Thursday, December 23, 2010

Stories about angels and saints for the holidays

Here are some books that tell the stories of saints and angels, as well as the animals that are associated with them. As Christmas draws closer these books may remind readers about Christ's birth in a manger, and that the history of many religious figures (like Saint Francis) have been associated with specific animals. You can find copies of these stories using the search boxes here on BookBag.

Saints Among the Animals, by Cynthia Zarin, illustrated by Leonid Gore (Atheneum) Zarin retells ten stories that chronicle the interactions of holy men and women with an eclectic menagerie of wild creatures. Saint Canice befriends a patient stag that allows him to use its antlers as a bookstand, Saint Jerome champions a misunderstood lion, and Saint Brendan is rescued at sea by a great whale. Two women are represented: Saint Hilda saves her fellow sisters from an influx of snakes, and Saint Werburge prevents a flock of greedy geese from gobbling up all of the seeds planted in farmland. The majority of the tales are set in ancient England or Ireland. Written in the conversational style of a storyteller, the selections contain lovely descriptions of the natural settings in which the saints and the animals coexist, and each legend is accompanied by a somber charcoal illustration depicting the saint and the featured animal.

The Day the Animals Came: A Story of Saint Francis Day, by Frances Ward Meller (Philomel) The blessing of the animals ceremony held at St. John the Divine's church in New York is the basis for this story about Ria, who misses her Caribbean home and the animals she left behind. Her baby-sitter, Mrs. Blum, takes her to the ceremony, and Ria initially feels bad because she doesn't have her own pet. But after she rescues a disagreeable duck, one of the church members invites her to bring Groucho, as he's named, for his blessing. The experience of becoming one with the community and their creatures makes Ria feel as if she's finally home. Weller's story of St. Francis Day, with its animals crowding into a church, may seem unlikely to some readers, but the author's note offers confirmation and clarification.

Special Friends: Tales of Saints and Animals, by Arlene Graston (Bantam Books) From the introduction: "There was a time when man was especially aware of the world around him and spoke a silent language with the living things that make up our planet. This was a silent language of love and respect and it made all living things equal in the story of Life. Some of the people who could do this were called Saints, a title that means they shared a deep love for God and for the Beauty of the Universe and found in their animal friends companionship, understanding and love. This silent language is not a secret one - nor do only saints know how to speak it. Silent means inside ourselves, within our thoughts and emotions, and because everyone has an inside and has thoughts and emotions, we can all speak it. All we have to do is listen and learn from our animal friends and the growing things around us."

Saints and Angels, by Claire Llewellyn (Kingfisher) Nonfiction. Beautifully illustrated with reproductions of artistic masterpieces, this is an easy-to-understand introduction to Christian saints and angels. Beginning by answering the question "What is a Saint?," Saints and Angels goes on to tell the stories of saints both familiar and unfamiliar--from the apostles to Joan of Arc to the very first American-born saint--as well as those of the angels and archangels of the Bible. Information on each saint's emblem, feast days, and patronage is also included.

Brother Wolf, Sister Sparrow: Stories about Saints and Animals, by Eric A. Kimmel; illustrated by John Winch (Holiday House) Nonfiction. If tidbits about Catholic saints in novels like Frank Cottrell Boyce's Millions make you want to learn more about the beatified, check out these fascinating legends of different saints' interactions with animals. From St. Brigid, who fed the poor with milk and butter from her cow, to St. Ambrose, whose mouth was swarmed by bees when he was a baby, to St. Francis of Assisi, who struck a bargain between a hungry wolf and the town it was terrorizing, 12 saints are profiled in these stories.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Tween dreams: adventures for a new year

The end of another year brings thoughts of what dreams may come. Every year we make plans and every year, it seems, plans have a way of escaping our grasp. But we keep dreaming! Here are some exciting books about characters who have unique dreams -- and some nightmares, too. Find copies using the Amazon and World Catalog search boxes here on BookBag, and be ready for some unusual fantasy ...

The Keepers' Tattoo, by Gill Arbuthnott (Chicken House) Fantasy. Fifteen-year-old Nyssa works in a tavern as a maid and cook, but in actuality, she is among the last descendants of an ancient civilization that Alaric, Archipelago's tyrannical ruler, is determined to obliterate. Only the strange tattoo on the back of her head and vivid, terrifying dreams connect Nyssa to her forgotten past. When Alaric's Shadowmen come looking for her, Nyssa flees the tavern with her uncle and sets out to find the meaning of her tattoo...and the source of her nightmares. This fast-paced and suspenseful story set in a medieval-inspired world should please fans of both fantasy and adventure.

On Thin Ice, by Jamie Bastedo (Red Deer Press) Fiction. Ashley has been having disturbing dreams of a frightening man/bear whom she believes is a shaman calling to her. When a classmate ofAshley's is found dead from what appears to have been a polar bear attack--even though no polar bears have been near their Arctic village for many years--Ashley begins drawing what she sees in her dreams and struggling to understand what she should do. This haunting, action-packed story paints a vivid picture of modern life in the far north and describes how global warming is changing the Arctic and its people.

Alphabet of Dreams, by Susan Fletcher (Atheneum Books) Fiction. Mitra and her little brother Babak are of royal lineage, but they've been living as beggars on the streets (with Mitra disguised as a boy) ever since their father's death. When Mitra discovers that Babak can dream other people's dreams--and predict the future from them--she
hopes to use his gift for profit. But instead, the two of them end up on the road with the magus Melchior, who has read portents in the stars about a new king and hopes that Babak's dreams can plot their way forward. With its richly described Persian setting and its focus on Mitra, this vividly imagined novel puts the journey of the Three Wise Men to Bethlehem (to see the baby Jesus) in a whole new light.

