By Constance Holt
A merry tale of what happened when Lady Poole got tired of Mr. Pott's cooking. Mr. P. being her chef. It all comes to a happy ending in "Lady Poole and Mr: Potts", by Irving A. Leerier (The World's Work, 8s. 6d.)
HERE they come again-a lovely shower of books with guaranteed entertainment and fascinating information that can please the whole family circle; the appetising array in front of me brings the usual puzzled question "Where to start?"
There is nothing that the most choosey among the agents of Santa Claus, or among the juniors themselves, could say isn't worth buying. Nothing is wildly lavishtherefore not wildly expensivethough there is a good all-round high standard of quality and taste in production.
For the very young here is something sweetly serious and so happy in fact, we would all feel cheered by reading and keeping in mind a charming foursome mil out by publishers Darton, Longman & Todd. These books, at 3s. 6d. each, by Rosemary Haughton, cover the whole year in a delicious way for the child from about four years on. There is no lose of a lesson darkly concealed fn'story form. for the great facts of the Christian story arc stated naturally and simply, blended in with the routine of the child's own daily life. the titles of the books: Autumn and Advent: Winter and Christmas; Spring and Lent; Early Sunnier, Easter and Whitson indicate the happy harmony between the year in nature and church which plant exciting and beloved memories and associations in the children's minds.
Schoolgirls will be delighted to find two books specially linked with their ever-present dreams and ambitions for their after-school life.
For instance, Probation Officer by Nancy Martin, illustrated by Jillian Willett (Macmillan I Is. 6d.) meets the idealism of the many girls who want to take up an important and valuable career, without sugar-coating the unhappy facts which create the need for this career.
That applies also to The Top of the Climb by Betty Beaty (Collins Rs. 6d,) which, as its gay dust-jacket hints, deals with that favourite career-dream "being an air-stewa rdess".
This book brings in all the discouragement which might change the mind of a half-hearted girl more effectively than all the warnings of cautious parents and teachers. But in the course of this lively story of Caroline's struggle to qualify-and her final successthe schoolgirl will thoroughly enjoy, vicariously, the ups and downs of that struggle while add. ing painlessly to her general knowledge.
Naughty Children (Gollancz 21s.), an anthology compiled by Christianna Brand and alluringly illustrated by Edward Ardizzone, promises on its dust-cover plenty of ha-ha wickedness. On that count I was disappointed. The children did not seem bad enough, and even with the Dickens excerpts, I felt vaguely let down. Most of the children in this book seem, even without aid of modern psychology. so very pardonable. Even the damson-stealing Emily in that classic of Victorian family virtue The History of the Fairchild Family seems to redeem herself on the spot through her tortured conscience. The poor child would he whisked off for electric treatment in no time these days.
However, the book entertains me -contradicting the announcement that it is for the young between seven and fifteen.
The next book Digging for Dinosaurs (Bodley Head 12s. 6d.) written with crisp clarity by W, E. Swinton and alarmingly illustrated by Barrie Driscoll, wouldn't do for my bedside: it would produce nightmares. But then I'm not a knowledge-hungry child who likes his animal dramas larger than life.
From the match-box series collectors to old Poona-era generals the fascination of soldiers dressed in varying uniforms seems to hold good. "British Military Uniforms" is a Swift Picture Book (Longacre Press, 7s. 6d.) with authentic prints of leaders of British troops from the days of Wolfe. through the Cavalry, Hussars, Lancers, Artillery, Guards and so on up to the battledress. All girls of Brownie age will enjoy yet another of Freda Collins' books about the exciting adventures of the new Pack and their co-operative Brown Owl and Tawny Owl. "Pack Tales" is the fifth in her series published by University of London Press at 8s. 6d.
By contrast, a most reassuring animal book, recommended for the three-to-eights, but irresistible at any age, is Semolina Silkpaws Comes to Catstown (Methuen 9s. 64.). The straightforward, kindly un-catty story is told by Gladys Williams and the eventful illustrations drawn by Ronald Ferns with a charming attention to meticulous detail which will keep a little child absorbed for hours. Whether or not your smallest children have met Semolina in a magazine before, they will enjoy her in book form now.
