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book Adventure of Captain Underpants Series
by Dav Pilkey

So what do we do at the bookstore on slower nights? Well, if we're disgruntled ex-English majors halfway through a career change, we sit around and think of imaginary critical-theory paper titles for Dav Pilkey's silly Captain Underpants series.
"The Flushing of the Proletariat: The TurboToilet 2000 as Hegemonic Capitalist Oppressor"
"Toilets Versus Outhouses: Conflicting Dimensions of Nature and Culture in Captain Underpants and the Invasion..."
"Osiris Rises From The Plumbing: Captain Underpants as the Ritual-Sacrificial-Redemptive Heroic Archetype"
"Reifying Liminality: Professor Poopypants, Post-Colonial Narrativizer"
"Iron Captain Underpants: Post-feminist Regeneration of the Patriarchy; or, A Portrait of the Artist as a Middle-Aged Elementary School Principal Wearing Nothing But Underpants And A Cape"
"Pleasures of Flesh, Pleasures of Porcelain: Life-Versus-Art Tensions Manifested in Professor Poopypants"
"Everything That Flushes Must Disgorge: Variations of the Return of the Repressed in Adventures of Captain Underpants"
"Whither the Feminine Principle in Contemporary Children's Literature? A New Psychoanalytic Consideration of Toilets and Pipes in Dav Pilkey"

But it wouldn't actually surprise me that much if today's nine-year-olds grew up and wanted to write papers on the Captain Underpants series. Sure, there's lots of toilet humor (y'think?), stoopid comic book illustrations, and cartoonish violence—moral critics of children's literature will naturally frown upon such things, while the more liberal sort will probably take the "whatever, as long as it gets the kids to read" position. What sometimes gets ignored in such is-it-good-for-the-children-Ward discussions is the intelligence behind the writing. Pilkey, like Jules Feiffer (The Man in the Ceiling; A Barrel of Laughs, a Vale of Tears), has a good feel for what kids and childhood and parents can really be like, and he possesses a wry, subtle wit that can be overshadowed (though not hidden) by the more lowbrow moments in his books. Also like Feiffer, Pilkey uses all sorts of silly meta-narrative tricks, following heroic-genre conventions at the same time as he pokes fun at them - and doing both so pervasively that the one is a function of the other. And so the Captain Underpants series isn't just a bunch of books where the kids do things like rearrange the "NEW TASTY CHEESE AND LENTIL POT PIES" cafeteria sign so it reads "NASTY TOILET PEE-PEE SANDWICHES"in a very real sense, the books can help make children more sophisticated readers and culture-critics as well. Myself, I'm preparing my next position paper to be written on the forthcoming fifth book in the series, Captain Underpants and the Wrath of the Wicked Wedgie Woman.
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Yi-Zhou
- a former bookseller (5/01) . . . title list


book The Birdwatchers
by Simon James
The Birdwatchers is a beautifully illustrated story of a young girl and her Grandfather's first trip bird watching together. The day they spend in the country brings the two together in a heartwarming friendship.
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Jed - a former bookseller (6/02) . . . title list


book Casey at the Bat
illustrated by Christopher Bing
This new edition of Ernest Lawrence Thayer's old classic is fabulously illustrated. With newspaper clippings from the early era of baseball and magnificent woodcut drawings placed onto what looks to be naturally aged paper, this book will be enjoyed by children and adults alike.
- Jed
- a former bookseller (6/02) . . . title list


book The Dragon's Tale
by Demi
If you're familiar with Aesop's Fables, then this collection of ancient Chinese tales should strengthen the points made in it, which are the basics for living a fulfilling life. These old stories are good lessons about how to conduct yourself in a world which, at times, contains many illusions and pitfalls. And these tests in life are easily recognizable and avoidable if you are aware of them. So join the animals in The Dragon's Tale and enjoy the lessons they have to share.

