JACKIE CHAN ADVENTURES: The Dark Hand, Jade's Secret Power Puffin pound;3.99 each Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron Novelisation by Kathleen Duey Puffin pound;3.99
Dark Claw series: Tunnel Mazers, Road Rage By Shoo Rayner Hodder Children's Books pound;3.99 each
The Forever Street Fairies: The Fairies Arrive, A Cake for Miss Wand By Hiawyn Oram, illustrated by Mary Rees Hodder Children's Books pound;4.99 each Nervous Norris By Gus Clarke Andersen Press pound;4.99
Dimanche Diller, Dimanche Diller at Sea, Dimanche Diller in Danger By Henrietta Branford, illustrated by Rachel Merriman Collins Children's Books pound;3.99 each
Classic Collection: The Pardoner's Tale Retold by Jan Dean, illustrated by Chris Mould Classic Collection: Gulliver's Travels Retold by Beverley Birch, illustrated by David Roberts Wayland PB pound;4.99HB pound;8.99 each
The key stage 1 fiction market is being colonised by novelisations and media tie-ins. On past form, teachers could justifiably be suspicious of such books' quality. But it would be foolish to dismiss them outright.
The Jackie Chan Adventures series (based on TV and video teleplays) is an infectious mixture of fast-paced action and oriental philosophy. In this context, descriptive directness such as "our very rich boss" or "three tough guys stood nearby" can be an advantage. These escapist fantasy tales, featuring a villain called Valmont who is out to destroy the world and a law enforcement agency called Section 13, will be wildly popular with five to seven-year-olds.
Spirit, a novelisation by Kathleen Duey of the DreamWorks film about a stallion in the Wild West, is more restful and self-consciously literary, ideal for children who have developed early reading independence.
The main narrative is in the third person, but each chapter has a headpiece in Spirit's own voice, so the book provides a good example of narrative points of view. Early on, the description struggles too valiantly to recreate the panning viewpoint of the camera lens, but the stallion's predicament as he is imprisoned in a cavalry base and then struggles to regain his freedom should capture the hearts of the horsey set.
Shoo Rayner's new series, Dark Claw, doesn't have a movie, TV or DVD counterpart, but it does have a website, www.dark-claw.co.uk. As in the Jackie Chan adventures, a dastardly villain, the evil Dark Claw himself, is intent on destroying an entire civilisation. But unlike the world of Jackie Chan, the setting is a distant galaxy and there is no attempt to instruct or philosophise. Instead you get lashings of bizarre humour hilariously depicted in Rayner's own artwork, both on the page and on screen in the impressive Flash website.
The Forever Street Fairies (short, double-spaced lines, organised to emphasise the natural phrasing of speech) with comically charming illustrations making the series eminently accessible to five-year-olds and above. The first book covers the fairies' birth and search for a path to the door that will lead them to their first home, in the garden of Miss Wand, owner of Cyclone, a large white cat who, in the second book, captures Snip Snap and takes the goblin back into the house through the catflap. A loveable series that makes you want to read sections of the stories again and again.
Gus Clarke's Nervous Norris, a short-chapter book for the newly independent reader, is about a dog whose nerves are jangled when a kitten is introduced to the household. Just when you think Norris is a bit of a wimp, he rallies.
Henrietta Branford's Dimanche Diller trilogy is in a new edition. When such fantastic short contemporary fiction for the confident KS1 reader is available, I'm not quite sure what reason you would have for wanting to introduce a six to eight-year-old to Jane Eyre, now available in Wayland's Classic Collection, a series of very concise adaptations. Branford's tightly plotted Dimanche Diller books are perfect for children who are still too young for Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events but might enjoy the same lugubrious narrative tone.
The two Classic Collection titles that can be recommended for young readers (for the illustrations as well as for the retellings) are The Pardoner's Tale and Gulliver's Travels, the latter a really marvellous version that will be enjoyed by older children too.
Michael Thorn is deputy head of Hawkes Farm Primary School, Hailsham, East Sussex