Huw Thomas chooses primary fiction

16th March 2007 at 00:00

By J M Trewellard; David Fickling Books pound;8.99

Poor Ned, the clumsy stable boy, is hassled by all around him, but when Princess Bella is kidnapped, he sets out to rescue her, joined by various animals.

This is a genuine fairytale and a great read-aloud text that manages to avoid deriving from or parodying the tales that went before it.

The repeated patterns of the quest and the tension as Ned approaches his goal has the timeless quality of Jack in the Beanstalk or Puss-in-Boots, but the tale also has freshness, most evident in the sparky relationship between Ned and Princess Bella.

Cliff-hangers at the end of chapters keep the reader gripped and stop the story becoming an inventory of encounters.

The book will be enjoyed across the primary age range. Ian Beck's black and white silhouette illustrations make a significant contribution to the magical quality of the story. The movement of the illustrations from left to right enhance the sense of a journey.

Finally, as someone who has never been able to catch anything, I warmed to a hero for whom this was also something of a problem.

The Amazing Adventures of Charlie Small: Gorilla City; The Amazing Adventures of Charlie Small: The Perfumed Pirates of Perfidy; David Fickling Books Pounds 4.99 each

The blurb informs us that these journal-style volumes tell Charlie's true adventures, and in the absence of any author's name on the cover who am I to question that?

A boy called Charlie accidentally sails off to Gorilla City, then falls into the hands of female pirates.

The two volumes - with clear potential for more - have cracked the difficult territory of writing adventure that maintains pace.

This is achieved by packing in imaginative scenarios and exciting set-piece scenes.

Charlie's scrapes and escapes are mapped step by step, like a good action stunt, with a balance of detail and pace.

Production quality is also excellent and the text is embellished with Charlie's original pictures, lists, notes and even diagrams to show his dazzling tree climb and slug fight.

I would bet on this series becoming a craze and, given all this lad has been through to produce them, rightly so

Huw Thomas is head of Emmaus Primary, Sheffield

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