Dormia, by Jake Halpern and Peter Kujawinski (Houghton Mifflin) Fantasy. Lots of people imagine themselves doing incredible things in their dreams -- but Alfonso Perplexon really does accomplish amazing feats while he's fast asleep, including tending to a very strange, color-shifting plant. One day a man claiming to be Alfonso's long-lost Uncle Hill shows up and tells Alfonso that the plant, the Dormian bloom, is crucial to the survival of the kingdom of Dormia--and that the two of them must journey there to plant it in its native soil. This suspenseful, epic tale is a strong choice for readers looking for stories beyond the Harry Potter books. Dormia unfolds slowly but offers plenty of thrilling adventure and heated battles in a variety of exotically imaginative locales.

Seeing Red, by Anne Louise MacDonald (KCP Fiction) Fiction. Fourteen-year-old Frankie Uccello feels like he's utterly, boringly average, particularly in comparison to his multi-talented parents and sister. But when Frankie discovers that his vivid, strikingly colored dreams predict the future (and then he dreams that his friend Tim has a terrible riding accident) he almost longs to feel average again. This slightly supernatural companion to the novel The Ghost Horse of Meadow Green revisits that book's rural Canadian setting and includes plot lines and details that horse enthusiasts are sure to enjoy.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Tween fantasy ... and a graphic novel about knitting!

Here's a group of books that will keep you entertained while the snow swirls outside! From Mirka's unusual pig problem to the dark and mysterious tale of The Kneebone Boy, these are inventive and quirky adventures filled with unexpected twists. Find them at Amazon, or at your local library using the World Catalog, both with search boxes here on BookBag ... and curl up with some unusual characters!

Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword, by Barry Deutsch (Amulet Books) Graphic Novel. In this hilarious and impassioned tale of adventure, family, tradition, heroism, and ... knitting, smart and spunky 11-year-old Mirka Herschberg longs to slay dragons. But to earn her sword, she'll first have to do battle with the school bullies, an enormous pig (a pig in the Orthodox Jewish community of Hereville? Oy vey!), and a rather supercilious and very creepy troll. Hereville's fabulous artwork, distinct characters, droll humor, and insight into Jewish tradition will pull you into Mirka's world and make you wish the story didn't end so quickly.

Crazy, by Han Nolan (Harcourt) Fiction. Jason Papadopoulos has voices in his head, a whole chorus of characters, his internal audience. He knows they aren't real; they just help him deal with his life, which, to tell the truth, is pretty messed up. Jason's mom died recently, and his father, who suffers from mental illness, has lost touch with reality. Jason is trying to protect his father, but things are falling apart...and his dad is getting worse. When his odd behavior at school lands him in group therapy sessions, Jason slowly begins to make friends who aren't inside his head--but can he tell them the truth? This emotionally intense yet at times very funny novel will enthrall fans of Tracktown Summer by Elizabeth Holmes or Ann Dee Ellis' Everything is Fine.

Millions, by Frank Cottrell Boyce (HarperCollins) Fiction. Damian Cunningham is obsessed with patron saints and their reported miracles. So, when a bag stuffed with more than a quarter-million British pounds is flung from a train near Damian's cardboard-box "hermitage," it's only natural that Damian thinks it's a gift from God. But as his practical older brother, Anthony, points out, the money will be worthless in 17 days, when the UK converts from pounds sterling to Euros. Can the brothers spend, give away (Damian's preference), or otherwise get rid of the mountain of cash before it's useless--and before the robbers who stole it find them? By turns funny, touching, and suspenseful, Millions is a richly rewarding read that's sure to please fans of Louis Sachar's Holes.

The Society of Unrelenting Vigilance, by Glenn Dakin (Egmont) Steampunk Fantasy. Theo Wickland has been confined to three rooms of his guardian Dr. Saint's mansion for his entire life. But on Theo's 12th birthday, burglars invade Empire Hall--and Theo discovers that he has the ability to melt criminals with merely a touch of his hand. This is only the beginning of Theo's adventures, for he escapes from Empire Hall and joins the Society of Unrelenting Vigilance, whose members reveal the truth about Dr. Saint. Action-packed and suffused with a creepy atmosphere, this first volume in the Candle Man series will leave you breathless for book two, The Society of Dread (due out this month).

The Kneebone Boy, by Ellen Potter (Feiwel and Friends) Fiction. The Hardscrabble
children are a peculiar lot, and ever since their mother disappeared several years ago, Otto, Lucia, and Max have been shunned even more thoroughly by the townsfolk. In this quirky, dark, and occasionally preposterous tale, the three of them are swept up in an adventure when a trip to visit a London relative goes awry. Ending up in the village of Snoring-by-the-Sea, the siblings uncover a mystery, dark family secrets, and hints about what became of their mother. Fast-paced and full of great characters, this witty story blends realism and fantasy and should charm fans of both Lemony Snicket and Polly Horvath.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Some fractured fairy-tales, and a visit with Kubla Khan

It's time for some silly fun (and a little exciting history too). Here are some recent books that will make you laugh and one that's just plain fascinating! Find them on BookBag's Amazon and World Catalog search boxes, and enjoy a bit of reading that's just for laughs. Then meet Kubla Khan, who really knew how to throw a party!

There's a Princess in the Palace, by Zoë B. Alley; illustrated by R. W. Alley (Roaring Brook Press) Picture Book. In these slightly fractured fairy tales that are illustrated in comic-book style, Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and two other well-known princesses share a surprising connection. With funny references to modern times (such as Cinderella wishing that chocolate cupcakes were invented because they'd make her feel better), a pair of wisecracking mice who provide commentary on each tale, and lots of wordplay, these fresh takes on the traditional stories will delight fans of strong-minded princesses and "punny" humor.