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Leo - a former bookseller (7/99) . . . title list


book East of the Sun, West of the Moon
by Mercer Mayer
Mercer Mayer's retelling of this classic Norwegian folktale was one of my favorite bedtime stories as a child. It is the tale of a peasant girl who breaks her promise to a frog and realizes her mistake after he then turns into a prince. But because of the broken promise, he is taken off to a far away kingdom, where he is to marry the troll princess. So the peasant vows to rescue the prince, visiting a host of fabulous creatures in the process. Mayer's paintings are gorgeous, beautifully colored and richly detailed, and provide the perfect complement to this story.
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Brandon - a former bookseller (6/99) . . . title list


book The Effects of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds
by Paul Zindel

For anyone who is looking for a great story to pass the summer hours with, The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds is the pick. Don't feel intimidated by the lengthy title (it's what attracted me to it) because this is actually a short two act play written by Paul Zindel. Its three characters deal with complicated problems within their family that are at times funny and saddening. The comparisons drawn between the marigolds planted by one of the daughters (which have been exposed to varying degrees of radiation) and the family's everyday life (which has been exposed to varying troubles including epilepsy and child neglect) set the backbone of a moving drama. I enjoyed it very much, and this Pulitzer Prize-winning play is definitely one for you to read.
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Leo - a former bookseller (7/99) . . . title list


book Go for the Goal
by Mia Hamm
Go for the Goal was such an inspirational book for me as a soccer player. I have decided to have my whole team read this book because reading this book allowed me to set goals in soccer and life and hopefully it will allow them to do the same.
- Kera Eubank - customer (7/99) . . . title list


book Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
by J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone is a walloping tale of wizardom. Poor Harry Potter. Orphaned, living with his detestable Auntie and Uncle and their sniveling blob of a son. Held responsible for odd happenings about him, confined to an existence of drudgery and swimming in hand-me-downs. But wait! It seems that our Harry is really a neophyte necromancer. A prognosticating prodigy. He, in fact, has been accepted to the Harvard of the Wizard sect, (his mother and father's alma mater) Hogwarts. And so the adventure begins. Follow Harry as he ventures into a London unseen by mere mortals: watch him pick up his school supplies, visit a bank, run by trolls, with vaults deep under the city. It soon becomes apparent to Harry that his reputation has proceeded him. But what reputation? Is it linked to his doomed parents demise? Will he pass Conjuring 101? Can he make the world safe from evil incarnate? Find out! Read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. It's my favorite book of the year.
- Jina
- a former bookseller (4/99) . . . title list


book Holes
by Louis Sachar
Sure, it won the National Book Award and the Newberybut what do they know? So I read it myself, and I really, really liked this book. It is the story of Stanley Yelnats, a lumpy piece of kid hardened by strife into a diamond. There's a venomous villain, conundrums and coincidence, and only a smattering of romance. It has a plot that turns in and in again on itself only to emerge, in the end, as neat and tidy as a pin. My favorite book of the year is Holes.
- Jina
- a former bookseller (4/99) . . . title list


Those Kipper books!
book Kipper, Kipper's Snowy Day, Kipper's Book of Numbers, Kipper's Book of Weather, Kipper's Book of Opposites, Kipper's Book of Colors
by Mick Inkpen
The artwork in these books is well crafted and most appealingwhich is very important in a picture book. This dog has one great crooked smile … he's a dog to take home. The first two titles are paperback picture books, and the last four are board books.
Kipper deals with a disgruntled Kipper searching for something better in life than the old basket and disgusting blanket that make up his bed. His quest gives Inkpen a chance to draw many funny pictures of

Kipper trying to adopt the beds of bunnies, frogs, ducks, squirrels, sheep, and moreall with disappointing results for our pup. What works for others species, fails for Kipper. Lily pads and dogs don't work well together. After a couple of dozen pages, Kipper is home and happy with his basket and blanketbecause that disgusting blanket is his cozy home.

Kipper's Snowy Day shows our innocent and accepting dog spending winter days with his dog friend, Tiger. Kipper sees the day's fresh snow "… like an empty page waiting to be scribbled on," but his companion can't enjoy much of anything because he's bundled up under heavy wool clothes. It is after Tiger tumbles down a snowy hill and turns into a huge canine snowball that both dogs find themselves having a great time sharing the woolen clothes for some wonderful sticky snow fun.

