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Tricks and treats

Terry Denton's cover illustration for Just Kidding! by Andy Griffiths (Macmillan pound;3.99) shows a wittily labelled burping fish (spot the "fishious fang" and the "fish finger"), setting the tone for a collection of 10 funny yarns from the latest Australian comic import. Denton's doodlings and irrepressible asides continue as marginalia throughout the book, appealing to readers who fight shy of unadorned text. And what of the stories? Are they funny? You're darned right they are, mate.

They all involve pranks that backfire. In the opening story, Andy pretends to be dead to get out of school. His parents dig a grave in the garden, drop him in and start the last rites. In an entertaining game of bluff, double-bluff and counter-bluff, Andy refuses to give hem the last laugh and they begin to cover his body with earth. When he eventually bursts gasping from the grave, his father keels over with a "heart attack". Andy tries to give the kiss of life. As his dad guffaws, Andy realises the joke's on him. Never mind: as he says, "At least I got the day off school." Other stories are equally satisfying for Year 4 readers upwards.

Griffiths writes in the well-paced short sentences that are the trademark of fellow Australians Paul Jennings and Morris Gleitzman, who also make a hit with this age group. He has also produced Just Annoying!, another collection with a similar feel-good appeal.

For teachers' notes, tel 020 7881 8098. See also the Andy Griffiths.


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