Cloaked in Red, by Vivian Vande Velde (Marshall Cavendish) Fractured Fairy Tales. Author Vivian Vande Velde has a beef with Little Red Riding Hood: in her opinion, it's "the perfect example of the exact opposite of a good story." Think about it: a girl who can't tell her granny from a member of another species? Parents who name their kid after an article of clothing? Here, Vande Velde offers up eight new takes on the familiar story that are unexpected, funny, and deliciously irreverent. Don't judge Cloaked in Red by its serious-looking cover; it's a light, witty, and quick read.

The Familiars, by Adam Jay Epstein and Andrew Jacobson; illustrated by Peter Chan and Kei Acedera (Harper) Fantasy. Aldwyn is a resourceful stray cat who ducks inside a magic shop in order to hide from someone who's chasing him. Then Jack, a wizard-in-training, comes into the store to select his familiar (a magical animal companion) and adopts Aldwyn, who plays along despite having no powers. Jack's new cat may be an imposter when it comes to magic, but when Jack and two of his classmates are kidnapped, Aldwyn is determined to help the other students' familiars--Skylar, a bossy blue jay, and Gilbert, a bumbling tree frog--rescue them. Chock full of action, humor, and adventure, The Familiars is a real page-turner.

Kubla Khan: The Emperor of Everything, by Kathleen Krull; illustrated by Robert Byrd (Viking) Nonfiction Picture Book. With clear, thoroughly researched writing that's fun to read and artwork that is colorful, dramatic, and intricately detailed, this biography of Kubla Khan Genghis' grandson, is a fascinating total package. That's fitting, since Kubla Khan himself was quite impressive: he built the imperial city that is now Beijing, fathered 100 children, and was known for throwing lavish birthday parties in his own honor for up to 40,000 guests. If this book about Khan, his massive empire, and its far-reaching effects makes you want to read more about life during his time, check out Geraldine McCaughrean's fictional book The Kite Rider.

Lulu and the Brontosaurus, by Judith Viorst; illustrated by Lane Smith (Atheneum
Books) Fiction. Lulu is a major brat whose parents always give her every single thing she wants--until one year, she asks for a pet brontosaurus for her birthday. When her parents say no (a word that Lulu isn't used to hearing), Lulu throws a screaming fit, but that doesn't change their answer. So, Lulu decides to go into the forest and get a brontosaurus herself! In this silly, sarcastic story, Lulu is in for a big surprise...and readers get to pick their favorite of three different endings.

Friday, December 10, 2010

More tales for fans of "House of Night"

Awakened, the eighth novel in the paranormally popular House of Night series by P.C. and Kristin Cast, publishes this month. Fans of these vampire books can't get enough of their fast pace, thrilling, twist-filled plots, suspense, and steaming-hot romance -- and they also love Zoey Redbird, the stories' strong-willed heroine. Looking for something similar while you wait to sink your teeth into Awakened? Check out the books listed below, and look for copies using the Amazon and World Catalog search boxes here on BookBag ... if you dare.

Evernight, by Claudia Gray (HarperTeen) Paranormal Romance. When Bianca's parents accept teaching positions at creepy Evernight Academy, an elite boarding school, they enroll Bianca as a student there. She doesn't fit in at all with the wealthy and beautiful students at Evernight, and she considers escape...but then she meets handsome rebel Lucas, and they immediately connect. Bianca soon realizes that she'd risk anything to be with Lucas, even revealing the dark secret she's been keeping from him; little does she know that Lucas has a secret of his own. Put on your seat belt, readers: the twists and turns in this 1st book in the Evernight series of steamy vampire novels will have you on the edge of your seat.

Hearts at Stake, by Alyxandra Harvey (Walker) Paranormal Romance. Solange Drake is the only female born to vampire parents in 900 years. As her 16th birthday--when she'll "turn" from mortal to vampire--approaches, suitors do those who are threatened by the ancient prophecy that says Solange will be queen. Solange just wants to be a normal teenage girl, not some kind of "vampire broodmare," and hang out with her smart-mouthed, vampire-obsessed best friend, Lucy (who's human). But long-simmering animosities are coming to a boil, and Solange is at is, it turns out, her heart. This fast-paced, intriguing, and suspenseful vampire romance is the first volume of the Drake Chronicles.

Vampire Academy, by Richelle Mead (Razorbill) Paranormal Romance. Lissa and Rose are best friends who share a special bond; Lissa is a Moroi vampire princess (and mortal), and Rose is her Dhampir bodyguard. The two of them have been on the run for a couple of years when they are found and forced to return to St. Vladimir's Academy, a boarding school for vampires. It's a very dangerous place for Lissa, who is grappling with a rare and volatile power and is being stalked by the evil and deadly Strigoi vampires. With forbidden romance, dark secrets, and a social scene that's nearly as vicious as the Strigoi, this sexy, intense first volume in the Vampire Academy series is a real page-turner.

Peeps: A Novel, by Scott Westerfeld (Razorbill) Horror/Science Fiction. What if you have a parasite that causes an extreme form of cannibalistic vampirism and, ultimately, madness? That's just what's happening in New York City, where 19-year-old Cal Thompson works for the secret organization Night Watch, hunting down those who are parasite-positive, or "peeps." While hunting for his ex-lover (who's now a peep), Cal meets Lace, a dedicated young journalism student who makes him curse his vow of celibacy...and seriously question his employers. If you like the suspense, thrills, and fast pace of the House of Night series, give Peeps and its sequel, The Last Days, a try.

