Families at war;Children's books

27th August 1999 at 01:00
From sibling rivalry to messy eating, family feuds make good reading

Clarice Bean, That's Me (Lauren Child, Orchard Books pound;10.99) is the story of a child who definitely favours her own space. She likes peace and quiet but doesn't get much. She feels crowded out by siblings: younger brother Minal Cricket with whom she has to share a room ("If he puts one toe over my side he is sorry"); older sister Marcia who in turn finds Clarice intensely irritating; older brother Kurt who's travelling through "the dark tunnel of adolescence''. She feels crowded out by Grandad in the full flow of senile dementia. She feels crowded out by Robert Granger, the pain-next-door who won't leave her alone.

11 = Lauren Child's text, presented in a dolly-mixture of typefaces, is full of wonderfully dry one-liners. Her illustration, a collage of bold line drawings, photographs and sumptuous swathes of colour, is fresh and engaging. A picture book for older primary readers.

Developing readers will enjoy Michael Rosen's Lunch Boxes Don't Fly (Young Puffin pound;3.99), especially if they like messy food jokes. In a mixture of old and new poems, Rosen concentrates on an aspect of eating that adults hate - children playing with their food - stretching chewing gum, melting ice-cream, squelching cake, chewing with their mouths open. Korky Paul's grotesque comic-book pictures complement this slice of nutritional nonsense.

Kathryn Cave's William and the Wolves (Hodder Children's Books pound;3.50) is a delightful tale of sibling rivalry over an imaginary friend. William is intensely irritated by his younger sister's "lamb" which takes up all the best seats in the house, gobbles up the biscuits and generally gets up his nose. William is even more irritated that adults are taken in by Mary's ruse, finding her adorable and humouring her while berating him for his bad humour.

So he invents his own imaginary friends. There are six of them -wolves who prowl around lamb with drooling chops. However, William finds looking after his wolf pack is harder than he could ever have thought possible.

Kathryn Cave's text is well-paced, comic and dry, a fine addition to the Hodder storybook series - short novels for younger, confident readers. Chris Riddell's accompanying black and white line drawings, hilarious but fluent pen portraits of slinking, slobbering wolves, turn this into a first-rate read.

Roll Over Roly by Anne Fine (Puffin pound;2.99) is a touchingly funny account of a young boy's visit to his great Aunt Ada, dry as old sticks on the surface but wise and warm underneath. She insists that he instil discipline into his unruly puppy Roly, below, and, with the aid of her abusive parrot Gordon, the exercise proves highly successful. Anne Fine once again demonstrates perfect pitch for her readership. This is a light but absorbing tale for developing readers.

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