5 JUNE 1964, Page 28

Cry Havoc . . .

CAESAR goes with clogged inkwells and the intimate pitted surface of the old school desk. His mighty battles have mingled with the memory of summer bees, droning on like the innumerable and unmemorable tribes he fought, and always conquered. Caesar's Gallic War by Olivia Coolidge (Bodley Head, 18s.) will change all that. Her historical reconstruction answers an obvious need and must shortly become indispens- able. She fills in the social background to Caesar's factual reports, clothing the people and voicing their opinions. It is a fascinating story of bloodshed and intrigue which should appeal to all adventure-lovers over ten.

There is a certain earnest manliness about the characters of Jules Verne that recalls stiff photos of our youthful uncles, in which their immaculate valeted outfits accord ill with the dead game they flourish. In Adrift in the Pacific and Second Year Ashore (Arco, 12s. 6d. each) Verne's shipwrecked boys harness a savage island to their needs with military regularity, while conversing informa- tively in hearty school-story vernacular. It's a good survival story, stuffed with the facts that youngsters love to memorise. The Mysterious Document and Among the Cannibals (Arco, 12s. 6d. each) describe the yacht-borne search for Captain Grant along the 37th parallel. Wooden characters make the going very heavy in a narrative dominated by facts.

The Bird Talisman by Henry Allen Wedgwood (Faber, 15s.) is an old story which was not pub- lished till 1939 when Gwen Raverat did the present illustrations. A little Indian princess is ill-treated by her stepmother and likely to die at her hands. Hearing of her plight, her exiled royal grandfather sends her a magic ring with which she can command the birds. These gentle companions help her through many ordeals, supervised by the royal parrot, who is the child's fussy old favourite. Little girls of eight or so should find this story enchanting.

A. A. Milne's Once on a Time . . . (Edmund Ward, 16s.) is a fairy tale with hindsight. War starts because the king of Barodia strides over his neighbour's castle in seven-league boots and disturbs his breakfast. While the men fight, a scheming beauty grabs power and money with artless guile and a helpful prince is bewitched into a most comical mixed animal. Susan Perl's charming illustrations match Milne's whimsical, but rather facetious fantasy.

Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery (Peacock, 4s. 6d.) is exquisitely sentimental. Anne, the rapturous orphan chatterbox, invents a glori- ous existence to make her drab life bearable. Her faith is rewarded. It's pure and pious but full of fun. Carlotta of Springfield Home by Elizabeth Stucley (Puffin, 3s. 6d.) is another high-spirited lass who finds authority irksome. Frankie is also new at the orphanage, but a lifetime of institu- tions has driven him into a perpetual defensive silence. Then sympathetic people take charge and all the children blossom. Charles Mozley illustrates this funny, delightful story. Emma Smith's Maiden's Trip (Peacock, 3s. 6d.) will arouse the tomboy beneath the frills. Damp and discomfort cease to bother three gallant girls who do wartime cargo work on canals.