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Drones don't do much

UP THE GARDEN PATH SERIES. By Judy Allen. Illustrated by Tudor Humphries. Kingfisher pound;5.99 each. ANIMAL LIVES SERIES. By Sally Tagholm. Illustrated by Bert Kitchen. Kingfisher pound;4.99 each.

In Are you a Bee? and Are you a Dragonfly?, for pre-school children, Judy Allen has had the imaginative idea of inviting her readers to put themselves in the place of a baby dragonfly or a growing bee.

This she does with attractive directness and the minimum of anthropomorphism - though older readers will be amused by her description of the division of labour among bees: "Your brothers are drones. They don't do much. You and your sisters are workers. You do everything." The illustrations by Tudor Humphries are full of interest and activity.

My real quarrel is with the use of language. The authors employ a mixture of scientific observation - "a female otter's droppings can tell a male that she is ready to breed" - and more self-consciously "literary" language - "the shimmering darkness is terrifying to the little otters". For children struggling to learn the difference between different kinds of writing, this could be confusing.


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