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Reason and rhyme

The Story Maker. By Frances Dickens And Kirstin Lewis. SPEECHMARK pound;29.99. www.speechmark.net. Four-plus.

Tom Deveson on story-building, Fred Sedgwick on a poetry treat.

Between them the authors have more than 30 years' experience in the classroom. They have drawn on their practical knowledge to produce a book of advice on writing stories that, while not especially original, is full of good sense, warm enthusiasm and thoughtful encouragement.

The Story Maker is for children between the ages of four and 11; younger ones can use it with a teacher or in small groups while older writers can dip into it on their own. They'll find a dozen sections, each full of cheerful colour illustrations and clearly printed suggestions, "writer's tips", thought-provoking questions and photocopiable storyboards.

Topics include story types, characters (ranging from footballers and wizards to snakes and robots), objects (from magic drums to mobile phones) and the British fictional subject of weather.

The pages about feelings suggest experiments with synonyms; the section on settings leads to thoughts about the senses and phrases such as "emerald glow" or "slimy under my feet".

It's also good to see neglected classics such as The Phantom Tollbooth, Finn Family Moomintroll and Emil and the Detectives in the recommended reading list.

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