Anna Fienberg, Author, Barbara Fienberg, Joint Author, Kim Gamble, Illustrator , illus. by Kim Gamble. Allen & Unwin $11.95 (63p) ISBN 978-1-86508-563-0

Imported from Australia, this rollicking omnibus unites seven books, many of them bestsellers Down Under, and their popularity is easy to understand. A boy named Jack describes his new friend, Tashi, who arrives one day—on the back of a swan—from a magical country populated with giants, dragons, ghosts and all sorts of other things that go bump in the night. Tashi mesmerizes Jack (and Jack mesmerizes his parents) with tales of his exploits about outwitting a succession of deliciously horrible villains ("I'll pluck out your nose hairs, one by one," a bandit threatens Tashi. Sometimes Tashi tells a story, to Jack; sometimes Jack recounts a Tashi adventure to his parents. In an amusing role reversal, Jack's parents hang breathlessly on their son's every word ("So tell us," Jack's father says. "After Tashi tricked those giants and teased the bandits, how did he meet these ghosts?"), and the dialogue between the storyteller and his audience invisibly tightens the narrative tension. Teasers end each tale (" 'So that's the end of the story,' said Jack sadly. 'And everyone was safe and happy again.' 'Yes,' said Tashi, 'that is, until the bandits arrived' "). Appearing one or two to each page, Gamble's playful b&w drawings are an integral part of the fun, making this outsize volume a prime choice for shipping to summer camp with newly independent readers. Best of all, the answers to those cliffhangers are only a turn of a page away. Ages 6-10. (May)

Reviewed on: 06/03/2002
Release date: 05/01/2002
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