A Necklace of Raindrops by Joan Aiken and Jan Pienkowski

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Jonathan Cape, 2009. ISBN 9780224083805.
(Age 7+) Recommended. Joan Aiken's delightful collection of short stories, first published in 1968, has been reissued just in time to enchant a new generation this Christmas. These fables and fairy tales are the product of such unbridled imagination they cannot fail to please. Aiken rolls up her sleeves and wades straight in, wasting little time on scene setting and build up. The power of these stories lies in the continuous dramatic action, making them ideal to read aloud. Nevertheless there is still plenty for young readers and listeners to ponder. One of my favourites is The Elves and the Shelves where a privileged little girl, the recipient of many material possessions, feels lonely and realises a friend is worth more than all the toys she could wish for.
Jan Pienkowski's illustrations are a sumptuous partner to Aiken's stories. The contrast between intricate silhouettes and splashes of rich colour work a treat and serve as a reminder (if you need one) of his amazing artistic power.
Perfect for calming frayed nerves during a fraught end of term, and a welcome addition to Christmas stockings.
Claire Larson