Let the beat capture the heart

4th September 1998 at 01:00
THE WIND IN THE WALLOWS By Jeanne Willis. Illustrated by Tony Ross. Andersen Pounds 6.99.

MOTHER CAUGHT A FLEA: Silly rhymes about a family One Potato, Two Potato: Silly rhymes about food. By Jessica Souhami. Frances Lincoln Pounds 4.50 each.

COMMOTION IN THE OCEAN. By Giles Andreae. Illustrated by David Wojtowycz.Orchard Pounds 9.99.

I road-tested these books on a three-year-old while his father was choosing a harp. Be warned, that's what might come of introducing children to rhythm and song in infancy. In all of them, the illustrations catch the eye before the beat can capture the heart.

The Wind in the Wallows is a story in verse about searching for the source of a bad smell, a rude joke which would appeal to five and six-year-olds. lt is beautifully illustrated by Tony Ross, the vocabulary is rich and truly poetic, and the double rhymes in alternate lines (it's catching!) are lovely to read aloud. The culprit, revealed on the last page, is a cub scout with a passion for eating baked beans by the camp fire.

Mother Caught a Flea and One Potato, Two Potato are firm, bright little books, easy for a two or three-year-old to handle. The illustrations are simple and colourful, and it's fun to lift the flaps to find what lurks beneath. The rhymes are versions of traditional chants and nursery songs we've known all our lives, and most three-year-olds would soon be "reading" the words out loud.

I think they might prefer, as I do, the version of "I'm the King of the Castle" which ends with, "Get down you dirty rascal", to be shouted by the first to scramble to the top of a mound, wall or sofa.

I regret the lost lines of "Mother caught a Flea": "The flea jumped out, Made Mother shout.In came fatherwith his shirt hanging out."

Commotion in the Ocean is a bright and breezy book of sea creatures, with vivid, witty illustrations. It is verse rather than poetry, but it rhymes and scans and sounds jolly, and my child reader enjoyed it.

Gillian Clarke

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