Slice of life

25th September 1998 at 01:00
New fiction chosen by Michael Thorn

Any child who has had to plead and bargain to be allowed a pet will adore Fly, Cherokee, Fly (Corgi Pounds 3.99) Chris d'Lacey's story about a boy who nurses an injured racing pigeon back to health. The chapter in which Darryl's parents talk themselves into letting him look after the pigeon highlights one of d'Lacey's strengths as an author - an unerring ear for the stock phrases and attitudes of family life. Mum and Dad say the bird must go and Darryl has a tantrum and runs to his room. Eventually, Dad takes the positive view ("It'll give him something personal to cherish") and Mum reluctantly concedes ("On your head be it").

Hilarious family repartee continues throughout the novel. The mother's comments, in particular, will surely amuse those who have heard similar things at home. Darryl's younger sister, although not central to the narrative, also has her say. The story - about commitment, co-operation and resistance to bullying - is given an unusual context. But the humorous family scenes root it to everyday reality.

The result is a stirring and convincing novel for older primary readers, which will do for racing pigeons what Kes did for birds of prey.

Michael Thorn is deputy head of Hawkes Farm primary school, Hailsham, East Sussex

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