Children's Books: Shape Up to Adventure Christina Hardyment Meets Animorphs, Angels, Wizards - and an Endearing Vampire - in Her Quest for the Books That Really Fire the Imagination S of the 8-12 Age Range
Hardyment, Christina, The Independent (London, England)
What do children really, really want? Ignoring publishers' hype, I let the staff of Blackwell's Children's Bookshop in Oxford guide me to the hottest reading matter this half-term. Among the fastest movers are K A Applegate's Animorph series, paperback originals that need to be read in order. Start with The Invasion (Scholastic, pounds 3.99) and while you're at it pick up the next two, The Visitor and The Encounter.
The idea of changing shape has a fascination for growing children, but it's easy to dash off a fairly meaningless saunter in and out of, say, cat form. Applegate succeeds in setting up an unlikely but weirdly convincing scenario whereby fiendish conquerors from outer space invisibly inhabit human brains. Only the five intrepid children who witnessed the arrival of the Yeerks can combat them by "morphing" into animal shapes in order to attack or evade, a power given to them by an Anadalite - a noble extraterrestrial opponent of the Yeerks - just before he died.
This could be crude games-arcade stuff, but Applegate not only characterises the children effectively but ensures that they and the reader gain real insight into the mindset of the animals. I romped through three in as many hours; dozens more, to say nothing of a TV series, are promised in the near future. Helen Cresswell is another bookshop darling who does not so much write a story as breathe it. Best known for the inimitable Bagthorpe series, she hits gold again with Snatchers (Hodder, pounds 10.99). Reading it is like being in a fast-moving nightmare - with the comforting certainty that all will turn out for the best. Ellie was nearly snatched as a baby, and before her imperfect guardian angel Plum can stop them, the forces of darkness in the shape of a chillingly evil wolf-woman, and the even more macabre blind Boss, steal her babyself again and bring time to a halt as they head for the Land of Starless Night. A cleverly moral tale, too, full of memorable images and goodies as loveable as the baddies are horrid. Diana Hendry's Minders (Walker Books, pounds 9.99) also concerns kidnapping and a guardian angel but adds a wonderfully eccentric pair of parents- cum-wizards. Their son Scully's schoolwork is suffering while he …
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Publication information: Article title: Children's Books: Shape Up to Adventure Christina Hardyment Meets Animorphs, Angels, Wizards - and an Endearing Vampire - in Her Quest for the Books That Really Fire the Imagination S of the 8-12 Age Range. Contributors: Hardyment, Christina - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: October 24, 1998. Page number: 14. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.