Reviews: For your shelf

- 21st Century Boys: How modern life is driving them off the rails and how we can get them back on track.

By Sue Palmer (Orion, £14.99, ISBN 978-0-7528-9011-1)

Reviewed by Julian Grenier, head of Kate Greenaway Nursery School and Children's Centre, London

In her latest book, Sue Palmer worries that an increasing policy emphasis on narrow educational results, along with an almost pathological dread of risk, has practically imprisoned little boys to tiny desks in little classrooms, and a housebound life of TV and video games.

But any reader seeking the 'cutting edge research' promised by the book's blurb would be well advised to be cautious. To take just a few examples, Palmer cites the negative findings of the EPPE research project - of a 'small but significant difference' between children who attend nursery childcare before the age of three and those who do not. But she ignores EPPE's finding of 'an earlier start (before three years) being related to better intellectual development at ages six and seven and to improved independence, concentration and sociability at entry to primary school and age six'.

She approves of Steve Biddulph saying that 'quality nursery care for young children doesn't exist', yet later she applauds the 'successful' Nordic countries, without acknowledging that twice as many babies and toddlers are in nursery care in Sweden and Denmark than in England.

As a result, the book makes for an interesting read, but is an unreliable guide to the state of boyhood.

- Play Out: Your essential guide to developing early years outdoors

By Learning Through Landscapes (£60 non-members or £40 members, Southgate Publishers, ISBN 978-1-872865-34-8)

This toolkit draws on the combined experience of the LTL team to provide practitioners with an informative guide to transforming their outdoor areas - from preparing the ground to making changes. There's a plethora of support material on the CD Roms and inspiring case studies on cards.

- Key Issues in Early Years Education (2nd edition of the Early Years: A reader)

Edited by Sandra Smidt (£18.99, Routledge, ISBN 978-0-415-46525-0)

The child is presented as central to learning and development in this collection of essays by key figures in the early years, including Lilian Katz and Mary Jane Drummond, and students. Teachers, practitioners and students will all gain insight from this book.

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