Friday, December 3, 2010

New teen reads: fiction, fantasy (and an Australian Beatle)

While the holidays approach it might be good to take a break from all the stress of finding just the right present for all those uncles and aunts who haven't seen you since last Christmas ... and who are just dying to hear about your new boyfriend. Take it easy. There's still time to treat yourself! Here are some new books that will make your troubles seem not so big. Look for these using the Amazon and World Catalog search boxes on BookBag, and relax! As these stories demonstrate, it could be worse. Much worse.

Matched, by Ally Condie (Dutton) Science Fiction/Romance. In the Society, everything is perfect, including the system that makes marriage Matches between 17-year-olds, taking everything from romantic to genetic compatibility into account. And Cassia's Match to her lifelong best friend Xander does seem perfect. But when Cassia loads Xander's microcard and views its data, someone else's face flashes on the screen -- someone who isn't supposed to be in the Matching pool at all. In this powerful and descriptive novel, a good bet for fans of Kristin Cashore's Graceling, Cassia begins her struggle against everything that she's been taught. Matched is the first book in a trilogy.

Hunger, by Jackie Morse Kessler (Graphia)Fiction. When Lisabeth Lewis's half-hearted attempt at suicide is interrupted by a pale messenger who announces that Lisabeth has been chosen to be Famine, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, the anorexic teen thinks she must be hallucinating from the few pills she's already taken. But the messenger left her a set of scales, and an enormous horse that no one else can see has taken up residence in her front yard, waiting for her to travel the world on his back. Balancing an honest and emotionally intense description of eating disorders with a creative paranormal backdrop,Hunger is a riveting, metaphorical novel that's tinged with dark humor.

Blank Confession, by Pete Hautman (Simon & Schuster) Fiction. At the beginning of this fast-paced, thrilling read, 16-year-old Shayne Blank walks into the police station and confesses to a murder. Shayne, who's new in town, stood out from the moment he arrived, partly because he isn't afraid of the jerks who terrorize guys like oddball Mikey Martin. Told in alternating chapters from the perspectives of Mikey and police detective George Rawls, this suspenseful and twisting story will thrill fans of complex characters, funny, believable dialogue, and gripping, thought-provoking reads (such as Blake Nelson's Paranoid Park).

Hold Me Closer, Necromancer, by Lish McBride (Henry Holt) Fantasy. Samhain Corvus LaCroix (Sam for short) is just a college dropout and a fry cook. At least that's what he believes until he meets Douglas, a very strange man who identifies Sam as a fellow necromancer--and a potential rival. And while Sam thinks his encounter with Douglas was weird, it's nothing compared with what's to come. Suddenly, Sam is in danger, as well as everyone else who is close to him, and he'll have to solve the mystery of his identity and powers in time to rescue Seattle from a terrible evil. This fast-paced, alternately hilarious and scary book scintillates with action, secrets, great characters, and romance and is a wholly satisfying (if at times a bit gruesome) read.

The Freak Observer, by Blythe Woolston (Carolrhoda Lab) Fiction. Loa Lindgren is still trying to figure out how to deal with her little sister's recent death when her friend Esther is hit and killed by a logging truck. From then on, when she isn't waking up screaming from nightmares, Esther does her best to bury herself in her job and in physics, which she loves. As she struggles to overcome PTSD and navigates relationships with her family, a potential boyfriend, and the kids at school who see her as "the dead girl's friend," Loa's keen, often heartbreaking observations about life make for a gritty and bleak, yet also funny and beautiful, read. Searingly real characters and fascinating details that connect the story to Loa's scientific explorations add to The Freak Observer's unique feel.

Beatle Meets Destiny, by Gabrielle Williams (Marshall Cavendish) Fiction. Superstitious Melbourne, Australia teen John Lennon (nicknamed "Beatle" for obvious reasons) is heading home early on Friday the 13th when he meets Destiny McCartney. The two of them, deciding that their chance encounter must have been fated, spend the evening together...and find that there's a real spark between them. But Beatle has a girlfriend. As this twisting, multi-layered novel spins its tale, Destiny and Beatle--as well as readers--are in for all kinds of surprises. Funny, offbeat, and thoughtful, this romance from Down Under is just the thing for those who enjoy something a bit out of the ordinary.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Hidden treasure, family history, and a touch of magic

Discovering the world is bigger than you think is part of being a good reader! Here is a group of novels each having its own take on how complicated life can get. Look for them using the WorldCatalog and Amazon search boxes here on BookBag, and be sure to bring along your sense of adventure.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson,
by John Green and David Levithan (Dutton) Fiction. Two different guys
named Will Grayson narrate this sarcastic, hilariously profound novel that is, as supposedly secondary character Tiny Cooper might say, made of awesome. One Will Grayson is the long-suffering best friend of Tiny Cooper, "the world's largest person who is really, really gay and also the world's gayest person who is really, really large" (and, by the way, "large" refers not just to Tiny's size, but also his personality). The other will grayson -- he doesn't bother to use capital letters -- is cynical and depressed, and lives for his late-night chat sessions with a guy named Isaac. In a stunning coincidence, the two Will Graysons meet...and then things really get interesting. Want to know more? Check out co-author John Green's YouTube book trailer.

