11th July 1997 at 01:00
Magic Betsey By Malorie Blackman Mammoth Pounds 3.50, ages 5-8

Betsey Biggalow is low in confidence. Her older brother, Desmond, is good at things. But did she win the race because she was wearing his magic trainers or because the real magic is practising and not giving up? Us older folk know the answer, but this lively read, fourth in a series, is encouraging and positive in its depiction of little Betsey and her warmly encouraging Afro-Caribbean family.

Hide and Seek Grandpa. By Rob Lewis. Red Fox Pounds 4.50, ages 2-7

These three stories featuring the deadpan bear Finley and his eccentric Grandpa are a joyful commentary on their relat-ionship. Finley and his grandpa like each other very much but their lives are so busy they find it hard to meet up. In the end, they hit on Sundays as the day to go fishing, but the end is not really the point. A charming and gentle account of social arran-gements for the early years.

Staying with Grandpa. By Penelope Lively. Puffin Pounds 3.99, ages 4-7

This delightful account of Jane's visit to her grandparents is full of friendly observation and the kind of incident that makes days with small children seem either interminably long or dizzyingly short. Making a cake, digging a hole, going to the supermarket - Jane's grandpa is a whizz, if an eccentric whizz, at all of them. A nice fantasy and good for developing readers.

Alice's World Record By Tim Kennemore Puffin Pounds 3.99, ages 5-9 Anyone with three children ought to buy this wonderful book about family dynamics, and read it to them immediately. Oliver, the eldest, is brilliant at everything but hates to lose. Alice is good-natured and somewhat slow - her guinea pig is called Aminal (sic) - and Rosie is a terrible two. The Alphabet Game evens things up one day in the car, but not so much that Oliver would be willing to play it again.

Blair the Winner. By Theresa Breslin. Mammoth Pounds 3.50, ages 6-9

Blair (unlike his fortunate namesake) is the kid who can do nothing right. Amiable but clumsy, Blair is in the middle (like his namesake) and blamed by all. Although Blair saves the day on a camping trip, it is not until the day of his party that he really finds out what it is like to be a winner. For that you need a granny who is ready to cheat a little to help you out. Winners have networks.

Little Mouse Grandma. By Julia Jarman. Mammoth Pounds 3.50, ages 6-9

What would you do if your grandma turned into a mouse when no one was looking?

Well, it'd be very awkward for your new kitten. But don't worry, Little Mouse Grandma has it taped. She gets the kitten to promise not to chase her.

So that's all right then.

She can do all kinds of magic and even make the itching from chicken pox spots go away.

The transformation is a little confusing but the story is appealing.

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