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30th May 2003 at 01:00
Karen Green's recommended reads for children in care

* Novels about foster children or children in local authority homes help to show children they are not alone. A young boy who had just gone into care was finding it difficult to come to terms with the idea, until Karen Green suggested Jean Ure's Secret Simon (Hodder Children's Books). Other examples include The Foster Family series (also by Jean Ure, Hodder) and Jacqueline Wilson's The Story of Tracy Beaker (now a BBC drama series); there's also a sequel about Tracy, The Dare Game (published by Doubleday). Jacqueline Wilson's novels are a hit with girls of all ages. Goodnight Mister Tom by Michelle Magorian (Puffin and Harper Trophy), a modern classic about an evacuee, shows a strong relationship between a boy and his carer.

* Young people who may find it difficult to accept direction from adults can pick up important messages from fiction. A young girl who persistently approached strangers in the street to the anxiety of her foster parents, stopped after reading Stranger Danger by Anne Fine (Young Puffin), which gave her the advice she needed in story form.

* Fantasy fiction can appeal to children who might feel a greater need than most for escapism. Harry Potter heads the field and Mary Norton's The Borrowers is a classic that works well.

* For those children who are not enthusiastic about fiction (often boys), puzzle books can hit the spot. Usborne publishes several good ones.

* Poetry can be successful with troubled youngsters, especially Edward Lear, John Foster and Roger McGough.

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