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Top books and good looks

From the best of children's reading to the facts of physical perfection, Robin Buss has the details

The Blue Peter Book Awards. BBC1, Sunday, December 15, 2.40pm

The good thing about the Blue Peter Book Awards is its complete contrast with other awards programmes. Instead of a succession of big names opening little envelopes, followed by tearful winners thanking their nannies, their aunties and everyone else without whom they wouldn't have done whatever it was they did, this is more like a children's day at the library, with interviews, readings and lots of pictures.

And since, as Private Eye editor and chair of the judges Ian Hislop says, this is a new golden age for children's fiction, the quotes give you a real urge to get your hands on the books themselves. The categories are fun, too, including The Best Illustrated Book to Read Aloud and The Book I Couldn't Put Down.

Finally, the panel is more expert than most because it includes nine children, chosen from 25,000 who applied. Among the books they couldn't put down this year were such wildly dissimilar novels as Nicky Singer's Feather Boy and Anthony Horowitz's Point Blanc.

Cutting a Dash. Radio 4, Tuesdays, until December 31, 9.30-9.45am

This fascinating five-part series by writer Lynne Truss - some of it recorded in schools - looks at punctuation. This week, she considers colons and semi-colons. The final two programmes explore the use of punctuation as a means of conveying a tone of voice, and the future of punctuation.

Wit. BBC2, Tuesday, December 17, 9-10.30pm

Directed by Mike Nichols, this adaptation of Margaret Edson's play stars Emma Thompson as an American scholar, a specialist on John Donne, facing up to her own mortality when she is diagnosed with cancer. The play was highly praised for its insights into the needs of the severely ill. It is also less downbeat than you might expect. Shooting in London, the film-makers worked hard to get the American hospital details right, importing equipment and expertise from the US, so if you do choose to die in God's Own Country, this will give you a better idea than ER of what to expect.

Science of Beauty. Discovery Health, Tuesday, December 17, 11pm-12 midnight

A documentary about beauty: what it is, how we try to achieve it and how concepts of it differ. Is there a common denominator in beauty? Is it worth trying to acquire it? And is it merely skin deep? An intriguing investigation into a topic that, to some extent, preoccupies us all.

Horizon: the secret of El Dorado. BBC2 Thursday, December 19, 9-9.50pm

The story of the lost world of El Dorado has always been dismissed as fantasy, on the grounds that it was impossible for a complex, civilised society to survive on the poor soils of the jungle. Now it turns out, after all, that the tales may have some basis in truth - and that the inhabitants of this lost civilisation could have known how to make the soils of the Amazon basin fertile. Perhaps this discovery holds the clue to making the rainforest sustainable today. Horizon examines the ancient myth and reassesses it in the light of modern ecological concerns.

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