25 DECEMBER 1964, Page 10

Spectator's Notebook

LIKE most people, I sup- pose, I have been buying some books for children in recent days. It is a pleasant if rather bewildering task: the choice seems to get wider every year. If I have a faint feeling of irritation at the end of it, this is because so many publishers fail to indicate the ap- proximate age of the reader for whom the books are intended. Nothing can match the scorn of a boy presented with a book which he finds 'too young' for him. Equally, it is depressing to a child to discover that a present will have to stand on the shelves maturing for several years before it becomes ac- ceptable. Ideally, I suppose, we should study the books carefully to make sure they are fitted for the reader we have in mind. But how many people have time to do this? The alternative is to stick to the basic classics, which is unadven- turous (and more likely to lead to duplication). Publishers could easily rescue the buyer from this predicament by indicating the age-group (and possibly the sex) of the readers the author had in- mind. Some, of course, do so : I begin to rate the negligence of the rest with those other major publishing sins, failure to state the date of first publication and omission of a decent index from biographies.