Water Wings by Morris Gleitzman, Macmillan, $170 No topic is taboo for children's author Morris Gleitzman. He has already tackled homosexuality, AIDS and divorce, and in his latest novel he throws the issue of euthanasia to his young readers. Parents may wonder if this is going too far. As in other Gleitzman stories, Pearl has a far from perfect family life. Her mum has little time for her and she has long lost contact with her dad. Company and friendship come in the form of Winston, her guinea pig. But when he becomes terminally ill Pearl sadly accepts the vet's argument that it would be kinder to put him down. She cannot bear to lose him completely, though, so she hides his body in the freezer, beneath the peas and the sweetcorn, and takes him out whenever she needs to talk to him. It is her new gran, the mother of her mum's new man, who helps her accept that it is more practical to continue the friendship through happy memories than with a disintegrating corpse. But when the old lady faces her own terminal illness, Pearl cannot understand why, unlike the guinea pig, Gran has to suffer to the end. She, Gran and her new friend take action for the woman to die the way she wants. This could be heavy stuff for children. But Gleitzman has an un-patronising attitude to his readers, and knows how to make the toughest issues entertaining. Children often pick up on inconsistencies in our values and handle dilemmas more straighforwardly than adults. In Water Wings, he allows them to make their own moral judgments. Fantasy and fairy tales have their place in a child's world, but so does coming to terms with the reality.