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Children's books

TUCK EVERLASTING. By Natalie Babbitt. Bloomsbury pound;9.99

On the day in August that Mae Tuck sets out to meet her two sons (as she does every 10 years), 10-year-old Winnie Foster is considering running away and a stranger in a yellow suit appears at the Fosters' gate in search of a family.

Linking these three seemingly unconnected events is a magic spring in the Fosters' wood, with water that gives everlasting life. The Tucks have all drunk from it and stayed the same age for 87 years. When Mae's son Jesse sees Winnie about to drink from it, he bundles her on to the Tucks' horse and takes her to their home. The man in the yellow suit, who wants to make his fortune from the spring and has witnessed the kidnapping, sets about blackmailing Winnie's father for rights to the wood.

This refreshing and original story throws up all sorts of moral dilemmas, not least the question of whether one would really like to live forever. Children in Year 4 and above will find much to ponder here. It was first published in 1975 in the United States, and a film starring Ben Kingsley is in production.

Fiona Lafferty is librarian at St Swithun's junior school, Winchester, Hampshire

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