28 November 1997

Muck, magic and Romany spell-binding

A PAPERBACK anthology* for young readers just published has the worthy aim of raising money for the charity, Farms for City Children.

A foreword by the Princess Royal is followed by contributions from a wide range of authors, including the Poet Laureate Ted Hughes, Ab Fabs outrageous Joanna Lumley and Dick King-Smith, whose book The Sheep-pig inspired the smash-hit film, Babe.

Even one of the many excellent illustrations is by eminent sculptress Elizabeth Frink and the volume is good value for a cause that can only benefit farming by educating urban youth. A good stocking-filler for Christmas?

Another paperback** for children goes some way towards redressing the recent bad press for the Romany gipsy. This sensitive and tolerant novel chronicles the life of a young Romany girl, born with magical gifts who is taken to live with gorgios – you and me.

If your kids didnt know that hotchi-witchi was Romany for "hedgehog" they will after reading this book. And plenty more beside.

It would be a shame to give away the dénouement but the parsley of the title has a surprisingly adult connection with nakedness and pregnancy. JE

*Muck and Magic. Stories from the Countryside. Edited by Michael Morpurgo. Mammoth (£3.99).

**The Parsley Parcel by Elizabeth Arnold. Mammoth (£3.99).