Take five

16th March 2001 at 00:00
RAMONA THE BRAVE. RAMONA AND HER FATHER. By Beverly Cleary. Illustrated by Alan Tiegreen. Oxford University Press pound;3.99 each.

Anyone who missed the wonderful Ramona Quimby and her put-upon elder sister, Beezus, in the Seventies has a treat in store. These books take you straight into the heart of a believable family set-up with humour, understanding and unflagging pace.

In the first, Ramona gets her own bed, which leads to all kinds of fears; in the second, her father is unemployed, and many problems ensue. Picky-picky the cat, for instance, does not like cut-price cat food. There are more Ramona reprints to come; it's great to have her back.

GINNY'S EGG. By Pippa Goodhart. Illustrated by Aafke Brouwer. Mammoth pound;3.99.

Ginny finds a strange egg in her Gran's henhouse. A little dragon hatches from it, and Ginny has to restore it to its mother. This gentle fantasy runs alongside the main story, in which the family awaits the birth of Ginny's brother, who turns out to be a Down's baby. A moving story.

THERE'S A VIKING IN MY BED AND OTHER STORIES. By Jeremy Strong. Illustrated by John Levers. Pufin pound;4.99.

Good value for lovers of Jeremy Strong's funny stories, now more popular than ever thanks to their TV adaptation. Most of the fun comes from the contrasts and conflicts that arise when a real Viking is let loose in present-day Britain.

KNIGHT'S CASTLE. By Edward Eager. Illustrated by N M Bodecker. Oxford University Press pound;4.99.

Quentin Blake has provided a cover image for a tale of magic which comes from the United States and is almost half a century old. A brother and sister are transported to a time when knights were bold. Eager's well-written fantasy takes in Ivanhoe, Rebecca, Robin Hood, Maid Marian and other characters.

WILD ROBERT. By Diana Wynne-Jones. Illustrated by Emma Chichester Clark. Collins Children's Books pound;3.99.

"It is not seemly to have all this prying into our grounds and rooms," says Robert, the wild ghost of the title. He is summoned by Heather, who shares his sentiments, and they see what they can do about the day-trippers who traipse around Castlemaine House. The burdens of stately-home ownership are delightfully exposed in a wonderful partnership.

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