Writers at work

18th February 2005 at 00:00
Favourite Classic Writers by Nikki Gamble; Favourite Classic Poets by Brian Moses

Wayland pound;5.99 each


All about: Michael Morpurgo by Shaun McCarthy; Roald Dahl by Vic Parker; Jacqueline Wilson by Vic Parker; Rob Childs by Shaun McCarthy

Heinemann Library pound;9.50 each

The paperback reissues of Favourite Classic Writers and Poets provide new weblinks to sites where the subjects are covered in more detail. But the books are informative, encouraging and well illustrated, with a short biography of each writer, a summary of their work, and an illustrative quotation.

The list of classic prose writers begins with potent 19th-century names - Louisa May Alcott, Lewis Carroll, Robert Louis Stevenson - before turning to great Edwardians, such as Kipling, Kenneth Grahame and Edith Nesbit. There are pointers to video versions of The Treasure Seekers and Five Children and It as well as the much-loved Railway Children.

The roll call of poets includes one extraordinary creative prodigy (Blake), a number of wonderful and varied Victorian talents (Tennyson, Browning, Lear) and some 20th-century unclassifiables (Robert Frost, Walter de la Mare) whose work is far more striking and powerful than their current reputation suggests.

Roald Dahl liked caviar and chocolate, and he wasn't much good at cleaning his fingernails. Michael Morpurgo enjoys dreaming but spends too much time watching TV; he's also losing his hair. These titbits don't tell us about what the authors' books are like, but they are just the kind of hors d'oeuvre that will tempt young readers to a more substantial literary meal. These All About... biographies are about the people behind the printed page. They have in common a concern for the young reader which often involves thinking of real-life past acquaintances. Rob Childs sometimes uses dyslexic children as characters because he used to teach them; Jacqueline Wilson still remembers children (herself included) who were teased for their hair or their shape, and this allows her to focus on protagonists who are outsiders or in difficulty.

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