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Children's books

THE BIRDMAN. By Melvin Burgess. Illustrated by Ruth Brown. Andersen Press pound;9.99.

The cover, like much that lies inside this thought-provoking picture book, is equivocal.

A masked man holds a robin, apparently offering it to the boy dressed in red. What is their relationship? Why is the man masked? Why is the boy's shirt the same colour as the bird's breast? Inside the book, the by is dressed in green-grey and the man is more sinister.

Jarvis buys a robin, intending to free it from its cage. But he prolongs the bird's captivity and, paying the price for his selfishness, has his identity swapped with the robin's by the birdman, who - on the final page - is revealed in a more kindly light. Much to ponder in words and illustrations.

Michael Thorn

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