Boo Hoo Bird by Jeremy Tankard; Scholastic Press; $15; ages 3-5.
When Bird gets bonked in the head during a game of catch, his friends rack their brains trying to cheer him up. Raccoon kisses the boo-boo. Rabbit hugs Bird. Beaver gives Bird a cookie. Sheep suggests a game of hide-and-seek. But "I CAN HARDLY WALK!!!" cries Bird. Clever Fox puts a Band-Aid on the boo-boo. Alas, nothing helps, and all the animal friends start to cry.
They don't even hear Bird shout, "I'M ALL BETTER NOW!" So he shows them he's fine by standing on his head. After everyone is cheered up, Bird suggests a game of catch, which gets him — bonked on the head again.
"Boo Hoo Bird" is a vibrant picture book with a story all kids and parents can identify with, and won't mind reading over and over and around and around.
Duck! Rabbit! by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld; Chronicle Books; $17; ages 4 and up.
Is it a duck? Or a rabbit? That's the argument two off-the-page narrators have in this eye-grabbing, sunny picture book. Eventually they see the other kid's point of view, for the drawings of the left-facing duck and right-facing rabbit are a perfect optical illusion.
This is a delightful book on so many levels: fun to look at, listen to, turn sideways and think about. It encourages kids to take one side and then the other — without having to join the debate club or go to law school. As a bonus, the endpapers feature cloud-shaped ducks and rabbits. Clever indeed!
Any Which Wall by Laurel Snyder, illustrated by LeUyen Pham; Random House; $17; ages 8-12.
Here is a wonderfully old fashioned, yet completely contemporary novel perfect for a family read-aloud, especially for fans of Edward Eager's "Half Magic" series and books by British fantasy author E. Nesbit.
Two sets of siblings — Emma and Henry, and Susan and Roy — are bored in their Quiet Falls, Iowa, town, until they ride their bikes into a cornfield (think "Field of Dreams") and discover a wall. A magic wishing wall that takes them back (and forward) in time — to Merlin's castle, the Wild West, the "worst pirate in the world" (because he failed at pirating) and present-day New York City, as well as across town to a diner and a movie theater.
It takes the kids some time, and a few mistakes, to figure out the rules for the magic wall and to make matters right when they go wrong. That's the fun, though, that the characters and lucky readers have in "Any Which Wall." Lively illustrations by LeUyen Pham add to the book's considerable charm.
The Desperado Who Stole Baseball by John H. Ritter; Philomel; $18; ages 9 and up.
Summer wouldn't be summer without a new baseball book, and no one writes them better for young readers than John H. Ritter. His latest is a prequel to the popular "The Boy Who Saved Baseball," and takes place in 1881 in the "gold hills of San Diego." Part tall tale, part historical fiction and completely enjoyable — think Mark Twain describing a showdown on a baseball diamond in a Wild West town where the "church" is in an abandoned gold mine — "Desperado" is a fast-paced story starring young Jack Dillon and his new companion, Billy the Kid. Yes, that Billy the Kid, "wanted, dead or alive."
Jack heads west to follow his dream to play for the Dillontown Nine Baseball Club, led by his long-lost Uncle Long John Dillon, a black man. (Jack is merely dark-skinned, a minor detail he talks his way around.) African-Americans were barred from professional baseball until the mid-20th century, but in Dillontown, anyone can play the game, including Jack and Billy.
John Dillon has challenged the National League champion Chicago White Stockings to a game with an enormous winner-takes-all jackpot. Jack and Billy are drawn into the contest with surprising — and enormously satisfying — results.
Swim the Fly by Don Calame; Candlewick Press; $17; ages 12 and up.
For every half-dozen terrific young adult novels for girls, perhaps one comes along that keeps teenage boys reading and laughing into the night. "Swim the Fly" is that one book, with enough bathroom humor, genital references and mishaps to impress the boys of "South Park" as well as the Three Stooges.
Fifteen-year-old Matt and his two best buds have set themselves a goal for the summer: to see a real, live, naked girl. But Matt is clueless about the opposite sex: he doesn't notice that Kelly, the object of his desire, isn't worth pursuing, or that Kelly's friend Valerie is much better girlfriend material. He tries to impress Kelly by volunteering to swim the butterfly in the championship swim meet, even though he's unable to swim one lap of the fly. He tries everything he can think of (other than actually swimming butterfly) to get in shape or to get out of swimming, often with hilarious results.
The best scenes, schemes and calamities involve Matt and his goofy grandpa — Grandpa, who has his own pursuit of a woman on his mind. Matt does his best to cover up when he messes up (multiple times), then surprises himself when he listens to the "nagging, pain in the (rear) angel" on his shoulder and does the right thing. He comes out of the pool and the summer a winner, thanks to honesty, Valerie and a little help from his friends.
Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson; Viking; $18; ages 12 and up.
Ten years ago, Laurie Halse Anderson's "Speak," about a teen who was raped before the start of her senior year, created a stir among librarians, parents, teachers and teenage readers. It also became a National Book Award finalist and is now regarded as one of the most important young adult books of the 20th century. Although Anderson has written several novels since, "Wintergirls" is the first to have the impact — and the controversy of "Speak."
Lia, the 18-year-old narrator of "Wintergirls," is in the depths of anorexia and depression. She counts every calorie and cuts herself in a crazy attempt to deal with the pain of her illness and the death of her best friend and eating-disorder partner, Cassie. Lia hears Cassie's ghost calling to her, encouraging her to keep getting skinnier so she can join Cassie on the other side.
Yet Lia also hears the pleas of her divorced parents, stepmother, stepsister, therapists and new friend who refuse to put up with her bull. She doesn't heed any advice until she finally decides that she does not want to die, and realizes how much her dangerous, life-threatening behavior has hurt those who love her.
Read "Wintergirls" for a realistic depiction of the anorexic mind and an impossible-to-put-down story.
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