Digital version – browse, print or download
Receive the latest news & reviews direct to your inbox!
This issue's cover is a photograph of Anne Frank whose diary is discussed by Michael Rosen fifty years after its first publication. Following the arrest of the Frank family and their companions, the secret annex in Amsterdam where they had been in hiding was locked up and everybody forbidden to enter it, since Jewish possessions became Nazi property and were carted away. Before this happened, the young woman, Miep Gies, who had provided those in hiding with food and who had a second key to the annex, risked herself once more by entering it. Miep retrieved Anne's diary from the devastation together with the Frank family photograph album.
Thanks to Penguin Children's Books for help in reproducing this cover.
Nine-year-old Ginny finds a shimmering, gold-flecked egg in her Gran's henhouse, and when a baby dragon hatches out, she looks after it until the time comes for it to fly away with its mother, leaving only a shining scale as a memento for Ginny. In the meantime, Ginny's baby brother is born with Down's Syndrome; initially rejecting their baby, her parents eventually come to terms with his condition and bring him home, as Ginny had hoped they would, and as her baby dragon leaves her. The dragon story-line is attractive and well-told, and Ginny's Gran, who has had a parallel experience at a time of crisis herself, is particularly well-drawn. However, I found the link between the dragon and the new baby unconvincing: Ginny doesn't perceive her brother's condition as a problem, and it is her parents who face the dilemma. I felt Ginny's mum needed the dragon more than Ginny did. When I discussed the book with the mother of a 10-year-old child with Down's Syndrome, she expressed concern that the story inadvertently presents a negative view of the condition, and might cause problems for children in the same situation as Ginny, rather than helping them. Her 14-year-old daughter found the idea that parents could even think of rejecting their baby upsetting, saying that a child reader in a similar situation to Ginny might worry 'that there was something much more wrong with their sibling than they had anticipated', a view echoed by another consultant, aged 12. Adult concerns of this sort - presented here in a matter-of-fact way - are perhaps too weighty for the sensitivity and the unsophisticated optimism of the child, raising emotions which are too delicate to be addressed adequately in this form; the story would however have made a good short story for adults, or a radio play. I hesitate therefore to recommend this book across the board: I think it should be used with care, and although an easy enough read for a fluent reader of 10-plus, it is important that adults read it themselves before deciding to offer it to children.