Privy council;Curriculum reviews

17th December 1999 at 00:00
CASTLE DIARY: the journal of Tobias Burgess, page. By Richard Platt. Illustrated by Chris Riddell. Walker Books pound;14.99

Moonlings, chrisomers and dissards (and normal adolescents too) will enjoy enriching their vocabulary of insults by consulting Castle Diary, and will relish the messy details it contains about garderobes and gong farmers.

Many parchments of less indelicate information also abound, and the book contains explanatory notes about class structure, weapons and siege tactics, as well as a laudable acknowledgement of its own sources. A comfortable combination of glossary and index help to make it an intelligent and user-friendly book.

Castle Diary is, nevertheless, a work of fiction. "The year of our Lord 1285" did exist, but Strandborough and Tobias Burgess did not, so the cleverly contrived text is, of necessity, written in a mock medieval style.

Illuminator Chris Riddell provides vivid and spirited illustrations, but favours a Disneyesque style which tends to distort. Portraying people as alternatively grotesque or comic is unhelpful, and devalues these otherwise praiseworthy pictures.

But the book is eye-catching and entertaining, and will particularly appeal to those who have a penchant for the cheap laugh. Tobias is advised as follows: "Let not thy privy members be laid open to be viewed. 'Tis most shameful and abhorred, detestable and rude!" All in the best possible taste.

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