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June 22, 2010 > Summer reading

Summer reading

By Dominique Hutches

Summer is upon us (although with all the rain and cold you'd never know) and that's always a good time to stretch out in the sunshine with a great book. Here's this months bag of mixed goodies:

For pre-schoolers: Maggie's Ball, by Lindsey Barnett George. Maggie is a little brown dog with adorable big eyes. She would love to have someone to play with. Just as she's thinking about that, the wind gives a great big gust, and her favorite yellow ball is blown away. She chases it, but it disappears in town. Will she ever find her ball, and will she ever find a friend? Simple but charming illustrations make this a warm and lovely book for your person with adorable big eyes! (Greenwillow hardback, $16.99)

For first-graders: The Tooth Fairy Meets El Raton Perez, by Rene Calato Lainez. You know what the Tooth Fairy does, right? She gets a signal when a child loses a tooth, and goes down at night to collect it. Do you know about El Raton Perez? He's a magical mouse who collects lost teeth from ninos all around the world. One night, as a young boy named Miguelito sleeps, BOTH the Tooth Fairy and El Raton Perez show up to pick up his tooth! Well this is a problem, and an argument. There's only one tooth; who should get to claim it? They pull and they push and push and pull and-where did the tooth go? Now no one has it! A wonderful story about the importance of sharing, which has a magic all its own. (Tricycle Press hardback, $16.99)

For second-graders: Roscoe Riley's Rules #1: Never Glue Your Friends to Chairs, by Katherine Applegate. Roscoe has a big day ahead of him, with a program to perform in his class for all the parents who will be visiting. Problem is that some of the students can't seem to keep their decorated headbands on and stay in their seats when they are supposed to. Roscoe gets a really smart (he thinks) idea-use the "Super-Mega-Gonzo Glue," which he happens to bring for his teacher's art closet. Ahem. Did you know that when the makers of permanent glue say "permanent," they mean really, really permanent? As in forever and ever! This book is the first in a very funny series. (HarperCollins paperback, $3.99)

For just about any age that likes comic books, this is one of the best ideas I've seen to encourage children to take an interest in learning a new language. Imagine some of the best of the original Batman and Superman comics. Now imagine that from every scene, a couple of words or a small phrase has been replaced with Spanish words, in red. On the side of the page is the phrase again, along with the English translation. So the readers are enjoying fun, action, comics, and learning phrases in Spanish at the same time! Cool! Among my favorites were:

Learn Spanish with BATMAN, the Rogues' Gallery, by authors Scott Peterson, Dan Slott, and Ty Templeton (Berlitz Guides paperback, $14.95) and Learn Spanish with SUPERMAN, the Never Ending Battle, by Mark Millar (Berlitz Guides paperback, $14.95). Make a note that these aren't little like comic books-each has about 112 pages. These are fun for teens and adults too!

For fifth grade and up: Skulduggery Pleasant Scepter of the Ancients by Derek Landy. Stephanie is in a little bit of shock. Her beloved Uncle Gordon has passed away, and has left her (a 12-year- old) a fortune and a mansion. She is in the house one afternoon when all of a sudden a man breaks in and demands "...the key, little girlie." What key? Not the house key. Stephanie has no idea what he's talking about. The man is threatening, scaring her half to death, when in comes her rescuer. He's an ace detective, a snappy dresser, quick-witted genius, and bona fide magician. He's also a walking, talking, fire-throwing skeleton. He saves Stephanie, and that's when her eyes are opened to a whole world that previously she had no idea existed.

She decides that her best bet is to go along with Skulduggery as he tries to find what the "key" is, and what really happened to her uncle. She also decides that Skulduggery needs a partner. Does he want one? No, since Stephanie is stubborn, troublesome, rebellious....oh wait! Those attributes might come in handy where they're going! I loved the sharp humor and the magical adventure in this book. It's a thrill to know that this is just the first in the series! (Harper Trophy paperback, $7.99)

For 7th grade and up: Shooting Kabul, by N. H. Senzai. The night Fadi and his family escape from Afghanistan he will never forget-it is the night they lost his little sister Mariam. He blames himself. They were waiting in the dark for the truck that would smuggle them away from all the fighting, over the border to where it would be safe. When the truck arrives, there are all sorts of families pressing to get on board. Fadi is holding his little sister's hand, and she is also holding her Barbie. She drops it by accident, and twists out of Fadi's grip, and in an awful tragedy gets left behind.

Heartsick, Fadi and his family make it to the United States, to Fremont, California (hey, that's us!). There Fadi struggles trying to try to fit in at his new school, and also to comfort his grieving mother, older sister, and father. He hears of a photography contest. The winner would get a grand prize trip to India-close to where his sister might be! They've had people looking for her, but no one knows where this little six-year-old ended up, or if she is even still alive. Fadi is determined to overcome any hurdle, any challenge at all, so that he can find her and heal his wounded home.

This is dramatic, compelling and seems very, very real. Apparently the story is based on Ms. Senzai's husband's own experience fleeing from Afghanistan in 1979, when his own family had to escape from war and explosions. The fact that Afghanistan today is in war again brings home the importance family and the comfort of safety and home. Don't miss this one! (Simon Schuster hardback, $16.99, to be released on June 22nd)

And finally, for all my fellow Percy Jackson friends, I've been asked, "Did you read it? What's the new book like?" There's only one book you could be talking about: The Red Pyramid (The Kane Chronicles, Book 1), by Rick Riordan. Just for you I grabbed it and read it (hah! I had that puppy clutched to my chest as soon as the ink dried!), and I've got to tell you IT IS FABULOUS! I opened the first page, and couldn't put it down until 528 pages later-what a wild ride!

First off, there are two siblings, Carter and Sadie Kane. After their mother died, Sadie was sent to live with her grandparents, while Carter has traveled the world with his increasingly strange-acting father. They're always on the run, checking into various places then leaving right away, running in and out of museums. Dr. Kane is a brilliant archeologist, and his work takes him all over the world. Sadie imagines her brother's life as glamorous, whereas Carter envies her group of friends, her home life, and the very fact she gets to go to school; something he's never had the opportunity to do.

When Carter and Dr. Kane are scheduled to visit Sadie, their father takes the two of them with him to the British Museum for a "research experiment" involving the famed Rosetta Stone, one of the most valuable artifacts in the world. The next thing that happens is an explosion! When all the dust clears, Dr. Kane is missing, and Carter and Sadie are on the run for their lives. At some point in their flight, Carter realizes that he's not alone, in his head. There are two voices that he hears-one is his. Who is that other one?

This is just the start of the adventure; in typical Riordan style the story blasts off right away from the very first pages. Strap in, hang on and have a great ride! (Hyperion hardback, $17.95)

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