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March 24, 2010 > Footnotes


Welcome to spring and to a whole new batch of terrific reads! We'll start in the woods, and end with the ends...

For Preschool through 2nd grade: Ferocious Wild Beasts! by Christopher Wormell starts with Jack, who is a little boy lost in the woods. His mom had warned him not to go into the woods, for it is full of ferocious wild beasts! A kind, sympathetic bear finds him, and asks, "What's wrong?" After Jack explains his fears, the bear is so worried about these 'beasts', he decides he should accompany Jack back home.

They will encounter all sorts of creatures, including a lion and a crocodile, all of whom become very worried about those ferocious wild beasts that Jack has told them about. They all proceed together, for safety. Then they hear a terrible roar! Oh no! What could it be? It's going to be the fiercest beast of them all, but what could possibly be scarier than Jack's companions? The illustrations are charming, and the climactic end very satisfying. There is nothing to give children nightmares, enjoy! ($16.99 Knopf hardback)

For First Grade through 2nd Grade: Miss Brooks Loves Books (And I Don't) written by Barbara Bottner and illustrated by Michael Emberley. Miss Brooks is a very enthusiastic librarian, who loves, loves, LOVES the books on her library shelves. She even dresses in costumes when she reads her favorites. Missy, the little girl who tells this story, says she can't understand it - she's never met a book that she loved that much.

In spring comes Book Week, and now the little girl has the assignment of finding her favorite book, making a costume, and coming in and telling the class all about it. "Can't we move?" she asks her mother. "There are libraries in every town," her mother tells her. Will she be able to find a book, ANY book that she will like or even love?

This is a very reassuring book for those kids who don't like the stories that everyone else seems to like; perhaps they'd prefer non-fiction books about rocks, for example, or history books, or books about submarines! Despair not, parents of reluctant readers, the library has just the book for them! "And that's the slimy truth!" ($17.99, Knopf hardback)

For Third through Fifth grade: Lunch Lady and the Cyborg Substitute by Jarrett Krosoczka. Oh this the beginning to a hilarious series, all about a trio of students who start to believe that there is something special about their lunch lady in the school cafeteria. When a substitute shows up who seems particularly nasty, they hope that the lunch lady can help and go to try and intercept her. Boy do they get an eyeful! Their lunch lady is a secret agent!

She fights crime and bad guys when she's not serving up school lunches. Chicken nuggets? Little did you know that they could be used as grenades! Her spatula? A very tricky 'copter, which can help her to escape from danger! Fish sticks? Nun-chucks! The humor here is very tongue-in-cheek, and it's guaranteed to make you take a second look at that lady behind the counter. Wait! Is that a laptop under that lunch tray? The first in a series of fun adventures. ($6.99 Knopf paperback)

For Fifth through Eighth grade: Dust by Arthur G. Slade. One hot summer day a young boy named Matthew disappears while he was walking to town from his family's farm. It's a small town, and everyone knows everyone - they search and search but there is no sign of the boy.

Soon after that, a strange man arrives in town. He sympathizes with the parents, and also talks to the community about the drought that they've been suffering. He's sure he has a cure: a rain mill, which he claims is much more efficient than cloud seeding. As Matthew's older brother Robert watches, the strange man casts his spell, luring the townfolks into his rain mill scheme, and convincing them that nothing is wrong.

To Robert's dismay, a few days later his parents stop looking for Matthew, and start saying that he is off somewhere on vacation. Other children go missing, other parents forget that they even existed. Robert suspects the new stranger, of course, but no one else seems to. What on earth is going on? More importantly, how can 11 year old Robert possibly stop it? ($9.99, Laurel Leaf hardback).

For Young Adults: The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting When Violet Ambrose was a little girl, she discovered that she had a remarkable talent: she could 'sniff out' or feel death. When she was 8 years old on a walk in the woods, she led her father to some recently turned earth. When they pushed the dirt aside, Violet had discovered the body of a young girl.

While frightening, Violet grows to accept that she can sense death in all forms, whether the body of an animal or a human. When another girl goes missing, Violet (now 16 years old) goes to join the search. Not only does she find the body, she finds the 'scent' of the girl's killer. Violet can't explain logically what she decides to do: all she knows is that she has to follow her feelings, and find the killer before he strikes again.

Just to add to Violet's stress Jay, who has been her best friend all her life, has changed. He's taller, more muscular, and great looking. Violet wants them to remain best friends, but how can she do this when she's started to notice him as something else, something romantic. It doesn't help that all the popular girls are draping themselves all over him! Violet is walking a thin line between reality and madness, and between having her best friend or being without him forever. (HarperCollins hardback, $16.99)

For Young Adults: Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver. Samantha Kingston starts this book by saying, "They say that just before you die, your whole like flashes before your eyes, but that's not how it happened for me." She dies in an auto accident, and in the first chapters tells you about the day leading up to the event. You discover that she was one of 'Those people', the popular girls, the ones that aren't particularly nice to lesser folk around them. You find out that she had a boyfriend, and big plans with him after the night's party. And frankly, you find out that Samantha has done a lot of things to a lot of people that she shouldn't have.

Then, "Groundhog Day"-like, Samantha is thrown back to the beginning of her day. She is understandably freaked out at first, and tries to stop the accident from happening. When she dies a second time, and is thrown back into the beginning of her day again, she becomes more determined to change everything. The accident still happens, and Samantha still dies.

The next time she is thrown back, she goes all out, acting her worst. She dresses wildly, does crazy things and tries to throw everything off track. When this doesn't work, Samantha begins to suspect that there is something off, something other than her. Whatever it is, she will need to find it, fix it and free herself - or die trying.
(HarperCollins hardback, $17.99)

And finally, for all grades and ages, I give you Chicken Cheeks, written by Michael Ian Black and illustrated by Kevin Hawkes. Before you ask, no, this isn't about the cheeks on your face. This is a story with "a beginning, middle, and a lot of ends"! There is a bear who sees way, way up high something he would like to reach. To help him, he holds up a duck read, who holds up a moose caboose, who holds up a flamingo fanny... Well you get the idea. This book is full of delightful illustrations and lots of polite euphemisms for that part of you that you sit upon. There's something here for everyone, a very funny book to share with your family. (Simon Schuster hardback, $16.99)

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