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Children's books

Fiona Lafferty meets a would-be writer and Nicholas Tucker chooses a thought-provoking novel about Nazi Germany

Girl Writer: Castles and Catastrophes. By Ros Asquith. Piccadilly Press. Pounds 5.99. Eight to 10

Ros Asquith's books for teens and pre-teens are hugely popular. In this funny book for upper primary girls, she introduces Cordelia Arbuthnott and her eccentric family. Cordelia is a budding author, her aunt is a famous children's author; so it should be in the blood.

She and her best friend Callum are about to go to different schools, she to the comprehensive with a dubious reputation, he to a private school. The plot hinges on Cordelia making new friends and trying to be accepted by the fashionistas - and her desperation to win the school writing competition.

Cordelia's "novel" punctuates the story, with amusing asides from her Aunt Laura's writing tips, but it is intervention by her new friend Viola that results in her winning the prize for comedy writing, not romance as she expected. This endearingly wacky character will appeal to fans of Jacqueline Wilson

Fiona Lafferty is editor of The Good Book Guide

The Book Thief. By Markus Zusak. Doubleday. pound;12.99. 12-plus

Fiction set in Nazi Germany often has a sobering effect, given that any description of the horrific events of that time can now only seem unbearably moving. But this novel ignores concentration camp experiences and focuses on a working-class street near pre-war Munich.

Its inhabitants are poor and permanently hungry, victims themselves of the Nazis. Into this community comes Liesel, a foster child placed with a fierce substitute mother and a saintly foster father.

Drawn to reading as an escape from her harsh daily life, she falls in love with a fugitive Jew hiding in the family cellar. Her story is narrated by the character of Death, who often philosophises about the number of victims awaiting him as war approaches.

Published in both child and adult editions, depending on the design of the book jacket, this sad but deeply engaging novel should appeal to audiences of all ages, who will become involved not just in the story, but also in the curiously mannered but ultimately effective way in which it is written Check out more reviews at www.tes.co.ukReviews_and_Resources

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