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Children's books: Enchanted territory

Books for younger readers

    If J K Rowling’s wizards can use Latin in their magic spells, surely John Bellairs’ Mrs Zimmerman should be casting hers in Yiddish. Sadly she does not but her knowledge of enchanted coins is central to The Figure in the Shadows (Piccadilly Press, £6.99). This is the second adventure for young Lewis Barnavelt, hero of The House with a Clock in its Walls. Lewis is bullied at school but when he awakens the power within an enchanted coin, he thinks he has found a way to fight back. Until he loses control… It’s all thrillingly spooky. Age nine to 12.

    Also back is Shylo, the rabbit with the eye-patch, part of an elite bunny team protecting the Queen. As Shylo enjoys a cabbage-induced nap, one of Her Majesty’s favourite jewels is stolen from Buckingham Palace. So begins The Royal Rabbits of London, the Great Diamond Chase by Santa Montefiore and Simon Sebag Montefiore (illustrated by Kate Hindley, Simon & Schuster, £10.99). Could the thieves be those dastardly Russian minks? Or was the diamond snatched by magnificent, deadly Amura, the bleached-blonde tiger of Hampstead? Evil press baron Papa Ratzi and his rat reporters are also around. Shylo to the rescue! Age seven to 11.

    Los Angeles just after Pearl Harbour is the setting for A Scarf for Keiko by Ann Malaspina (illustrated by Merrilee Liddiard, Kar-Ben, £6.30). Sam’s class is knitting socks for the troops; he cannot get the hang of it but Keiko is an able knitter. When America declares war on Japan, Keiko is cast off by her peers (except Sam, who invites her for Shabbat). Keiko and her family are sent to an internment camp. With its sparing text and restricted retro colour palette, the story feels full of suppressed emotions, released through Sam’s painstaking knitting of a scarf for Keiko. A thought-provoking read. Age seven to 11.

    A more positive episode in American history is highlighted in Pavel and the Tree Army by Heidi Smith Hyde, with cheerful illustrations by Elisa Vavouri (Kar Ben, £6.30, age seven to nine). Jewish immigrant Pavel bonds with Italian Giovanni and USA-born Homer in the Civilian Conservation Corps, planting trees and shaping the landscape of their shared homeland.

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