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Brief bits...;Children's books

Harry Horse provides the illustrations for Margaret Mahy's A Villain's Night Out (Puffin pound;4.99), which explores with stylish wit the issue of who is in control - the author or the character. An excellent antidote for those who have overdosed on formulaic writer-in-command planning sheets.

Can We Keep It, Dad? (Andersen pound;7.99) is a gem of a chapter book for early readers by picture book author Gus Clarke. It's told in a backwards-forwards, fortunately-unfortunately style which keeps the reader wondering: will the family keep the stray kitten - whose name changes from Scratch to Burgess to Elvis to Brains and back to Scratch - or not?

Michael Thorn is deputy headteacher of Hawkes Farm primary school, Hailsham, East Sussex

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