The board books are filled with those same great colorful drawings, but the "plots" are much simpler. The highlights of Numbers, for this counter, were the humorous 3 hamsters, the playful 8 frogs, and the peaceful acceptance of the 5 stacked tortoises. While Weather did have the funny garbage can lid hat for protection from the hail, I felt it finished weakly with a rather clichéd rainbow ending. Opposites depicts Kipper with much of his curiosity and playfulness showing in Out & In, while at the same time it bares his raw emotions in Happy & Sad. But it is in Day (of Day & Night) that Inkwell shows the dog's pure sweet innocence as he gazes out his window at a butterfly. Colors shows off Mick Inkwell's fine use of the same. Kipper's playful and whimsical side is shown in both Orange (with his giant drinking straw) and in Black as he struts with his shadow. The strongest parts of this book are in Yellow (wrapped in his towel gazing at his toy duck) and in the superb White - as his disappears into a Kipper-created fog of flour.

The whole series of Kipper books are most pleasingboth to the eye and the mind. I happily recommend anything Kipper.
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John
- bookstore founder/owner (8/99) . . . title list


book Leo Cockroach...Toy Tester
by Kevin O'Malley

I liked this children's book so much that I took the extra three minutes and read it twice. It's a wonderful, visual treat from the startling endpaper of Leo's face to the great picture of our friendly cockroach hugging his friend Bernard the cat. The story involves Leo's great talent for picking out the new toys that kids will love. He "works" at Waddatoy Toy, but only at night when all the people are gonehow cockroach-like. He feels unappreciated and has "issues" with the CEO of the company, and she wants this disgusting insect DEAD! Leo tries to find happiness with another firm, Notsogouda Toys, but his constant rejection of such proposed toys such as the $25 Pointy Stick, the highly lame String-Less Yoyo, and fireworks for babies don't please his new boss. I won't ruin the ending, but let's just say that Leo finds some appreciation in the end.

Another thing the reader finds in the end is another great set of those endpapers. Yes, I admit it; I'm a visual junkie when it comes to children's books and Leo Cockroach ... Toy Tester delivers!
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John
- bookstore founder/owner (5/01) . . . title list


book The Little Prince
by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
After over fifty years of being in print, Antoine de Saint-Exupery's classic has been given a new translation by Richard Howard and has had its original artwork restored. The new edition is much easier to read and, therefore, less quaint, which, for many, was what held the fable's charm. The restoration of the old watercolors lends a vibrancy to the drawings that matches the modern reading. The hope of Harcourt is that this updated version will create a new vitalized interest in this beloved story.
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Vicky
- bookstore founder/owner (5/01) . . . title list


book Miss Rumhphius
written and illustrated by Barbara Cooney
As a small girl, Alice Rumphius lives with her grandfather in a town by the sea. She is delighted by his stories of the far-away places he has been and one night informs him that she, too, will visit faraway places and retire by the sea. "that is all very well, little Alice," her grandfather tells her, "but you must also do something to make the world more beautiful." Little Alice agrees, but is perplexed by his comment and does not know what she could possibly do. When Alice grows up she does travel to distant lands; she climbs mountains and explores jungles and tropical isles. Eventually her explorations come to an end and she settles comfortably in a house by the sea. Some years later, an illness requires her to stay in bed for an extended period of time. Her greatest happiness during her recuperation comes from watching the lupines blooming in her garden and this sight reminds her of her grandfather's counsel.

When she recovers, she wanders the countryside scattering handfuls of lupine seed. The following spring, the seeds bloom into a sea of blue, purple and rose-colored flowers. Miss Rumphius, now known as the Lupine Lady, is content: not only has she achieved her personal goals, but she has also fulfilled her grandfather's wish.

