Laughing matters

21st September 2001 at 01:00
What Howls at the Moon in Frilly Knickers? by E F Smith (Orchard Books pound;4.99) is a deceptively simple story for Year 4 and above, about a group of children compiling an anthology of jokes.

The joke book is Julian's idea; he needs something to occupy his mind because his grandmother is dying. To begin with, the emphasis is very much on the jokes - and there are nearly enough to make the book enjoyable on that level alone.

But, slowly and imperceptibly, the story accrues a more serious tone, conveyed mainly by Julian's perceptions.

"What I discovered was this," he says at one point. "When people are really happy and pleased to see each other and have something to celebrate, they don't make joke-book jokes. They have private jokes and funny jokes, and things that make them laugh that aren't really jokes at all."

How good to find a British author who manages to be both funny and poignant in the manner of Morris Gleitzman.

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