Not for the nervous

21st September 2001 at 01:00
Baldur's Bones by Mary Arrigan (Collins Children's Books pound;3.99) is not for those who have any form of rat phobia - the scenes of vermin infestation are as chilling as anything in Paul Zindel's graphic horror fiction. As in Arrigan's first children's novel, Grimstone's Ghost, the backdrop to this scary adventure story is the sparring between the lead male and female players.

In last year's book, the relationship was between a brother and sister and the plot involved flashbacks to the time of Henry VIII.

In this new book, Arrigan sticks to a winning formula. The main characters are Finn, an orphaned 14-year-old boy, and Tara, the feisty daughter of a landowner on whose estate Finn unearths the skull of a Viking warrior. The characters' ages and the convincingly suspenseful atmosphere target Year 5 and 6 readers.

Two impressively packaged titles in the Australian After Dark series are perfect for mature Year 5 and 6 pupils of a not-too-nervous disposition, who have developed reading fluency but are reluctant to engage with full-length novels. The Puppet by Ian Bone (Watts After Dark 23, pound;3.99) and The Old Cattery by Nette Hilton (Watts After Dark 22, pound;3.99), both shorter than 50 pages and illustrated by the remarkable Shaun Tan, are much more frightening than anything by R L Stine. They could also be considered as titles for groups examining genre fiction.

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