Miss Rumphius, winner of the American Book Award, is a lovely story with an admirable message and the independent and adventurous Alice is an excellent role model for all children. However, it is Cooney's superb illustrations which make this book outstanding. Highly evocative landscapes, warm and richly detailed interiors and the sensitive portrayal of Miss Rumphius make this book one that will be reread well past the early childhood years.
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Alison - a former bookseller (7/99) . . . title list


book Monster
by Walter Dean Myers
Myers' latest book for young adults, Monster, is a hard-hitting look at urban youth and how they are viewed by the rest of society. It focuses on Steve, a black teenager being tried for murder. The novel is told entirely in his voice, either in the form of his journal or the screenplay he is writing about his experiences during the trial. This provides for an interesting mix--through his journal entries, we know Steve's thoughts and feelings intimately, but the screenplay format pulls back into a much more objective voice, where the reader can't enter into Steve's head. Even though this voice is more objective, it is still being written by Steve, so the reader is never assured of the writer's guilt or innocence regardless of the trial's verdict.

Monster was mentioned in Time Magazine's recent article as one of the new controversial books for young adults, and not without cause. There are several references to prison rape, including one brief scene in which Steve witnesses his cellmate being assaulted. The murder is also discussed within the trial, tastefully but without details spared. The note on the jacket recommends this book for ages 12 and up, which may be a little on the young side--at the very least, I don't think I'd recommend it for younger.

There is much for a reader to take from this book. It functions on several levels--in many ways, it is an attempt to scare people into behaving, by showing the feelings of a young man facing the possibility of spending his life in prison. Because the character is presented realistically, the reader can easily identify with him. It tries to show how life can be completely changed by a couple of small decisions that seem inconsequential at the time. It also deals with the effects of stereotyping--Steve was labeled a "monster" from the get-go by the prosecution, and much of the book is his struggle with how to react to that label.

Although it has a high page count, it reads quickly, largely because of the amount of white space in the screenplay style. This makes it a good book to read along with your children, so that they have someone with to discuss these issues.
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Brandon - a former bookseller (8/99) . . . title list


book Old Town in the Green Groves
by Cynthia Rylant
This book, (about the "Little House years,") Old Town in the Green Groves, starts in a walnut grove, and covers every thing known of Laura's life until the family starts west again.
When my parents first read the little house books, I only wanted them to read me those actually written by Wilder, because, to me it seemed that, to try to become Laura would destroy the magic of Laura's writing.
But Cyrthia Rylant does a good job of writing about Laura, she becomes Laura, and what's more she gives the reader a chance to become Laura.
I really liked Old Town in the Green Groves.

- Hazel Rogers
- customer (8/02) . . . title list


Old Town in Green Groves is about Laura and her family before Grace is born, all their hardships, sicknesses, moving, and a death, and how they overcome it. The style of writing is about the same as Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote herself. The description is good; it's written so younger children can understand. I like this book; it has good illustrations and descriptions.
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Alison
- a former bookseller (8/02) . . . title list


book Paddle-to-the-Sea
by Holling C. Holling

I grew up on Holling C. Holling books and made sure that my children did as well. Of all his works, Paddle-to-the Sea is the best known and the most satisfying. The story charts the journey of a small hand-carved Indian in a canoe from its inception in Lake Nipigon, north of Lake Superior. Inscribed upon the underside of the canoe is the message: "Please put me back in water. I am Paddle-to-the Sea". Aided by currents, accidents of nature, and the intervention of kind-hearted people, the canoe not only eventually reaches the sea, but completes the circuit back to its point of origin. Along the way, Paddle-to-the Sea has close encounters with a sawmill and other less fearsome wonders of technology and experiences a forest fire, a shipwreck, a trip over Niagara Falls and many other moments of high drama. Each page of text is accompanied by a full color picture as well as several small black and white line drawings illustrating additional scenes, technological details, or geographical information. The book is a wealth of information, both textual and visual, including diagrams of the workings of canal locks and cross sections of freighters, descriptions of the imports and exports of the Great Lake Region, and the flow pattern of ocean currents.

