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Take five

Paperbacks for Christmas

A CHRISTMAS STAR CALLED HANNAH. By Vivian French. Illustrated by Anne Yvonne Gilbert. Walker Books. pound;3.99.

Many children will identify with the heroine of this delightful story, firmly rooted in everyday life. Hannah, peeved at failing to land a main part in the Nativity play, nevertheless comes into her own on the day. Ultra-realistic illustrations in lovely colours add to the enjoyment.

THE LITTLE ANGEL. By Jan Pancheri. Red Fox. pound;4.99.

An under-age angel, not allowed to undertake proper adult angelic missions, nevertheless adds to the peace and goodwill of the Christmas season by helping an old man. She leaves her star above his cold and empty house, and neighbours are guided to it.

When they see his plight, they join together to bring him food and warmth and joy. This angel looks like a human child, and what she brings is human warmth. A very comforting book.

BRING IN THE HOLLY. Poems by Charles Causley. Illustrated by Lisa Kopper. Frances Lincoln. pound;5.99.

This book, by one of the very best poets alive, shows what can be done with the traditional forms. There are ballads here, and country songs - and angels' songs too.

Praises are sung to Christmas puddings nd churches, and best of all there's a masterpiece called "The Animals' Carol", which is a model of everything a Christmas poem should be - moving, mysterious and beautifully economical.

CHRISTMAS SPIRIT. Two classic stories. by Robert Westall. Mammoth. pound;4.99.

The rather uninspiring cover gives no indication of the excellent stories within. "The Christmas Cat" is Robert Westall at his best. It's told in the first person by an old woman recalling her youth, and has in it a nasty uncle, some good surprises and of course, a cat.

"The Christmas Ghost" takes us to an urban landscape very like the one Westall himself grew up in. John Lawrence's illustrations are, as ever, splendid.

THE GLASS ANGELS. By Susan Hill. Walker Books. pound;3.99.

Any child not addicted to the whizzy and the fizzy will love this slow, beautifully-written story set in the late Forties. Tilly and her mother are poor. It is cold outside. Tilly's mother falls ill, and disaster strikes at their one hope of any income.

Of course, the end is happy, and it's human kindness and love that save the day. If you buy only one book this Christmas, make it this one. It will give delight, like the eponymous angels, for a very long time.

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