The Body Finder, by Kimberly Derting (Harper) Mystery. Sixteen-year-old Violet Ambrose has inherited a talent for detecting the "echoes" of colors, sounds, smells, and even tastes that connect murder victims to their killers. It's an unsettling ability that, until recently, only led her to the dead birds left behind by her cat -- but now a serial killer is on the rampage in her small town, and Violet may be the only one who can stop him. She enlists the help of Jay Heaton, her best friend since grade school ... who, to complicate matters, is suddenly causing her heart to flutter. Combining suspense, paranormal phenomena, and romance, this novel is a great pick for fans of Wendy Corsi Staub's Lily Dale mysteries or Rachel Vincent's Soul Screamers series.

Mercury, by Hope Larson (Atheneum Books) Graphic Novel. Cross-country runner Tara lives in Nova Scotia and hopes that she and her mom will be able to rebuild the old family farmhouse, which recently burned to the ground; meanwhile, she's staying with relatives and trying to readjust to high school after two years of homeschooling. In a separate but linked story line, Tara's ancestor Josey falls for an itinerant prospector who wants her father to mine for gold on their property. Eisner Award-winning graphic novelist Hope Larson weaves the past, the present, love, hidden treasure, family history, and a touch of magic together to create this leisurely paced yet enthralling story.

The Carbon Diaries 2017, by Saci Lloyd (Holiday House) Carbon rationing in the UK--London college student Laura Brown just wants to focus on her punk band's upcoming European tour and her relationship with her boyfriend, Adi. But the whole world is in crisis due to the effects of climate change, and Laura and her friends have no choice but to deal with the political unrest, riots, and government corruption that have become commonplace. This dark yet exciting story will thrill fans of frighteningly believable near-future dystopias (such as Cory Doctorow's Little Brother) as well as those who like contemporary environmentalist fiction (such as Jennifer Cowan's Earthgirl).

Vegan Virgin Valentine, by Carolyn Mackler (Candlewick Press) Fiction. Mara Valentine lives a strictly ordered and controlled life; she makes stellar grades, participates in all the right extra-
curricular activities, has received early acceptance to Yale, and is a vegan (albeit one who admits to herself, "I LUST after cheese. I DREAM about cheese."). When her niece, Vivian, a.k.a. V--who's only a year younger than Mara--temporarily moves in with the family, Mara's tidy, shipshape world gets seriously shaken up. Charged with sarcasm, angst, honesty, and hope this hilarious and somewhat racy story by the author of The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things is a quick and upbeat read.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

New books: silly, scary and funny stuff for kids

Schoolwork got you down? Do the holidays have you too distracted to concentrate? Here are some new books for kids that are funny or scary, silly or just plain incomprehensible! Look for these books here on BookBag with the Amazon or World Catalog search boxes, and be prepared to laugh ... or shiver!

Bink & Gollie, by Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee; illustrated by Tony Fucile (Candlewick Press) Fiction. Short, wild-haired Bink lives in a tiny cottage nestled in the roots of a big tree; tall, neat-as-a-pin Gollie lives in a sleek house in the big tree's branches. The two young neighbors are best friends despite their many differences, and this book tells three stories of their (somewhat fanciful) adventures in both pictures and words. Involving very bright socks, pancakes, a pet goldfish, and roller skates, these funny, lighthearted tales will tickle fans of Annie Barrows' Ivy and Bean books, Mo Willems' Elephant and Piggie stories, and the Clementine tales of Sara Pennypacker.

The Fabled Fifth Graders of Aesop Elementary School, by Candace Fleming (Schwartz & Wade Books) Fiction. The infamous class that no one (except the extraordinary Mr. Jupiter) wanted to teach have all graduated to fifth grade...and, once again, none of the teachers wants to take them on. Fortunately, Mr. Jupiter is up to the task, and he's got all kinds of lessons in store for the kids from The Fabled Fourth Graders of Aesop Elementary School (including one that involves singing guinea pigs). If you enjoy silly, fantastical stories with a moral--such as those in the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books--or wacky school stories like those in the Wayside School series, you'll have fun with The Fabled Fifth Graders of Aesop Elementary School.

The Ghost of Crutchfield Hall, by Mary Downing Hahn (Clarion Books) Ghost Story. Twelve-year-old Florence is overjoyed to be moving in with her newly discovered great-uncle and leaving Miss Medleycoate's orphanage behind. But soon after arriving at Great-Uncle Thomas' estate, Crutchfield Hall, Florence meets the ghost of one of its former residents...who is out for revenge. Set in Victorian England, The Ghost of Crutchfield Hall is a creepy, spine-tingling tale that will thrill fans of the author's Deep and Dark and Dangerous or of Betty Ren Wright's Crandall's Castle.

Framed, by Gordon Korman (Scholastic Press) Humorous Mystery. Griffin Bing, "The Man with the Plan," and his mystery-solving friends Savannah Drysdale and Ben Slovak have moved up to middle school, where the new principal, Dr. Egan, is anything but a pal. He's got his eye on Griffin, and when a valuable Super Bowl ring goes missing from its locked display case in the school, Dr. Egan accuses our hero of the theft and sends him away to JFK (jail for kids) ... Can Savannah and Ben clear Griffin's name and spring him from kid-prison? Packed with suspense, misadventures, and action, this third volume in the rip-roaring series (after Swindle and Zoobreak) is a wild, fun ride.

How to Grow Up and Rule the World, by Scott Seegert; illustrated by John Martin (Egmont USA) Humorous Fiction. Attention, all you puny, undeserving whelps! I, Vordak the Incomprehensible, deign to bestow my limitless knowledge of world domination techniques upon you! (You should know that, should you actually
one day rule the world, I will be your automatic and highly untrustworthy second-in-command...) Read this book and use my ingeniously diabolical plans, my advice on what to wear as a Supervillain, and my Inconceivably Evil Evil Name Generator as your first steps toward ultimate control of the planet. (Or, if you aren't quite evil enough, you can just laugh at my blowhard manner and many disgusting jokes ... at your own risk.)

