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Summer adventures: New books can help kids expand horizons, imaginations

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Last summer, readers young and old crowded into bookstores to await the release of the final book in the Harry Potter series. Now, with the tale complete, fans must look outside of Hogwarts to satisfy their reading cravings.

This summer, plenty of new novels, series entries and nonfiction works can keep the magic alive in bookstores and libraries. Some offer magical adventures, others an understanding of history or information about the natural world.

Most of all, any reading material offers children the opportunity to spend their summers engaging their intellects and imaginations away from a television or computer screen.

Julie M. White, seventh- and eighth-grade English teacher at Immaculate Heart Central Junior/Senior High School, even recommends reading outdoors.

"Not only would they get the physical activity of sitting outside in the summer, but they'd get the mental stimulation," Ms. White said. "Fiction takes them outside themselves, and nonfiction expands their horizons."

Additionally, she said, students are "asked to read and write now across the curricula." Summer practice helps to develop skills that students need across the board, whether in English, history or even science and math classes.

Here are some suggestions of new books courtesy of Virginia P. "Ginger" Tebo, Roswell P. Flower Memorial Library children's librarian. For more suggestions, visit nearby libraries and bookstores. Borders bookstore at Watertown's Salmon Run Mall collects summer reading lists from area schools.


"Nick of Time" by Ted Bell (St. Martin's Griffin, 2008)

Nick McIver lives in England on the eve of World War II, but soon finds himself in 1805 after opening an old sea chest that belonged to an ancestor, Capt. Nicholas McIver of the Royal Navy. This swashbuckling "adventure through time" takes its readers to land and sea, above the water and below, as Nick and his sister, Kate, battle villains across time.

"The Book Thief" by Markus Zusak (Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2007)

This is a World War II-era story about a girl named Liesel Meminger who is taken to live in Molching, Germany, with a foster family. She steals a book, and her foster father reads it to her to lull her to sleep when she is roused by regular nightmares. Liesel steals more books and collects a peculiar set of friends.

"The Invention of Hugo Cabret" by Brian Selznick (Scholastic Press, 2007)

Hugo, an orphan, clock keeper and thief, lives in the walls of a busy Paris train station. His undercover life and his most precious secret are put in danger when he becomes acquainted with a bookish girl and an eccentric old man. The author intersperses text with series of drawings that create a film montage-like impact.

"Seekers: The Quest Begins" by Erin Hunter (HarperCollins, 2008)

From the author of the "Warriors" series comes the story of a black bear named Lusa, a polar bear named Kallik and a grizzly bear named Toklo who journey together through the Arctic wilderness. The story of three bears has never looked like this before. The book begins a six-book series in which, it is hoped, the "quest" continues.

"The Liberation of Gabriel King" by K.L. Going (Puffin, 2007)

In a small Georgia town in 1976, Gabriel King and Frita Wilson are about to go into fifth grade. Gabe, who is white, is determined not to go to the "big kids" wing, but Frita, who is African American, wants to liberate her friend from his fears so that they can move up to fifth grade together.

"Elijah of Buxton" by Christopher Curtis (Scholastic, 2007)

This work of historical fiction follows the adventure of Elijah, the first child born to freedom in a settlement of runaway slaves in Canada. He journeys to America in pursuit of a thief who stole money that a friend had been saving to buy his parents from slavery.

"Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!: Voices From a Medieval Village" by Laura Schlitz (Candlewick, 2007)

In another work of historical fiction, Laura Schlitz presents a collection of poetry and prose, written from the perspective of inhabitants of a 1255 manor. The pieces show a great knowledge of Medieval life and are also great for reading aloud.

"Found (Missing)" by Margaret Peterson Haddix (Simon & Schuster, 2008)

There's nothing strange about Jonah's adoption until he, as well as his friend Chip, also adopted, begin receiving mysterious letters. They become involved in a mystery revolving around a vast smuggling operation and an airplane that appeared out of nowhere.

Ms. Haddix is also the author of the popular "Shadow Children" series.

"Shooting the Moon" by Frances Dowell (Simon & Schuster, 2008)

Jamie Dexter and her older brother T.J. look up to their father, a colonel in the U.S. Army. T.J. even enlists to fight in Vietnam rather than go college. Jamie, excited to receive her first letters from T.J., is surprised instead to receive film. After learning to develop it, she is even more surprised when she sees what it shows.

"Airman" by Eoin Colfer (Hyperion, 2008)

Conor Broekjart was born to fly: he was born in a hot-air balloon at the Paris World's Fair. Conor lives an idyllic life studying the science of flight until he discovers a conspiracy against the king and is wrongly imprisoned. The only way for him to escape is to fly.

Also consider Mr. Colfer's "Artemis Fowl" series. Book six, "The Time Paradox," is due for release July 15.

"Waiting for Normal" by Leslie Connor (HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Books, 2008)

Addie shares an unbreakable bond with her stepfather, Dwight, even after he divorces her mother. Dwight provides a trailer for Addie and her mother in Schenectady, and the story follows Addie's adjustments even in light of her mother's irresponsibility.

"Diary of a Wimpy Kid" by Jeff Kinney (Abrams Books for Young Readers 2007)

This comical read takes its readers through middle-school life and drama from the eyes of Greg Heffley. This "novel in cartoons" even looks like a diary, with its wide-ruled pages covered with what look like handwriting and doodles.

The sequel, "Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules" (Amulet Books 2008), is also available, as are Mr. Kinney's Web comics on


"Breaking Dawn,"book four of Stephenie Meyer's Twilight Saga (Little, Brown Young Readers), will be released Aug. 2. The series began in 2006 with "Twilight," in which Isabella Swan moves to the gloomy town of Forks and meets the mysterious Edward Cullen. She is determined to discover his secret, but finds herself falling for him.

"Brisingr"(Knopf Books for Young Readers), book three of Christpher Paolini's "Inheritance" trilogy, is scheduled for release Sept. 20. The author was just 15 when he began book one, "Eragon," a story of a boy who finds a dragon egg.


"See How They Run: Campaign Dreams, Election Schemes, and the Race to the White House" by Susan Goodman (Bloomsbury, 2008)

With the presidential election quickly approaching, this book is a great way to introduce children to the ins and outs of the electoral process. It covers the history that made the process what it is, as well as the workings of primary elections, campaign financing, the electoral college, the importance of voting and the process of writing letters to representatives.

Ms. Goodman, with the help of Elwood Smith's goofy cartoon-like illustrations, keeps the subject interesting and engaging.

"We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball" by Kadir Nelson (Disney, 2008)

Mr. Nelson explores the history of Negro League Baseball, separating his chapters into nine "innings," each indicative of a certain period of that history. He uses his own paintings of Negro League greats to accompany the text.

"Spiders" by Nic Bishop (Scholastic, 2007)

Not for the faint of heart, "Spiders" features larger-than-life close-ups of the title creatures in action.

"Tracking Trash: Flotsam, Jetsam, and the Science of Ocean Motion" by Loree Griffin Burns (Houghton, 2007)

This is a look at ocean scientists, from Benjamin Franklin to Curtis Ebbesmeyer, an oceanographer who started to track trash, or flotsam, that washed up on the shore near his Seattle home. The book then discusses the importance of protecting the marine environment.

"Who Was First?: Discovering the Americas" by Russell Freedman (Clarion 2007)

This book explores the various arguments about who discovered the Americas and whose influences were felt. Mr. Freedman begins by discussing Columbus and works his way back to the Chinese, the Vikings and other possible discoverers.

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