Times to celebrate

17th November 2000 at 00:00
FESTIVAL TALES SERIES. Christian Festivals. Jewish Festivals. By Saviour Pirotta. POETRY COLLECTIONS SERIES. Poems About Festivals. Poems About Seasons. Compiled by Andrew Fusek Peters. Hodder Wayland, pound;9.99 each.

One can't fault the author of the Festival Tales series. Saviour Pirotta has an easy way with words and he has not been afraid to feature lesser known stories. So, for example, in the Christian volume we get the Italian legend of La Befana who brings presents at Epiphany, and the story of the coming of the Holy Spirit.

But the format of each thin volume requires him to include two or three stories, as well as a recipe, a song and a playlet. The resulting anthologies may be visually attractive, but they are also, inevitably, superficial. The components are useful for work at key stage 2, but these are hardly comprehensive introductions to the festivals of the respective faiths.

Even mre attractive in appearance are the two themed poetry collections intended for those with a reading age of between five and seven. The best thing about them is Kelly Waldek's vibrant illustrations. Her full-colour cartoons throb with life and are supplemented by well chosen photographs.

The poems are more variable. Many appear to have been specially commissioned, although "manufactured to order" might be more accurate. The moment "birds sing", you know the rhyming word will be "spring".

Nevertheless, the book features some little gems from, among others, Wes Magee, Brian Patten and Benjamin Zephaniah.

Two pages of "Further Information" include some worthwhile linked activities, but also some rather whimsical notes about the poets. Do we really need to know that one rhymester "sings in the church choir", another "sits with her cat, Chivers, on her lap" and a third likes carrot cake?

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