Best mates and animal magic

22nd November 1996 at 00:00
MAN HUNT By Malaika Rose Stanley. Orchard Pounds 4.99. RINALDO ON THE RUN By Ursel Scheffler. North-South Pounds 4.50. A MOUSE IN WINTER By Anne Merrick. Bloomsbury Pounds 3.99. DEEP WATER By Ann Turnbull. Hamish Hamilton Surfers Pounds 6.99

Max, who is black, lives with his mother and sister, who are white, in what is clearly Finsbury Park in north London - Man Hunt covers Nick Hornby territory in more ways than one. The chances of Max having a sensible conversation or watching Match of the Day are, however, non-existent. Max wants to find his mother a husband - preferably a black husband - to even up the score but his best friend, Denzil, is not hopeful. "Your mum will never get married, she's a feminist," he says. And it's true that she has "A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle" written on her baggy T-shirt.

They try lonely hearts, they try the deputy head, and finally they hit on the man-hunter's nirvana, Highbury Stadium: "Thirty-five thousand people, mainly men and mainly Arsenal supporters." Max gets his man, but not quite in the way he expected.

This is an uplifting tale which would also be a good buy for girls who find the football-led gender segregation as mystifying as their mothers do.

Rinaldo on the Run is that rare treasure, a children's book published in translation. It continues the adventures of the loveable anti-hero Rinaldo the Sly Fox, who swindles his way across Italy and cheats his Chicago uncle, Dusty, out of his pizza fortune. On the plane back to Italy (first class) he is out-foxed by secret agent Rikky Goldpheasant of the sharp profile and deep cleavage. The tale is copiously and hilariously illustrated by the Turkish artist Iskender Gider, who clearly shares the author's ironic affection for four-legged tricksters.

Anthropomorphism of a very different kind in Anne Merrick's A Mouse in Winter, one of the Mouse Tales series.Uppity and Cassity live with their mother Gravity, cousins (Homity, Alacrity and so on) and great-great grandfather Serendipity (you get the picture) in the walls and attics of the Jones' farmhouse. It borders on the twee but is jolly enough and pleasingly evocative of the countryside in winter. But beware: only for those who can bear to think about Christmas.

Deep Water is a more challenging read for the older primary child. Jon has skived off school with his friend Ryan and they end up in a boating accident. Ryan is left stuck on a ledge in a cliff face while Jon goes for help. Or does he? So appalling are the events that unfold and so excruciating the suspense that I found myself tempted to abandon the story. But no doubt children are made of sterner stuff.

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