CULTURE

Recent releases offer wide choice of summer reading

School’s out and it’s time to read for pleasure. Recent releases for children offer delights for all ages. For the youngest, there are picture books with gorgeous illustrations. Vangelis Iliopoulos has produced the fifth in a best-selling series starring his hero Trigonopsaroulis, the Little Triangle Fish, which has inspired games, exhibitions, songs, cartoons and puppet theater plays. In «O trigonopsaroulis ston kosmo ton paraxenon psarion» («Little Triangle Fish in the World of Strange Fish»), published by Patakis, the hero travels to deep and sometimes scary waters at the insistence of his young brother, Trigonomikroulis, Little Triangle, to find their mother. With the help of a new friend, a little white whale, the hero seeks her, meeting weird and wonderful creatures on the way and narrowly escaping a glass trap set by fishermen who want to capture the unusual triangular fish for an aquarium. It’s a story about persistence and adventure, with lively, colorful illustrations by Leda Varvaroussi. A little boy with a passion for red is the hero of «Kokkinoulis» («Little Red») by Makis Tsitas, published by Kastor. Kokkinoulis dresses in red, he wants to be a fireman when he grows up, he likes meat in red sauce and tomato salad, drinks strawberry juice, and tries to induce sleep by counting red foxes, fish and robins. He gets into scrapes like any child, all in the company of his imaginary friend Red Deer, a native American. There’s an element of magic to their adventures that will intrigue the young reader. When he and Red Deer paint his bedroom red and are told to clean it up, the paint disappears like a dream. His parents say there is no room in the car for him to bring a friend on a trip, but Red Deer comes along anyway, riding on the roof. The illustrations, in vigorous brush strokes by Daniela Stamatidi, are seen at curious angles, from a child’s viewpoint or above. A beautiful, haughty princess collects feathers, though not ones that have fallen to the ground, in Maria Rousaki’s fable «I poupoulenia prinkipissa» («The Princess of Feathers»), published by Papadopoulos. When she hears of a rare blue bird, she sends her hunters out to shoot it down, but they make so much noise that they scare the birds away and the princess sets out alone to seek the bird. The princess treats the natural world as her domain, asserting her right to seize any animals or plants she sees. But she meets her match when the rare bird she hopes to capture outwits her in a surprise ending. Superb illustrations by Wladimir Dowgialo convey the cruel beauty of the princess and the majesty of the natural environment, which she despoils for her own purposes. A compelling tale. An element of the surreal Eugene Trivizas, storyteller extraordinaire, has a new book, «O polemos ton Oufron kai ton Tzoufron» («The War of the Oufros and the Tzoufros»), published by Minoas. As one might expect from his previous work, there’s an element of the surreal, the author’s signature wordplay, a subversive take on life in general and authority in particular, and a message for those who want to see it. General Mouz-Mouz Karamouz, leader of the Tzoufros, and General Fouz-Fouz Gafouz, leader of the Oufros, fight the battle of Mauve Nettle valley over something – nobody is quite sure what. Both great warriors from childhood, the generals insist on going into battle, even though damaged phone lines have distorted beyond recognition their orders for cannons and bazookas. What happens when the armies dutifully appear on the battlefield, armed with a 1,000 canoes and 1,000 bouzoukis is known only to the owner of a goat that dies laughing at the sight. That is just a taste of the fun in store for readers. The book includes clever, comical illustrations by Christina Neofitistou and activities in which children can write their own versions of the events or sequels, and dress up a paper spy from a collection of clothes, not the least of which is a fetching mauve tutu. Another book by Iliopoulos, this one for children of 6 and over, combines fairy tales and information about food. «Paramythia na fas sto piato» («Stories Good Enough to Eat»), published by Patakis, has a story for each day of the week, all dealing with food, its secrets, combinations and preparation. Amusing tales help children get past some of their food phobias and taboos. The information chapter shows why the different food groups are important, explains the Mediterranean diet and organic crops, and even discusses the pros and cons of eating chocolate. Yes, it’s good for us, in moderation. Tough issues And for children of 13 and over, «KoukLina» a new book by Voula Mastori (pub. Patakis) capably tackles some of the toughest issues about growing up. Lina, or KoukLina, as her father calls her, is 14, but ever since her parents divorced a year ago and her father remarried, she has started playing with her dolls again. She prefers to stay at home talking to her cat and visiting chat rooms to going out with her friends. She squabbles with her brother, can’t accept that her parents are still on good terms, and can’t stand her father’s new family. When she starts getting e-mail from an unknown person who signs himself Crazyboy, is she in danger? Insecurity, jealousy, relations with family, friends, boys – all the obstacles of adolescence are here. Mastori has an acute ear for the language of her characters and a deep understanding of the shifting alliances and breakups that loom so large on the cusp of early adulthood.