The author never talks down; Holling assumes that kids are interested in a wide variety of topics, and that such diverse detail lends texture and interest. A cautionary note: Paddle-to-the Sea was written in 1941 and does display an uncritical appreciation for industry that seems dated today, but neither this nor the occasional ethnic stereotyping (seen principally in the verbal style of a French Canadian character), poses a major problem. This book instilled in my sons an enduring interest in geography, encouraged their curiosity and remains for all of them one of the favorite books of childhood.
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Alison - a former bookseller (7/99) . . . title list


book The Perks of Being a Wallflower
by Stephen Chbosky

''You see things. You keep quiet about them. And you understand.'' Chbosky emphasizes Charlie's perception, intelligence and sensitivity by making this observant and thoughtful ''wallflower'' the narrator of his own story. The form Chbosky uses is a series of letters to an unnamed ''Friend''. It is an intimate way of writing, and it is very easy for a reader to become that anonymous friend. Considering all that Charlie experiences during his first year in high schooland all the ambiguities of his existenceit is good that a reader in mid-teens should be able to identify with the ''friend'' rather than to be immersed in the troubles of Charlie. Charlie comes from a more or less usual middle-class family. They are not always communicative or demonstrative, and he, as the youngest and perhaps most introverted of three children, doesn't fit inalthough he trieswith father and brother watching sports on TV or with sister brooding about her own social life. The most serious difficulty we learn about early on is that Charlie's best and perhaps only friend has recently committed suicide. As he enters high school, Charlie has no one to talk to and he does not know what to expect socially or how to behave among his peers. The only confidante he remembers is his Aunt Helen, who lived for a time with his family and was especially kind to him, but who died when he was in second or third grade. His continuing attachment to her could seem morbid, but it fits with the family's occasional visits to the cemetery, and it is a solace to him. He is befriended almost accidentally by an older crowd. Perhaps he is a pet or a mascot to them at first, but soon he makes his place with them. It is this juxtaposition of a freshman with seniors that gives Charlie a wide range of experiences that parents of young readers might find hard to take. It is a baptism in worldlinessheterosexual relations, drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, homosexuality, pregnancyin which Charlie is offered whatever explanations and advice that his older friends can give him. At the same time, Chbosky gives Charlie family time and hours with an English teacher who befriends him and encourages him in reading and writing. Charlie is a loving person and he is not without adults who care about him. But he often feels strange and detached. It is toward the solution of Charlie's problems that the book eventually leads. At the end it is almost as though the partying had been a rite of passage that Charlie might have had to experienceor might have avoidedon his path to adulthood.
- Marilyn Mantay
- customer (7/99) . . . title list


book Rome Antic
by David Macaulay
The wonderful black-and-white ink drawings of Rome contained in David Macaulay's Rome Antics make for a great introduction to one of the world's great cities. Many aerial views (with just as many pictures of specific sites) help the reader in following the exciting trail of a homing pigeon carrying an urgent message to an artist who, it seems, is the very artist drawing the pictures for this book. Can you figure out what the message is in answer to? (Look for help in the title.) There is also an index containing short histories of all the ancient places visited by the winged messengera great story in itself!

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Leo - a former bookseller (7/99) . . . title list


book Simon Says
by Elaine Marie Alphin
Simon Says is an amazing, yet twisted story. It truly captures the thoughts and inner workings of the creative minds possessed by the characters. The novel was a great read that left you wanting to continue after each chapter ended. The story gets you involved and you feel like you really get to know the students. The imagery is amazing and the detailed descriptions of nature and their surroundings are enough to keep your mind busy for hours. It was a great page-turner and I enjoyed it immensely.

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Chelsea Beatty
- customer (8/02) . . . title list


book Sleepy Bear
by Mem Fox
A charming tale of a mother bear encouraging sweet dreams in her babies as they settle in for their winter slumber. She lovingly creates special rhymes for each cub, weaving colorful adventures befitting the personalities of each: one is a pirate, another a trapeze artist and yet another a queen. This is a great anytime book, but fosters the image of a perfect winter evening with your childsnuggling up next to the fire and reading. Kerry Argent's illustrations are captivating and comforting, showing a mother's encompassing love depicted by the colorful, cozy quilt they all cuddle under and the soft, warm glow of the candle illuminating their room. Once again, Mem Fox treats us to a wonderful story that will delight the young and the old.
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Amy
- a former bookseller (8/99) . . . title list


book Smack
by Melvin Burgess

Smack, by Melvin Burgess, is a book about which I have mixed feelings. On one hand, I recommend it highly to any young person who believes that the world of heroin is a cool place. This story will disabuse that notion. It is told in a realistic mode with the voice changing at each chapter so that the story is revealed through many points of view. The main protagonists, Tar and Gemma, are runaways and, at the beginning of the story, very young fourteen year olds. We watch their descent into the world of heroin, humiliation, self-pity, and self-deception over a period of about three years. When we reflect on their very sad lives and examine the decisions they made and the changes these people have gone through, we understand how easily they've fallen into this dead world. From this perspective, Smack is a thoroughly non-judgmental cause-and-effect novel that is compelling in its honesty.

