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Schools television


THE MAGICIAN'S HOUSE. BBC1. Sunday, 6.15-6.45pm

"One of the great things is that the BBC is trying to revive the family viewing slot on Sunday evenings," writer William Corlett told me, when I asked him about the second series of The Magician's House, which starts this week.

"And I'm happy to say that there are adults without children who watch; I don't think of myself as a children's author."

There are certainly pleasures for viewers of different ages in this story of interaction between past and present, ancient magic and modern family life - thanks to an exceptional cast that includes Ian Richardson as the 16th-century magician, Sian Phillips as a modern inhabitant of the Welsh valley where the action is set, and the disembodied voice of Stephen Fry giving us what Corlett describes as "the most superb owl".

The children, played by Katie Stuart, Stephen Webb and Olivia Coles, are also excellent.

Corlett, who wrote the scripts himself, found that some things had to be changed for TV; for example, effects that were "slow burners" in the original had to be compressed.

All that means for viewers is that this well-crafted, imaginative television series should not discourage them from reading the books.


Book Box: Animated Tales of the World. C4, Mondays, 9.45-10am

These 15-minute films for seven to 11-year-olds continue to demonstrate the possibilities of animation as a medium for storytelling.

This week, we had a charming puppet animation of a Norwegian story about three girls and a troll, "The Three Sisters"; next Monday, a cel (painted) animation of a story from Pakistan about two birds, "Podni and Podna". Both these films, in their very different styles, bring to television some of the qualities of the best children's illustrted books - and are a long way from the crudely animated Sunday-morning television cartoons.

Book Box is an international co-production and next year the producers intend to release some of the films in the French and Spanish versions made for Europe and Latin America as an aid for foreign-language learning. C4 already has on offer an activity pack using Book Box, which exploits the cross-cultural aspects of the Tales and shows how they can introduce children to concepts of storytelling: the oral tradition, structure, heroes and villains.


Boss Women. BBC Knowledge. Tuesdays, November 14 to 28, 9-9.50pm

Three profiles of powerful women start this week with Anna Wintour, the British-born editor of American Vogue, who describes how she manages to reconcile work and home life and gives a glimpse into the world of fashion publishing.

Next week, the role model is Perween Warsi MBE, the second richest Asian businesswoman in Britain. She built up her curry empire from the home business she started 13 years ago, selling samosas from her kitchen, and is now about to expand into a new factory, supplying one of the country's main supermarkets.

Finally, on November 28, prime suspect is the British police force's first woman chief constable, Pauline Clare.


Listen to Your Parents. Radio 4. Tuesday, 2.15-3pm

The poet Benjamin Zephaniah's Afternoon Play is a story of family conflict seen from the point of view of 10-year-old Mark, who records and tries to understand the violent behaviour of his father. Meanwhile, he writes poems reflecting his life and love of football. The play is not autobiographical, but is partly derived from Zephaniah's own childhood.

His previous radio work, Hurricane Dub, won a BBC Young Playwright's Award in 1988.

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