cover image Family Files

Family Files

Adele Geras. Avon Books, $14 (134pp) ISBN 978-0-380-97547-1

Delightfully packed with Briticisms, this clever import launches the Fabulous Fantoras series in high style. Geras's (Pictures of the Night) cordial narrator is the cat Ozzy, self-proclaimed ""Keeper of the Files"" for the eccentric Fantora clan of Manchester. With obvious affection, Ozzy (short for Ozymandias) introduces his family. Auntie Varvara, a vampire who has turned vegetarian ""on account of her soft heart,"" can ""move things about the place just by thinking about it""; mother Rosie mixes up magical potions and is able to fly; and patriarch Eddie can make anything grow anywhere (""palm trees in the bath... grapevines on the bookshelves""). The equally talented children include mischievous Bianca, who brings toys and furniture to life; absentminded, aspiring poet Marco, who can become invisible; and Francesca, whose gifts range from useful (changing the weather) to risky (""starting fires when she's extremely cross""). Perhaps the most intriguing is grandmother Filomena, who predicts the future by interpreting the colors and patterns of her knitting--""transforming the threads of the past into a fabric that forms the future."" Geras puts her characters' rare talents to diverting uses: when boys bully Marco, for example, Bianca visits their art class and animates their paint supplies to wreak vengeance; for the school fund-raiser, Rosie bakes biscuits that enable the children who eat them to ""float and drift and hover, about a foot and a half above the ground."" Jolly good fun. Illustrations not seen by PW. Ages 8-12. (Sept.)