From Blackie and Son come two of those comfortable sure-success family stories (about humans this time) where much happens, but not far from home. In the first, Number One Victoria Terrace (13s. 6d.) by Kathleen O'Farrell, illustrated by `Shirley Hughes, the difference between the world in the Terrace and that in the more dignified Queen Anne's Walk was very marked, especially for schoolgirl Cherry Muffet who, for the very best of family reasons. has to make the Terrace her choice. There is a drop of wholly human, wholly young, sadness in the basically happy ending when Cherry is praying for next summer and her return to Queen Anne's Walk to "come very quickly indeed" which makes this a worthwhile hook.
Girls as well as boys will also enjoy the second of this pair: The Island in the Lake (8s. 6d.) by M. E. Mathews. Probably many of them will have met before Silver, Fan and Bunny the red-headed Cloud family in The Redheads of Windyridge. The shabby table with cloth turned back against ink-bottles. where they sit at homework just a week before the Christmas holidays, represents routine home life.
But much lies ahead in the coming holidays . . . the prospect of measles at Christmas begins to darken the outlook, but the meeting with Hilary. a boy whose father is giving him an island as a present . . well. that changes everything.
Indian Tales Also from Blackie (12s. 6d.) comes a feast of Indian tales called
Listen and Tell You by Edward Karel, illustrated by Quentin Blake, whose vigorous animal and plant dust-cover with its bright scarlet background will stand out in the shops and give buyer and lucky young owner a foretaste of the contents. It is a good book for reading aloud; with all its strange mixture of characters: men, sheep, cats, crocodiles.
It is good to turn to Island City. a fine stimulating book about adventures in Old New York by Lavinia R. Davis, illustrated by Peter Spier (World's Work 15s.). The author provides most interesting and helpful notes in which she explains the historical basis of facts and places in this story. The chil1 dren whose adventures she tells are I imaginary, but their parents and relations really lived.
Hampstead Heath From the New World back home to Hampstead Heath-the starting point of King Lizard by William Herschel', illustrated by Geraldine Spence (Nelson 12s. 6d.). When Billy. aged seven, picks up a lovely lizard on the Heath, his fourteenyear-old sister Cherry admires ;t, but feeling she should deputise for their absent parents, adds: "Put it down. It might bite".
The reptile does not get put down but is taken back to the Hampstead (really Hampsteadlooking) house where the children are staying with aunts who are oldfashioned enough to be a real novelty for young readers today. Presently, with the enjoyable halfdoubt that many of us felt sometimes before we were grown up, they all feel some sort of magic creeping into life.
Still in the blissful world of Magic is The Little Knife who did all the Work, a new collection of fairy tales by Alison Utteley, illustrated by Pauline Baynes (Faber 12s. 6d.). This author, well known for her power to enchant readers of all ages, chooses all manner of objects for possession of special powers.
There is that little knife, for instance, lying with his stained back and broken tip by the sink, scorned by the snobbish dinner knife; and there is the story of young Stephen in Cornwall who set out for Merlin's Caves to hunt for King Arthur's trees, the trees that carried a wish in their dark branches.
I expect most of us were grateful to King Alfred for his burnt cakes and for supplying a sort of human lamp to illuminate the rather heavygoing history of Saxon days as often taught in our long-ago. Almost for myself I would now buy The Young Alfred the Great by Naomi Mitchison, illustrated by Shirley Farrow (Max Parrish I Is. 6d.).
I would firmly recommend it as a charming present for any young person .from Primary toA-Level The author, from much knowledge and research, puts together a picture of a boy who lived at the same time as young Alfred. The appetising little hook, with its clearcut and lovable drawings, rolls back the centuries and makes clearer why this man who "eared about God, and . , . about the fine work of goldsmiths . . . but above all cared about people" became great.
We hear how he learned psalms try heart, and much more too, while very young; how he took part in the Christmas feasting and "sang in his small. sweet voice, a song about the birth of the One in the stable . . ."
In this Council year it is specially warming to open the chapter which begins: "You might have been made a king in your own land, but in Rome you were only another pilgrim . . . It was the middle of the world, of God's world , . ."