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New chapter books include tales of bloody adventure

Posted: Friday, May 08, 2009

New chapter books include creepy ghost stories, bloody adventures, and comfortable family stories in addition to the titles below.

"Becca at Sea," by Deirdre Baker.

Becca's been to Gran's island cabin many times, but always in summer and always with her parents. Now she's going to spend two weeks alone with Gran in February, and everything seems different. There are some scary things: the days are darker and colder, the fog more mysterious, and Gran's Scrabble rules are weird. And there are the good things: she finds her first pearls (seventeen in one oyster!), she gets to row Gran's boat without having to wait her turn, and she's there for the wild, wonderful chaos of a herring run. And that's just her first visit: on her next visit (this time with two cousins and her father) she discovers a magic grove and nearly falls off a cliff. Other visits include a berry-picking, jelly-making expedition with her Shakespeare-quoting Aunt Fifi, getting an accidental sailing lesson when her uncle gets seasick, and nearly being adopted by a seal pup.

"The True Meaning of Smekday," by Adam Rex.

Tip Tucci's assignment: write a five-page essay (illustrated with amusing "polaroids") titled "The True Meaning of Smekday. "The result? This lively account of how 12 year-old Tip drove herself, her cat, and a renegade alien from Pennsylvania to Florida after her mother was abducted by the alien boov. How they tried to find Tip's mother in Happy Mouse Kingdom. How Tip and the boov who calls himself "J.Lo" come up with a plan to save the Earth - um, Smekland - from yet another invasion. And how the boov ultimately leave the Earth, humanity slowly returns to normal, and Tip ends up writing a school assignment about the whole surreal incident. Funny, provocative, and exciting, this is a must-read for anyone who's ever spent time imagining how they'd handle an alien invasion.

"Darkside," by Tom Becker.

When Jonathan Starling's father has one of his "spells" and feels "the darkening" coming, he usually ends up locked in London's mental hospital. When he's well, he spends most of his time locked in his study, hardly talking to Jonathan at all. Just now he's back in the hospital, worse off than ever, and Jonathan, left on his own, is in his father's study, unraveling the mystery of his mother's disappearance, and trying to figure out why he's now being stalked by beings from the Darkside. It looks like, to be safe, he's going to have to go into the Darkside itself - but will he be able to return? Fans of Darren Shan's Cirque du Freak series will find a kindred grim spirit here.

"The Golden Rat," by Don Wulffson.

When 16-year-old Baoliu is charged with the murder of the step-mother he openly hated, he's sure he will die. But 12th-century China's tradition of ka-di means that Baoliu's rich father can pay another to be beheaded in his son's place. Just because Baoliu is alive doesn't mean his troubles are over: banished by his father and hounded out of town by those who knew him when he was rich, he falls in with a beggar boy who shows him how to work on the docks, sleep in a flophouse, and be grateful for what little money he earns. Poor though he is, Baoliu has his mind set on apologizing to the family of the man who died in his place, and when he finally finds them, he also accidentally solves the mystery of his step-mother's murder.

"Hot Lunch," by Alex Bradley.

Sunshine Day High School is too hippy-dippy to suspend anyone for a food fight, but there are definite consequences for all parties involved. And because the root cause of the fight was an undone homework assignment involving cooperation, and because the principal likes to fit his punishments to the crimes, Cassie and Molly end working in the cafeteria for two weeks, trying to stay in (or, in Molly's case, get in) Mrs. Mertz's good graces by working together. Cassie thinks learning to cook will be fun, but Molly knows better. The war begins with a Band-Aid in the beans and escalates with the hackneyed sugar-for-salt swap and meatballs dropped on vegetarian Molly's sandaled feet. Will the cafeteria ever be safe to eat in again?

•••

While Bruce Coville was in Juneau, he worked with the Reader's Theatre Club at Floyd Dryden, and the result is the hilarious story "The Stinky Princess." The podcast is available on the library's blog.

Story and Toddler Times will be in recess from May 11 to June 8 as youth services prepares for the summer reading program.

For more information, visit www.juneau.org/library



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