The Present Takers
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The illustration on our cover is from the newly-published Robert Cormier novel Beyond the Chocolate War, (Gollancz, 0 575 03711 3, £7.95). The illustration is by Caroline Binch and shows in the centre Archie Costello, Assigner of the Vigils, holding the white ball which readers of The Chocolate War will remember as all important in deciding who undertakes the assignments that are required from certain unfortunate individuals. In this sequel new characters join him and the old return to play out Archie's last term at Trinity High. We are grateful to Gollancz for help in using this illustration.
Taking, rather than receiving, presents is the method by which Melanie Prosser conducts her reign as blackmailer and bully girl. Eventually the rest of the class work out a very subtle way of ending her rule. This is a tough, harsh book, containing much truth about what goes on where the teacher's eye cannot see and, indeed, does not wish to see. Aidan Chambers recognises the sensitivities of young children and highlights just how easily they can be undermined. He also recognises how willingly adults turn a blind eye to the protests of children if looking too deep might cause trouble. It is also an amusingly tender story in its development of the relationship between Lucy, chief victim, and her friend Angus and in the children's response to the final outcome of their plan. A book to share. I have read it with success to a group of twelve/thirteen year olds. There is much dialogue so the reading aloud is not easy but the level of response from the children is well worth the effort.