Books: The Condemned Playground

On occasion, U.S. publishers have produced some children's books that are both readable and fresh, proving that it can be done. But Christmastime seems to bring out the worst in them. Perhaps on the theory that harried Christmas buyers will not have time to do more than glance at the cover, they have dumped onto the nation's book counters a melange of uninspired and uninspiring trash that must have emptied every bottom drawer in their files.

Some of the worst offenders are those presumably addressed to children who cannot yet, are about to, or can just about read. Are these...

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