'BACK LIST ' ‘. -
Rosemary Goring reviews books lor younger readers.
A more attractive presentation of the Christmas story than Jan Pienkowski’s Christmas (Puffin £3.50) would be hard to unearth. Interweaving verses from the King James Bible with exquisite silhouette pictures and page illuminations, this master-illustrator tells the tale with his distinctive middle-European touch and frost-sharp fairytale imagery.
Another classic comes in for a fresh lick of artistic paint in Babette Cole’s Prince Cinders, royal reversal taken to hilarious extremes. Small, spotty, scruffy and skinny, Prince Cinders lives in the shadow of three big hairy brothers, and even his dirty little fairy godmother can’t manage to turn him into anything more handsome than a steroidally bloated ape. The perfect way to make post-Greer values slip down as easily as Smarties, and a coffee-table essential for those who hope that for the household chauvinist, it’s never too late to learn. For those just starting, though, David Carter’s lift-up counting books, How Many Bugs in a Box? (Orchard Books
£5 .95) is the creepiest answer yet to the abacus, with tough-bugs, saw-bugs and fast ﬂeas jostling for arithmetical attention. Not for nervous parents, but perfect for any little ghoul under six.
Knowing how kids love getting their hands on things they shouldn’t, the inimitable Ahlbergs have created The Jolly Postman (Heinemann £6.95), where dipping into private mail becomes a guilt-free treat. Beautifully enveloped, these letters include a badly-spelt apology from Goldilocks to The Three Bears, a lawyer's writ to Mr Wolf (‘All this hufﬁng and puffing will get you nowhere’), and an enchanting catalogue for Wicked Witch. Great fun, even if it might be habit forming.
Last, tiniest and cheapest are The Littlest Christmas Book (ars edition, £1 .95) , six Christmas carols sweetly illustrated by Brigitte Asam, less than three inches square and perfect for keeping the tangerine company in the stocking toe; and the perennial favourite , Eric Carle’s The Very
Hungry Caterpillar in mini hardback edition (Hamish Hamilton £1.99). Famished as ever, the red-faced upwardly mobile bug chomps his way into everybody’s affections, and is as essential for the modern toddler’s formative years as Winnie the Pooh was for ours.
Possibly the funniest book I’ve read this year, and guaranteed to have Saint Nicholas giving the game away as he chortles down the chimney, is w.J. Corbett’s Pentecost ol Lickey Too (Methuen £8.95), third in his Whitbread Award-winning trilogy. A small mouse with a deformed ear and fond hopes of glory, Pentecost takes it upon his ageing shoulders to untangle the confusion that’s setting the hills of Lickey Top in turmoil. Master-minded by the evil Cockle-snorkle, a bug with his heart ﬁrmly in the wrong place, chaos is unleashed as an otter with hang-ups takes up residence, falls foul of Owl the landlord, and brings the indignant mouse fraternity under threat of eviction. Casting a new light on traditional cosmology (In the Beginning God said, ‘Let there be Light and Badgers’), and drawing a quick-ﬁre, rollicking picture of inter-set and burrow tension, this is choice comedy for anyone childish over the age of eight. From another prize-scooping author, Jenny Nimmo, comes Emlyn’s Moon (Methuen £7.95), delving again into a different world, but this time the far eerier one of the supernatural, as strong forces gather in a small Welsh mountain valley and only a very young magician can banish them. A delicately written, attractively illustrated book with a ripple of humour throughout, this is an unusual and sensitively drawn tale of Nia-can‘t-do-nothing, a middle-child in a large family who thinks she’s useless until a new friend shows her otherwise. Back on firm ground and tackling the nuclear threat at the barbed-wire frontier, Joan Lingard’s The Guilty Party is a challenging look at the issue as seen through the brave and militant eyes of young Josie McCullough, newly arrived in England from Belfast, and prepared to face prison and broken romance for her convictions. On a more festive note, Canongate offer two beautifully produced and rather unusual works. Tell Me A Story For Christmas (£7.95) is a collection of fables by traveller Duncan Williamson who can neither read nor write, but has a powerful gift of storytelling. Gathered by his wife, these are stories to be read aloud around the ﬁre, as he tells of the very poor, whether a forester who falls ill
caie humour . .
True Confessions and New Cliches by Liz Lochhead, paper, £3.95
“The social satires in Liz Lochhead's new collection are among the wittiest and most orig- inal pieces she has written."
One Atom to Another by Brian McCabe. paper. £4.95 McCabe “is love poet. domestic surrealist. satirist and verbal oonjuror. but all with a deli-
on Christmas Eve, or a little cripple too hard up to be visited by Santa but who, all through magical intervention, ﬁnd good fortune in the end.
