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Three stools

AS LEVEL ENGLISH. By Adrian Beard and Jean Evans Wordsworth EducationStudent's Book pound;9.99. Teacher's Guide pound;18.50. Available from TES Direct pound;8.50 and pound;18

SUCCESS IN ENGLISH LITERATURE. By Stephen Croft and Helen Cross Oxford University Press pound;9. Available from TES Direct pound;8.50

AS-level English offers Literature, Language, and the combined option in a single volume, equally appropriate, apparently, to any board.

The useful, if high- priced, teacher's guide takes a businesslike approach to the assessment objectives.

The activities in the student book seem slightly abstract, transcending boundaries of genre and task. So the concept of viewpoint is dealt with not, as might be expected, in the context of first personthird person prose narrative, but via a Wilfred Owen poem, while the extract from Pat Barker's novel Regeneration, where Sassoon and Owen discuss the rewriting of Anthem for Doomed Youth, is used to illustrate the drafting process. This is interesting and imaginative, bt potentially confusing, too.

The introduction stresses the relevance of all sections to whichever option the student has chosen, but experience suggests there is not a lot of time for wandering blissfully in related disciplines, and there is a danger this volume will fall between three stools.

A safer and more focused approach is taken by Success in English Literature, which restricts itself to the single element of practical criticism that appears in all the Literature specifications.

This is an eclectic and engaging collection of extracts from poetry, prose and dramatic texts, presented thematically to include nature, love, satire and, perhaps most welcome of all, humour. Analysis activities are included and sample answers from students, with examiner's comments.

The whole is fleshed out with biographical snippets and photographs. I shall recommend it to those of my students who struggle with this task, so often the downfall of otherwise worthy candidates.


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