Friday, November 26, 2010

Football stories for a long holiday weekend

Thanksgiving weekend seems like it's all about football games and turkey. Here's a group of stories about the game and a book about one of its greatest players, Jim Thorpe. Look for these on BookBag with the Amazon and World Catalog search boxes.

Football Champ, by Tim Green (HarperCollins) Fiction. Twelve-year-old Troy White's uncanny gift for predicting football plays is proving to be a powerful secret weapon for the Atlanta Falcons, who hired him as a consultant after he demonstrated his talent. But a seedy reporter with a vendetta suspects the Falcons of cheating and sets out to shred Troy's reputation. Meanwhile, the controversy over Troy's involvement with the pro team threatens not only his own job, but his mom's, too--she's a PR agent for the Falcons. If you like fast-paced sports stories with lots of action and surprises, you'll enjoy the Football Genius novels, of which this is the second.

Touchdown Trouble, by Fred Bowen (Peachtree) Realistic Fiction. It's the biggest game of the season and mere seconds are left on the clock when 12-year-old Sam makes a touchdown, securing victory for the Cowboys! Everything is great...until later, when the team watches a video of the game and Sam realizes that his winning touchdown was scored illegally. The Giants--his team's biggest rivals--should have won. Now what will the Cowboys do? Those who like plenty of play-by-play action mixed with a bit of drama will enjoy this entertaining read.

Jim Thorpe: Original All-American, by Joseph Bruchac (Dial Books/Walden Media) Fictionalized Biography. Jim Thorpe won Olympic gold medals for the 1912 pentathlon and decathlon, played collegiate and pro football, also played professional baseball and basketball, and is widely regarded as one of the greatest athletes in U.S. history. Focusing on Thorpe's years at Pennsylvania's Carlisle Indian School--Thorpe was a Sac and Fox, or Sauk, Indian--this novel brings his early athletic career, especially his college football days, to life. It also gives readers a clear picture of Jim Thorpe the man (not just the athlete) and movingly portrays what life was life for Native Americans at the turn of the 20th century.

Million-Dollar Throw, by Mike Lupica (Philomel Books) Fiction. Eighth-grader Nate Brodie is the star quarterback of his school's football team and is dating Abby McCall, his best friend in the world...but that's where the perfect-life stuff stops. Nate's parents are in financial trouble and might lose the family's home, and Abby is losing her eyesight due to a rare disease. Just when things seem hopeless, Nate wins the chance to throw a football through a target during a college game's halftime festivities--for a million-dollar prize. Can he keep his cool and make the pass? This quick and enjoyable read will keep you turning the pages to see what

15 Minutes, by Steve Young (HarperCollins) Fiction. Casey Little is almost always late. Figuring that a watch might help him, he digs his grandfather's old watch out of the attic...but it doesn't seem to work. It turns out that the watch is actually one of Grandpop's crazy inventions: a Go-Back, or a time machine that transports its wearer back 15 minutes into the past. Dizzy with possibilities, Casey uses the Go-Back to boost his test scores, improve his performance on the football field, look suave for the ladies, and avoid a bully. But what happens when the little changes that Casey makes to the past start affecting other people? This fast-moving and hilarious story is a great pick for football fans who want to read something a little out of the norm.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Recommended childrens' readers in Spanish

This recommended list of books for kids from WETA's Reading Rockets project includes favorites for Hispanic students and for those interested in learning a bit of Spanish. The books are written by today's most notable Hispanic and Latin American children's authors. The diverse sampling includes traditional songs, bilingual poetry, and much more. Some of the books are bilingual while others come in Spanish or in English editions peppered with Spanish words. Look for these books by using the World Catalog / search boxes on BookBag.

Esta lista de libros recomendados para niños de los cohetes de WETA Reading Rockets proyecto incluye los favoritos para los estudiantes hispanos y para aquellos interesados en aprender un poco de español. Los libros son escritos por los más notables hispanos y latinoamericanos de hoy los autores de los niños. La toma de muestras diversas, incluye canciones tradicionales, poesía bilingüe, y mucho más. Algunos de los libros son bilingües, mientras que otros vienen en español o en ediciones Inglés salpicado de palabras en español. Puedes buscar estos libros utilizando el Catálogo Mundial y los cuadros de búsqueda en

Abuela, by Arthur Dorros (age level: 3-5; reading level: beginning reader). Rosalba imagines flying over New York City with her much loved abuela. The young girl uses a lovely mix of English and Spanish to describe their journey, moving from the busy streets of Manhattan to the Statue of Liberty. Brightly colored illustrations detail what Rosalba and her grandmother glimpse as they fly, and the rich tales of Abuela's memories. (Available in both English and Spanish).

Arroz con Leche, by Lulu Delacre (age level: 3-6; reading level: beginning reader). These traditional rhymes and songs from Latin America are presented in both English and Spanish. Gentle illustrations accompany the short verses, and show both cities and the countryside. Children and adults from Spanish-speaking backgrounds will recognize many of these fun songs and rhymes.

Barrio: José's Neighborhood (Barrio: El barrio de José) by George Ancona (age level: 6-9; reading level: independent reader). José lives in a diverse neighborhood where he's just as likely to hear Spanish, English, or Chinese. The appealing photographs in this book document José's life at home, at school, and on the streets of his barrio in San Francisco, a city that is a vibrant mosaic of different cultures. (Available in a Spanish edition and in an English edition with a Spanish glossary).

