Christmas Books - part two
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Date: 24 November, 2004

Breaking the rules

To buy any of the titles, click on the title or cover.


'Humour lies side by side with angst, sadness and confusion in this delightful offering.'




Stuck for which books to buy for Christmas presents this year? Or do you simply want something for yourself to indulge in over the holidays? Charlotte Haines Lyon comes up with some suggestions for all ages and pockets.

To buy one of the titles, click on its cover or title – all books purchased through surefish raise money for Christian Aid.

Books for Children

Under Fives

Pennie Kidd and Rosalind Beardshaw
Lion, £4.99

We might mess up, but if we are really sorry mum and dad will forgive us and we can start again. Beardshaw has illustrated this tale of unconditional love in a way that will captivate any small child. A gorgeous book for little ones who are prone to mistakes, clumsiness and naughtiness.

Daniel and the Beast of Babylon
Roger McGough
Lion, £5.99

One of the nation’s favourite poets turns his talents to telling the story of how the priests conned Babylonians into providing them with nightly feasts. Only McGough could capture the chilling affects of deception on the children of Babylon and the fear ruling the community at large.

Slightly expensive compared to similar books but then I guess you get who you pay for.

Fives to Eights

Polly and the Frog
The Crocodile Brother
Bob Hartman
Lion, £3.99 each

Is the duck really the brother of the crocodile? And why is the rabbit’s tail so short? Bob Hartman one of our favourite children’s writers applies his own imitable spin on folk tales from around the world.

Amongst the modern “just so” stories there are also twists on some of the old fairytales such as the princess and the frog. Full of humour and wit they will captivate all involved with the bedtime story.

Sevens to Tens

Animal Crazy
Meg Harper
Lion, £4.99

Most young girls want to be teachers, train drivers or Britney Spears but this is not the case for young Jenni. No, she has decided that she wants to be a saint. Having studied her chosen career, she realises that relationships with animals seem to form a vital part of a saint’s CV.

As her parents refuse her request for a pet, Jenni has to find other ways of sourcing animals, including cultivating a community of mice, climbing trees and dodgy dealings at the zoo. Despite her saintly intentions, her plans always seem to go awry with hilarious consequences.

Animal Crazy is one of the funniest books I have read in ages. Personally I can’t wait to read the rest of the Saint Jenni series and am sure young children will feel the same.

Nine to Elevens

Breaking the Rules and Other Poems
Coral Rumble
Lion, £4.99

Baboons’ bottoms shine whilst bullies try to rule the playground in this collection of poetry, which is both eclectic in style and subject. What are rules and do they need to be applied to poetry, Rumble asks. She draws pictures with words, examines selfishness, lies and the horrors of the playground, alongside fun animal tales.

Where the rhythm or layout of a poem might prove troublesome, short explanations or clues are provided. Thus even children who are suspicious of poetry should be able enjoy and savour the book. Humour lies side by side with angst, sadness and confusion in this delightful offering.

Eleven and upwards

G P Taylor
Faber, £6.99

Wormwood, is set in a Gothic, dirty, smelly London that is full of street urchins, cruel adults and a rather nasty ruling class.

Dr Sabian Blake, has discovered a comet that threatens the very future of humanity. He then mysteriously receives a book, that confirms the world’s impending demise.

Does he tell his fellow Londoners or will that create more bedlam and death than the comet might cause? Can he trust the Royal Society or the newspapers to take a responsible attitude? And just what is his servant girl Agetta up to?

Despite being hailed as a more Christian J K Rowling due to “G P” being an Anglican vicar, Wormwood is full of potions, spells, ghosts, ghouls and general wickedness. Whilst there is a sprinkling of biblical verses and metaphors, it is certainly not a nice tale and will attract all who enjoy grotesque swashbuckling sagas.

Taylor has written an electrifying battle between good and evil. The continual twists can be as dark as the places Agetta finds herself running from.

On Eagles Wings
Patterns in the Sand
Sue Mayfield
Lion, £4.99 each

The first of these two books charts Tony’s life as he deals with his mother’s terminal illness and eventual death. The second explores how he copes in the aftermath and how he reacts to the friendship his father strikes up with another woman.

Occasionally I wondered about the language Mayfield uses and whether it really is teenage speak, but then what do I know at 32? However on the whole they are brilliantly written and get under the skin of the stigma of death.

How do teachers react and what does a church expect of a grieving vicar and son? How does death affect our view of God? How are our relationships affected by tragedy? And, how does a teenage boy deal with the pressures of sex? All these vital questions are dealt with wisely, realistically and sensitively much to my relief.

The dealing with loss of faith is particularly impressive as when a beach mission appeared I had a nasty feeling that easy answers were to abound. I can happily tell you that in fact the end result was pretty satisfactory and certainly not as naff as expected.

Superb reading, especially for anybody dealing with death in their teens.