Who Is Santa Claus? The two story behind a living legend (£9.95) is Robin Crichton’s account of the fellow whose popular appeal was spreading faster than hot lava even before his death. Anyone claimed as Patron Saint by both Aberdeen and Apulia must have a tale to be told, and Crichton reveals it. From his birth 1700 years ago in Turkey and his adoption into Norse culture, to his metamorphosis into the all-American male and British chain-store clone, Saint Nicholas has led a varied and increasingly devalued after-life. A fascinating, cynical read that’s best kept out of very young reat '\.
To ﬁnish with , a cut-and-come- again collection of poetry with a League of Nations approach is Michael Rosen’s compilation, A
solder Bought A Bicycle (Kingfisher £6.95). Deliciously illustrated by Inga Moore, this eclectic choice has Tennyson brushing stanzas with Giinter Grass, and others from Australia to Siberia, with as many songs and iingles as traditional poesy. (Rosemary Goring)
A cook’s tour of cookery books by Julie iAorrlce.
Culinary miracles happen by evaporation. Patience Gray’s aphorism holds true for her own culinary miracle lloney From A Weed (Macmillan £8.95). A distillation of twenty years spent learning and living life in the Mediterranean, it is a rare delight.
Ostensibly it is a book about food: in reality it swirls along the deep channel of Mediterranean culture, eddying off into character sketches, memories and expostulations. It is a book for dipping into, for evoking the charm of the peasant lifestyle. It is not a book to inspire three-course meals on the table at half past six every night.
It is not a practical book. Unless your local Safeway stocks wild boar or you cultivate morello cherries and persimmons in your window-box, you will be stuck with a few of the recipes. Nevertheless, its persuasive enthusiasm for making even the poorest foodstuffs into a celebration for the senses, will make the man who swears by Birds Eye Crispy Pancakes hover hopefully by the supermarket herbs and spices.
It is full of fascinating impromptu informationz'Greek women seldom travel any distance without sucking lemon rinds; what to do with a pig’s head; on the feast of Santu Pati the engaged youths seek out their largest carrots and offer them with ceremony to their future brides; the almond has this connection with the Virgin, that it has long been considered to bear fruit without previous fecundation.
A charmed lifestyle, where invitations to goatherd weddings rank with feasts among the aristocracy, emerges from these pages. An infallible curiosity discovers links between Aristotle and snails, Oliver Goldsmith and a butcher’s shop in Verona. Patience Gray writes with beguiling nonchalance , swinging across centuries and from Catalonia to the Cyclades, stopping off to consider Fungi and Michelangelo, Fasting on Naxos and Some Products of the Pig. A miraculous emulsion of travelogue, autobiography and epicureanism.
For those who are left unsatisfied by such foreign muck, Jane Pettigrew’s hefty volume is the only thing that will fill the gap. Tuclt In Chaps! (Ward Lock £8.95) is an exercise in nostalgic eating, harking back to the happy days when boys were boys and cholesterol hadn‘t been invented. Interspersed with Glen Baxter’s cryptic cartoons and a jolly cricket-bats tale of schoolboy adventure, lie recipes for serious eaters.
This is the sort of food which will keep out an East wind in Aberdeen in November. Batter Puddings and Apple Dumplings, Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pud, Lancashire Hotpot, Fish Pie and Lardy Cake; the intricacies of such delicacies are explicated so that any fule can rustle up some super grub.
If, on the other hand, after Christmas you want to be put off food altogether, try Feeding Your Family by Dr Miriam Stoppard (Viking £10.95). How about this one if you’re tempted by a seventh helping of plum duff: ‘Think of steak and chips— the way they look and smell, the overall picture. Now think of the appearance and texture of the dripping that comes from the steak and chips. Imagine that this thick fat is slowly working through your arteries. Link the image of the food with the sludge in your arteries.’ A guaranteed winner if the party is slow to get off the ground.
This is the sort of book that would have been a godsend ten years ago before you/your kids/Uncle Bert became pathologically addicted to Pot Noodle: it may yet save you.
Yuppies not only exist — they eat, and now they can try it at home. Eating In by Fay Maschler (Bloomsbury £9.95), is full of the kind of food you wouldn’t be ashamed to serve up if Jasper Conran dropped in for a bite. Witty, readable, but unfortunately no pictures to whet the appetite, this is an excellent book to save you from serving up lasagne to the Mackintoshes again. It may also inspire occasional flights of culinary fancy, and will happily while away a
wet Sunday afternoon in the kitchen.
In A Caledonlan Feast (Mainstream £12.95), Annette Hope takes her reader on a whistle-stop tour of the whys and wherefores of Scottish eating habits. Dwelling on deforestation and the demise of the
52 The List 27 Nov — 10 Dec 1987