Chato's Kitchen (La cocina de Chato), by Gary Soto, illustrated by: Susan Guevara (Age level: 3-6; reading level: beginning reader). Chato, along with Novio Boy, are the coolest cats in their East Los Angeles barrio. When a family of mice moves next door to Chato, he invites them to dinner. He's going to eat them for dinner, but the mice bring a friend along – a dog – to surprise Chato and foil his plans. The text and pictures show the funny situation and the satisfying solution. (In English sprinkled with Spanish. Includes a glossary of Spanish words used in the text.)

De Colores and Other Latin-American Folk Songs for Children, by Jose-Luis Orozco, illustrated by Elisa Kleven (age level: 3-6; reading level: beginning reader). Bursting with color and spirit, this book is a bilingual collection of Latin-American folk songs. The songs were selected and translated by popular Mexican performer and songwriter Jose-Luis Orozco. The book includes traditional tunes, rhymes, and hand games. An accompanying music CD is also recommended.

From the Bellybutton of the Moon and other Summer Poems (Del ombligo de la luna y otros poemas de verano), by Francisco Alarcón, illustrated by Maya Christina Gonzalez. (Age level: 6-9; reading level: independent reader). The poet remembers summers growing up in Mexico in poems presented in both English and Spanish. Readers meet his family and join them in the everyday joys of the sunny season. Illustrations are as colorful and evocative as the words.

In My Family (En mi familia), by Carmen Garza (Age level: 6-9, reading level: independent reader). Kingsville, on the border of Mexico and Texas, comes to life in words and pictures in this book. Readers will share the simple joys of eating, dancing, and celebrating as the artist remembers her own childhood. Her stories, presented in both English and Spanish, are accompanied by her bright paintings.

Roadrunner's Dance (El baile del correcaminos) by Rudolfo Anaya, illustrated by: David Diaz (Age level: 6-9; reading level: independent reader). Snake terrifies children and their parents. He claims to be the "king of the road." But with gifts from the animals, Desert Woman fashions Roadrunner to defeat Snake. In the tradition of a folktale, this original story explains why rattlesnakes have their rattle and how cooperation can save the day.

The Most Beautiful Place in the World (El lugar más hermoso del mundo), by Ann Cameron, illustrated by Thomas Allen. (age level: 6-9, reading level: independent reader). Now that Juan's mother has left him with his grandmother, he shines shoes to earn a living. More than anything else, though, 7-year old Juan wants to learn to read and go to school. Guatemala comes alive through the daily lives of Juan and his grandmother and the detailed black/white illustrations.

The Rainbow Tulip, by Pat Mora, illustrated by Elizabeth Sayles (Age level: 6-9, reading level: independent reader). Stella and her brothers speak Spanish at home but English at school. Being different is both scary and exciting. Stella learns this when she prepares for the school's celebration of May Day. She finds a way to honor her Mexican background by wearing a special skirt that is both alike yet different from the other girls'. Stella, like many children, can take pride in being part of two cultures. (In English sprinkled with Spanish).

Under the Royal Palms: A Childhood in Cuba (Bajo las palmas reales), by Alma Flor Ada (age level: 9-12, reading level: independent reader). In writing about her childhood growing up in Camaguey, Cuba, the author evokes all the senses. Readers will smell jasmine, coffee, and grandmother's perfume. They will see the bats flying overhead and hear adults talk. When parents and other adults read this memoir with children, they may start to share their own family stories.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Books about life, love, and friendship for teens

The holidays can bring lots of new ideas about relationships, school, and family. Here are some recent books that look into life from a kaleidoscope of angles, from fantasy to poetry and points in-between. Find copies using the World Catalog and Amazon search boxes here on BookBag ...

A Match Made in High School, by Kristin Walker (Razorbill) Realistic Fiction. At the beginning of Fiona Sheehan's final year of high school, the principal announces a new requirement for graduation: every senior will participate in a mock marriage to a classmate for the entire year. Fiona is appalled when she's paired with Todd, who she sees as a dumb, jerky jock--and even worse, Todd's actual girlfriend is Amanda, a cheerleader who's had it in for Fiona since second grade. Amanda gets matched with Gabe, Fiona's long-time crush, and pranks, misunderstandings, and drama ensue. This laugh-out-loud funny story will make you think twice about stereotypes and is sure to please readers who enjoy great characters and a plot with plenty of twists and turns.

You Don't Even Know Me: Stories and Poems about Boys, by Sharon Flake (Jump at the Sun/Hyperion Books) Poetry/Short Stories. Lots of books tell stories about the trials and tribulations of being a teenage girl; the poems and stories in this companion to the girl-focused collection Who Am I Without Him? are all about guys and their lives. From 17-year-old Tow-Kaye, who's both excited and scared about marrying his pregnant girlfriend, to James, who's contemplating taking his own life after the death of his twin, to Eric, who loves his North Philly 'hood, the African-American young men you'll meet in this book are realistic characters that you'll care about and remember.

The Wandora Unit, by Jessy Randall (Ghost Road Press) It's the Duran Duran 1980s: Wanda Lowell and Dora Nussbaum are two word-obsessive girls, as well as being the two editors of
Galaxy magazine, and between them there isn't an unexpressed thought about literature, love, and how it is definitely better to be weird than boring at Brighton High. Their friendship is surrounded on all sides by doubt, and not just the kind that questions the middle-class values of prom dates and getting into good colleges. Call it the price of being self-aware. Unfortunately for Dora this means watching her friendship with Wanda change until it shatters into a million pieces outward into the expanding universe. It's a clever story told in fractured fragments, with quotes from poets like Diane Wakowski and Gwendolyn Brooks acting as guideposts along the way. The poems that make up the "Galaxy" magazine at book's end are real ones, from the real Brighton High literary magazine of the 1980s, and the authors are duly acknowledged; the poems are made of equal parts teen-age anxiety and aspiration, and they're good, too.

