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Sweets from Morocco Jo Verity (Honno, pounds 7.99) RICHARD and Judy Short Story Award winner Jo Verity's third novel in four years explores the relationship of two siblings from childhood to middle age.

Tessa Swinburne - the elder by one year and much the naughtier - and brother Lewis feel sidelined when their mother brings home baby Gordon. Tessa hatches a plot and they make a voodoo doll complete with some of Gordon's hair - perhaps showing an understanding of voodoo beyond the reach of most 10-year-olds. The effigy is left in a phone box at the edge of a thinly described Newport.

Gordon's subsequent mysterious disappearance, pram and all, while his dad nips into a shop for a newspaper, changes everything and scars the family forever.

Above all it binds the siblings together with a raw intensity even as they go their separate ways - though never quite apart - in a story that spans the years 1954 to 2005.

The portrait of a comfortable middle class childhood in the 1950s is inlaid with authenticity and Verity builds her characters with a wise insight into the ways of human beings.

The portrait of the elderly pair at Cranwell Lodge is one example that may seem unlikely to younger readers in today's world, but many of us of similar age knew people like that, disapproved of by parents, mysterious and eccentric secret friends for the wondering child, who cemented innocent cross-generational friendship with kindness - and sweets.

Relationships are wonderfully drawn, along with the realistic and often dramatic events that shape the life journeys of Tessa and Lewis. Most readers will meet people they recognise in a page-turner of a book.

A Stone for Remembrance Edited by Barrie Llewellyn (Dinas, pounds 6.95) THE stories of Welsh heroism like Owain Glyndwr, Dic Penderyn and Gelert are well-known - but not like this.

These 16 stories, rewritten by 12 writers for an audience that will range from children to adults, uses the raw legend as the core and takes off imaginatively into new, and sometimes loosely connected, territory.

If you've ever wondered what Gwenllian might have been thinking as she surveyed the wreckage of her army surrounded by an Anglo-Norman ring of steel near Kidwelly Castle, Robert Soldat gives you an idea.

And the much-told story of Llywelyn and Gelert is embellished by Rhys Parry into the realms of magic where a shape-shifting bounty hunter turns into the wolf that attacks the cradled baby, who becomes the father of Llywelyn the Last, while the remorseful prince meets the faithful hound he killed by mistake in heaven.

The collection begins strongly with the formidable Sally Roberts Jones weaving the title story around a late-6th century/early-7th century memorial stone that originally stood on one of a line of Bronze Age cairns on Margam Mountain and is now in Margam Stones Museum.

Publication of these bright bite-sized bits of writing was timed to mark the anniversary of the death of Llywelyn, the last native Prince of Wales, and this book of Welsh heroes is fittingly dedicated to Ray Gravell, the rugby player and patriot who died last year, with proceeds going to the Ty Hafan children's hospice.

And you might like.......

Former WesternMail journalist Mario Basini's Real Merthyr (Seren, pounds 9.99) is the latest in the well-illustrated Real Wales series edited by Peter Finch. Basini was a favourite with the paper's readers and shows the same accessible style and a sure touch as he leaves no story of his home town untold. He describes its myths and history, its politics, its streets and industries, and he tells of its famous sons from Dic Penderyn to Joseph Parry, Jack Jones and Glyn Jones and its famous incomers, from Lady Charlotte Guest to, improbably, Rudolph Hess's dog.

With its impassable roads and impenetrable countryside, Wales was essentiallyamaritime nation until the railways opened up the country to the world. Owen FG Kilgour's Caernarfonshire Sail (Carreg Gwalch, pounds 9.50) starts with the earliest vessels before focusing on boat-building in the North Wales port. Kilgour argues convincingly for a sailing flagship for Wales promoting the country across the world and offering adventure and experience to countless young people. Well researched and illustrated with photos and diagrams, this is a detailed and technical analysis of a subject first explored in Welsh by Wales' pioneer maritime historian David Thomas.

An attempt to reunite a divorced couple in Religion or Spirituality by Gethin Abraham-Williams (O Books, pounds 11.99), a Baptist minister and adviser to the Welsh Council of Churches, who was awarded the Cross of St Augustine by the Archbishop of Canterbury in 2006 for his contribution to ecumenical relations. The sub-heading of this book isACeltic Tale with a Gospel Meaning, and Williams draws parallels between the Transfiguration of Christ and the Mabinogion tale of Bendigeidfran and Branwen. He argues that spirituality - on the rise - and religion - increasingly suspect - need each other to be complete and counter effectively the evils of the modern world.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jan 17, 2009
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