On the other hand, from the standpoint of literature and whether or not Smack qualifies as such, I feel that it falls short. The writing is pedestrian at best. Other authors writing about drugs and their experiences have done more interesting books. But perhaps that is not the important point to make. Melvin Burgess obviously set out to write a cautionary tale that would engage young people, and he's done just that.
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Vicky
- bookstore founder/owner (8/99) . . . title list


book Stargirl
by Jerry Spinelli
In this thought-provoking tale of nonconformity, Newberry Medalist Jerry Spinelli tells the story of the new girl at school: magical and mysterious Stargirl. This examination of the fragility and harshness of adolescent relations shows the drawbacks of popularity and the thrill and heartbreak of first love.
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Jed - a former bookseller (6/02) . . . title list


book Toot and Puddle
by Holly Hobbie

Toot and Puddle are two pigs who live together in Woodcock Pocket. In this delightful picture book for all ages, Toot decides he would like to travel around the world and Puddle decides he would rather stay home. The story takes place over the course of a year, with Puddle receiving a postcard from each place Toot visits. Much of the actual story is from these postcards. Toot's travels take him to Egypt, Antarctica, and many places in between. Puddle's adventures include a bathtub full of mud and a dive into Pocket Pond. One of the things that makes this story so wonderful is the happiness of both of these pigsnormally, one would expect Toot to realize he was happiest at home or for Puddle to realize he had missed out on great experiences by not traveling around the world. Instead, both of them are very content where they are and, while they do miss the other, don't seem like they would want to do anything different. Toot is happy to be having adventures around the world, Puddle is happy to stay at home, and they are both happy to be back together again at the end. Throw in beautiful pictures of some of the happiest-looking pigs ever drawn or painted, and the result is a splendid book.

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Brandon - a former bookseller (5/01) . . . title list


book The Wave
by Todd Strasser
It's almost impossible to understand how so many stood by and allowed Adolf Hitler and the Nazis to commit such atrocities. This novel proves how relatively easy it is for people to flock to a leader, dismiss what they know is right, and deteriorate into mindless dangerous automatons. The Wave is based on a true story about a history teacher who, in 1969, began a class experiment to demonstrate how the Holocaust occurred. The experiment quickly got out of hand as first the teacher and the students in the class, and then almost the whole school, were swept up in the excitement and power provided by their brand of militant fascism. The Wave is fairly well written. I found the dialogue, especially between the teenagers, a bit stilted and stereotypical, but if you are looking for a relatively fast moving novel as well as a not-so-distant history lesson, this book offers both.
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Amy - a former bookseller (7/99) . . . title list


book Weslandia
by Paul Fleischman

Weslandia is Paul Fleischman's delightful new picture book, wonderfully illustrated by Kevin Hawkes, that tells the story of a smart outsider who, as a self-inspired summer project, plants and creates a new civilization. A nonviolent paean to ingenuity, otherness, and community, the story should appeal to school children, particularly those in second through fourth grades.

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Michael - a former bookseller (7/99)  . . . title list


book Why?
by Nikolai Popov
Nikolai Popov's Why? is a wordless study of the stupidity of war. Using a frog, a rabbit, an umbrella, a flower, and a horde of animal warriors driving boot-tanks, Popov focuses on the destructiveness of greed and violence. The book is a powerful antidote to traditional warmongering tales, from The Wind in the Willows to Redwall to The Phantom Menace, and is a reminder of the fragility of existence. For first graders on up to adults, Why? supplies a perfect counterbalance to the celebratory violent entertainments we seem so much to cherish.
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Michael - a former bookseller (7/99) . . . title list

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