All Unquiet Things, by Anna Jarzab (Delacorte Press) Mystery. Jaded, sarcastic Neily Monroe, a senior at the exclusive Brighton Day School, is still haunted by the murder of his ex-girlfriend, Carly, whose lifeless body he found on a bridge one year ago. But Neily is determined to get through high school and move on--almost as determined as Carly's cousin Audrey, who believes that her father was falsely convicted of the murder, is to find out who really committed the crime. As Audrey and Neily attempt to untangle a web of secrets and lies at Brighton, the dark side of their privileged world is revealed. Those who enjoy deep psychological explorations of a story's characters and smart, tense whodunits will be enthralled by All Unquiet Things.

Before I Fall, by Lauren Oliver (The Bowen Press) Fiction. Samantha Kingston, one of the most popular girls in her high school, dies in a car accident after a wild party...but instead of seeing her whole life replayed before her eyes, she wakes up to live her last day over again. And again. And again. As Sam tries to change her destiny by altering small decisions and acts in the course of that one repeated day, she begins to realize how she has affected other people--and who she really wanted to be. This compelling debut novel is full of realistic characters, believable dialogue, and heartbreaking insights, and the suspense of wondering whether Sam will finally get it right (and what will happen if she does) will keep you turning the pages.

Num8ers, by Rachel Ward (Chicken House) Thriller. British 15-year-old Jem Marsh has got everyone's number. Whenever she makes eye contact with a person, a number--the date of that person's death--pops into Jem's head, making it hard for her to get close to people. But when gawky, troubled Spider doggedly pursues friendship (and more) with her, Jem finds that she can't resist him. When the two of them go to London on a date, Jem has the horrifying realization that many of the people in line to ride the London Eye Ferris wheel share the same death date -- that very day. Like an amusement park ride, this gritty, fast-paced thriller starts slowly, but once it takes off, you won't stop reading until you reach the firework ending.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Going green, arctic survival, and a dog mystery for kids

There's adventure, arctic survival at 40 degrees below zero, and even a canine mystery for kids who want to stay cool this summer and read. Look for these fiction and non-fiction titles on BookBag using the and World Catalog search boxes.

The Fast and the Furriest, by Andy Behrens (Alfred A. Knopf) Fiction. Twelve-year-old couch-potato Kevin Pugh is looking forward to a lazy summer of playing video games and watching TV, but his football-hero father wants him to go to sports camp. When Kevin stumbles across a broadcast of the Purina Incredible Dog Challenge while channel-surfing, he has a great idea: he'll enroll his portly beagle, Cromwell, in agility classes! But can he convince his dad that leading Cromwell through a doggie obstacle course counts as a sport? This hilarious, feel-good story has great characters and lots of family drama and is sure to be a winner with dog lovers.

The Buddy Files: The Case of the Lost Boy, by Dori Hillestad Butler; illustrated by Jeremy Tugeau (Albert Whitman) Mystery. When King, a golden retriever, finds himself at the P-O-U-N-D, he can't believe that his family would leave him there. Are the good times that King had solving mysteries with his beloved human, Kayla, gone forever? Before King can figure out a way to escape, he's adopted by a boy named Connor and his mom, who re-name him Buddy. Buddy is still determined to locate his real family, but just when he's getting settled at his new home, Connor disappears -- and Buddy intends to find him! This very funny, suspenseful, and easy-to-read story is told in the dog's voice and is the first of three books (so far) in the Buddy Files series.

Survival at 40 Below, by Debbie S. Miller; illustrated by Jon Van Zyle (Walker & Company) Nonfiction Picture Book. Talk about extreme! Winter is rough and very, very cold in Alaska's Arctic National Park, but many different types of wildlife flourish there, and this follow-up to the award-winning Arctic Lights, Arctic Nights describes the brutal conditions that they endure. From hibernating ground squirrels to bears, foxes, musk oxen, and wood frogs that literally freeze and then thaw out in the spring, each tundra animal has a different survival strategy that Survival at 40 Below explains in fascinating detail.

Mallory Goes Green! by Laurie B. Friedman; illustrated by Jennifer Kalis (Carolrhoda Books) Realistic Fiction. Mallory has a new favorite color--green! Inspired by her school's new Environmental Committee, she's excited about doing whatever she can to save the Earth. But when Mallory is chosen to represent her class at the schoolwide Green Fair, she gets a little too excited. Before long, no one wants to hear her "expert" opinions about going green, and they really don't appreciate the tickets that she's started issuing to energy-wasters. Can Mallory find a way save the planet and her friendships? Fans of characters like Junie B. Jones and Judy Moody should also enjoy the Mallory McDonald series, of which this is the 13th book.

The Fizzy Whiz Kid, by Maiya Williams (Amulet Books) Fiction. It's tough enough to be the new kid at school, but when sixth-grader Mitch Mathis and his family move to Hollywood, Mitch finds himself surrounded by sophisticated, TV- and movie-obsessed classmates. Mitch doesn't even watch TV and is clueless about show biz. So, when he learns that there's a casting call for a Fizzy
hiz soda commercial, Mitch auditions in an attempt to fit in -- and gets the part! Suddenly he's famous. But is stardom all it's cracked up to be? Full of realistic details about the entertainment industry, The Fizzy Whiz Kid is a fun, goofy yet realistic read.