Children's books: Prayers to unite belief systems

By Angela Kiverstein, April 23, 2009
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A Muslim child and a Jewish child embrace, against a background of a large heart and a dove with olive branch, at the start of Let There Be Peace, by Jeremy Brooks (Frances Lincoln, £11.99). This collection of gentle, not-too-sentimental prayers ranges from ancient Chinese and Native American traditions, through the concentration camps to Bosnia and Northern Ireland. Bright, child-friendly illustrations by Jude Daly give the book a sunny, positive mood. Good for assemblies or home reading. Ages five to 11.

Dido is the latest “re-imagined” classic by Adele Geras (David Fickling, £12.99). The Queen of Carthage’s doomed love affair with Aeneas is seen from the viewpoint of a young royal maid, Elissa, who is also in love with Aeneas. Roman gods and goddesses walk among the human characters, giving the story an effective other-worldly feeling. The narrative demanding, but rewarding. Age 12 plus.

Another unusual coming-of-age story is The Red Dress, by Gaby Halberstam (Macmillan, £5.99). Teenage Rifke is growing up in 1944 South Africa, having fled from Lithuania with her embarrassing mother, who is obsessed by germs and constipation. Mother is happy to send Rifke to buy schecht-while-u-wait chickens but not at all happy for her to meet South African boys. After a row, Rifke runs away, but a mistake with the trains leaves her stranded in the sun-parched wilderness with a creepy family, living in an isolated shack. She has to learn their ways — without speaking much of their language — and she begins to see what it must be like for her mother, starting out in a new country. But will she ever see her mother again? Age 12 plus.

Lord of the Flies meets Anthony Horowitz in Gone, by Michael Grant (Egmont, £12.99). As the book opens, all the over-15s in Sam’s home town have vanished, leaving him and his mates to cope with everything from changing the little kids’ nappies to keeping the McDonald’s running to fending off the rival gang of trouble-makers from the posh school up the hill. As if that wasn’t enough, some kids — including Sam and his power-hungry rival Caine — have dangerous supernatural abilities. A dramatic story for ages 12 plus, with strong biblical overtones (in an appropriately striking black and luminous yellow cover, complete with yellow page edging).

Last updated: 3:57pm, April 27 2009