Children's books

Michael Thorn finds stories to inspire newly confident readers

The Legend Of The Worst Boy In The World

By Eoin Colfer Illustrated by Tony Ross; Puffin pound;7.99 (hardback); Six-plus

My Big (Strange) Happy Family! An Indie Kidd Book

By Karen McCombie Illustrated by Lydia Monks; Walker pound;4.99


Troll Trouble: Trolls Go Home

By Alan MacDonald; Illustrated by Mark Beech; Bloomsbury Children's Books pound;4.99


Successful as his Artemis Fowl series has been, it is in his Legend stories for younger readers that Eoin Colfer does his best work. In the third title, Will confides in his grandfather - Mother is always too busy with the three younger boys and Marty, the oldest son, has first call on Dad.

Will's problems include noticing too late that there is no paper in the school toilet. Grandad can top that one: his mother once made him use tinfoil, and he had a magnetic bottom for a week.

But the main focus of the book is a recollected incident in which Will was made to "walk the line" by Marty and almost walked into the path of busy traffic, an incident recounted in a tone that brought to mind the comedy, My Name Is Earl.

Karen McCombie's partnership with Lydia Monks on the Indie Kidd series is so successful they would do well to pursue the association in a manner similar to Jacqueline Wilson and Nick Sharratt. The stories are very accessible, with strong characterisation, and the sixth book is no exception. Monks' illustrations play an important part, while the tone, the pace and the dialogue of Karen McCombie's narrative are faultless.

Indie, asked to produce a "family map" for homework, sets about trying to establish whether or not her separated parents still like one another. The feel-good resolution is predictable, but arrived at via an entertaining chain of events.

In Alan MacDonald's Troll Trouble: Trolls Go Home, Mr Troll, shamed at being humiliated by a billy-goat, decides to emigrate to the UK from Norway with his family. The story opens with Mr and Mrs Priddle anxiously eyeing the new neighbours. When Mrs Priddle overhears Mrs Troll asking for "kid"

at the supermarket, she's convinced that cannibals have moved in.

The book ends with the two families having reached some sort of rapprochement via Warren and Ulrik, the sons. In an entertaining if extreme representation of a clash of cultures and values, the challenge for Alan MacDonald in continuing the series will be to prove that he hasn't already exploited the main drama in the situation Michael Thorn is deputy head of Hawkes Farm Primary School, Hailsham, East Sussex

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