1st September 2000 at 01:00
SNOTTY bUMSTEAD. By Hunter Davies. Red Fox. pound;4.99

It's hard for a Manchester United supporter to read a three-in-one volume of such uncritical Tottenham Hotspur partisanship, but these stories are great fun. Our hero, left alone by his mum in most unusual circumstances, is an engaging lad, swinging his Spurs bag and bringing his dreams to life.

THE YEAR OF THE WORM. By Ann Pilling. Lion. pound;3.99

This book is about the routine, everyday kind of bullying many children have to contend with. With a surname like Wrigley, Peter's nickname is inevitable and his life at secondary school goes from bad to worse. On a Lake District holiday, very well described by the author so that we always know exactly where we are, the Worm reveals unexpected resources of bravery and fortitude. A thoughtful and unflashy book about real people coping with real situations.

A STITCH IN TIME. THE GHOST OF THOMAS KEMPE. By Penelope Lively. Mammoth. pound;4.99 each

It's good to see these and other titles from the best of Lively's work in such beautiful new editions. A Stitch in Time, set in Lyme Regis, is almost my favourite of her novels, having at its heart Victorian sampler and dealing, as does so much of her work, with the difference between illusion and reality.

The Ghost of Thomas Kempe won the Carnegie Medal in 1974 and it reads just as freshly today, with Anthony Maitland's original illustrations as fine as ever. It's a clever story of a modern boy plagued by the ghost of an incorrigible 17th-century sorcerer.

Lively's themes of interaction between ancient and modern and the breaking down of barriers between the past and the present are contained in a bravura comedy which ought to go down a treat with both boys and girls.

PANTHER IN ARGYLL. By Lisa Tuttle, Mammoth. pound;4.99

Tuttle is well known as a writer of science fiction for adults (at the horror end of the genre); here she provides the atmospheric tale of Danni, a young girl who goes to stay in Scotland with her godmother at a time when stories are circulating of a black panther killing livestock. Danni meets Fin who is not all that he seems to be, and who shows Danni that she, too, is more than human. It's a lot for us to believe but Tuttle makes it all seem almost possible. An exciting read.

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