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In brief;Ideas for Christmas;Books

THE STORYTELLING STAR: tales of the sun, moon and stars. By James Riordan. illustrated by Amanda Hall. Pavilion Books pound;12.99.

Nine stories from nine cultures, told with dignity and style, make up a book a million miles away from the overkill of red-faced Santas, plum puddings and tinselly offerings that appear at this time of year. There is something here for every taste - you can carry it around without inducing wrist-strain, and none of the stories is too long for a reading-aloud session.

Add to this the outstanding illustrations, with elegant borders and careful attention to detail by Amanda Hall and you have the perfect present for almost anyone or any age. A real treasure.

THE OXFORD BOOK OF CHRISTMAS STORIES. Edited by Dennis Pepper. Oxford University Press pound;6.99

A sumptuous new cover by Jane Ray, and underneath, the book we've known and loved for 13 years. There are 30 stories here by writers whom many children will know from their later prowess at winning Carnegie Medals and the like. The spooky tales stand out. Jan Mark's "Welcome Yule" is always welcome and they don't come much scarier than Robert Swindells' story. Most surprising of all is an unspooky corker from Jacqueline Wilson which will surprise her hosts of readers. Excellent value.

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