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Twist and clout

TEN MINUTE THRILLERS. Age group: 9-16 10 books Pounds 16.75; five tapes Pounds 16.75; Complete tape and book set Pounds 30.00. LDA, Abbeygate House, East Road, Cambridge CB1 1DB. Tel: 01223 65445.

Ten Minute Thrillers is a set of new stories extending the Hi-Lo range in the LDA catalogue. Written for upper primary or lower secondary children with a modest reading age of around eight years but a higher interest level, they are available as a pack of mini-books, as a set of five tapes or in a combined package. Each story is told in a neat booklet approximately 28 pages long giving pupils the satisfaction of a rapid read from cover to cover.

The style of the series is classic twist-at-the-end-of-the-tale material. The characters and circumstances always seem nicely normal until a touch of tension or misunderstanding comes into play.

Grounds for Suspicion, for example, describes how the over-imaginative Tessa sees evidence of foul play wherever she turns, until she learns the innocent truth about the freshly-turned earth in Mr Stone's rose garden. Just as she regains a sense of perspective in the final paragraphs, there is a double-twist of doubt in the ending.

Other tales, such as Knockdown Row, pull few punches in detailing the social reality of a lout preying on a vulnerable elderly lady. The issues provide excellent material for a strong group debate.

In addition to the stories with an overt moral point, there are subliminal messages too ones about personal safety and personal values, the fine line between fantasy and creativity and facing up to challenges in a positive and active style of living. The themes evoke interests and anxieties common to the age-group: everyday objects that become wild apparitions at night-time or the fear of not having sufficient bottle to belong to the gang, as in I Dare You by Helen McCann.

The consistency of the editing has ensured that the authors have achieved a simple narrative, particularly well-suited to reading aloud.

The readings on tape are performed by professional actors in a refreshingly clear and unfussy manner, which allows the text to carry the workload. The tapes provide aditional support, which would be especially helpful to children who are self-conscious about their own reading performance techniques.

The whole package is a useful resource for group reading and discussion work, particularly for work aimed at developing a grasp of character and plot. The Ten Minute Thrillers collection is a very worthwhile purchase for teachers looking to boost the motivation of children balancing on the brink of failure.

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