The sheer variety of children’s books currently on offer is a wonderful thing, and five books this spring exemplify this diversity – from the ‘never-when’ of fairy tale, to the gutters and boudoirs of nineteenth-century London, to the darkest episodes of the Second World War and finally the Thirties youth of our favourite fictional spy.
Ian Beck is rightly described as something of a national treasure; his illustrations for picture books and nursery rhymes enhance many a child’s first bookshelf. How appropriate, then, that for his first foray into writing for older children he brings something of that younger world with him. The Secret History of Tom Trueheart by Ian Beck is a delightful book, and one with a wide potential audience, for here are characters that everyone will feel they know. Set in and around the Land of Stories, Tom is the youngest of seven brothers who embark upon fairy-tale adventures suggested to them by the ruling elite: the Story Bureau. All well enough, but as Tom’s twelfth birthday approaches, he suddenly finds adventure thrust upon him as his brothers, all incidentally named Jack, have gone missing. What follows is a story with a timeless quality and great charm for