cabin Boy (Walker Books) comes from the Castle Diary team, Richard Platt and Chris Riddell, who appeared on the shortlist for the TES Junior Information Book Award 2000. In 1716, Jake sets off "to live in a world of water and wood", to endure many hardships and to do battle with pirates.


* Every Poem You'll Need for the Literacy Hour by Huw Thomas (Macmillan). You will love or hate the title.

* The World is Sweet: poems by Valerie Bloom and The Poet Cat: poems by Grace Nichols (Bloomsbury Children's Books). Two new collections top a strong poetry list.

* Centrally Heated Knickers by Michael Rosen (Puffin). A hundred poems about science and technology, including these thoughts on the hot water tank's new jacket: "It didn't have sleeves. It didn't have pockets. It wasn't going out. What a waste of money." Puffin also has a new collection from Benjamin Zephaniah.


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