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Engage Young Hearts and Minds With Children’s Books

July 2, 2008

Curious kittens, secretive zoo animals, baseball, mysteries and mythology are some of the wide-ranging topics for summer books this year.

Setting aside reading time during the summer helps keep students’ brains from turning to mush. With exciting and interesting books like these on the reading lists, young readers will find books an adventure instead of a chore.

“A Kitten Tale,” written and illustrated by Eric Rohmann (Knopf Books for Young Readers; ages 4-8; $15.99). It’s hot and sticky outside, so reading this book about four kittens in the snow might make you wish for winter. Three playful kittens are fearful about the impending snow, and one can’t wait to play in it. Beautifully illustrated story about curiosity and overcoming fear is a winner any time of the year.

“A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever,” written and illustrated by Marla Frazee (ages 4-8; Harcourt; $16). A tongue-in-cheek story about summertime fun based on Frazee’s son’s adventures with his best pal as they stay at his grandparents’ house and go to nature camp. James and Eamon (Grandpa shortens it to “Jamon” because the boys are inseparable) are more interested in using binoculars to examine each others’ freckles and tongues than bird watching, but in the end, some of Grandpa’s lessons about Antarctica rub off on the boys.

“Pssst!” written and illustrated by Adam Rex (ages 4-8; Harcourt; $16) . Visits to the zoo will never be the same after reading this funny picture book. The animals at the zoo have a plan, and they need a human to bring them supplies, lots of supplies. A little girl gathers the wish list of seemingly disconnected items. Readers will enjoy guessing what the animals are up to.

“Clementine’s Letter,” written by Sara Pennypacker with illustrations by Marla Frazee (ages 6-9; Hyperion; $14.99). Clementine has made it to third grade, and best of all, she likes her teacher because she understands his rules. When her teacher has the opportunity to go on a research trip to Egypt, Clementine can’t stand thethought of him leaving, especially because his substitute has a whole new set of confusing rules. She doesn’t want to hurt her teacher’s chances of going onthe trip, but she has to do something. Pennypacker jumps inside the head of a precocious 9-year-old, and Frazee’s drawings bring her to life in this great book for beginning readers.

“Battle of the Labyrinth, (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 4),” by Rick Riordan (ages 8-12; Hyperion; $17.99). In this fourth book of the series, the war between the Olympians and the evil Titan lord Kronos looms closer. Demigod Percy and his friends accept a quest through the Labyrinth to recruit the inventor Daedalus, who created the underground maze that twists and turns with surprises around every corner. Although this exciting book stands on its own, readers may want to read the first three books in the series to fully understand the connections between the characters.

“Ivy + BeanBreak the Fossil Record,” written by Annie Barrows with illustrations by Sophie Blackall (ages 6-9; Chronicle; $5.99). Second-graders can come up with some very interesting stunts to try to set a world record. Funny and true-to-life situations and dialogue will pull in beginning readers as buddies Ivy and Bean search for a dinosaur to get their names in the record books.

“The London Eye Mystery,” by Siobhan Dowd (ages 9-12; David Fickling Books; $15.99). Ted and Kat watch their cousin Salim go for a ride on the London Eye Ferris wheel, but he doesn’t get off. Has he been kidnapped or run away, or isthe young boy lying on a cold slab at the morgue? Ted’s brain works in unique ways, but his meticulous thought processes join forces with Kat’s impulsive energy to try to solve the mystery before Salim runs out of time. Preteen readers will enjoy this thriller with well-developed characters.

“The Penderwicks on Gardam Street,” by Jeanne Birdsall (ages 9-12; Knopf Books for Young Readers; $15.99). The four Penderwick girls are horrified that their deceased mother _ through a letter _ is urging their father to begin dating. The heart warming characters retain their lovable sensibilities from the award-winning first book, but with the added personalities of the widowed professor next door and her son. As they set in motion the “save daddy plan,” everyday soccer games, school plays and mysterious strangers take on special significance for the Penderwicks.

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