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November 7, 2006 > New books this fall by Joyce Peters & Dominique Hutches

New books this fall by Joyce Peters & Dominique Hutches

“Selvakumar Knew Better” by Virginia Kroll, illustrated by Xiaojun Li, Shen’s Books hardback, $17.95 (2006)
The day everything changes for Dinakaran’s family seemed normal enough. Papa was unloading his catch of fish, Mama was hanging laundry, and Dinakaran and his brothers were playing.   But Selvakumar, the family dog, knew better. He felt the ground rumbling and he kept pacing back and forth, whining.

Suddenly there was a strange roaring sound.  Papa looked around and suddenly shouted, “Tsunami! Run! Run!”   Thinking he would be safe inside, Dinakaran runs into his house. Selvakumar knew better.  He knows that something very bad is happening, and that he needs to help his boy get away.  But what can a dog do?   Save the day, that’s what! The best part of this story is that it is the true story of how one family’s dog refused to give up. This picture book is recommended for ages 6 and up since the tsunami is a fairly scary topic.  The beautiful illustrations complement the text in showing the locale’s beauty and the fearsome power of the water.  Reviewed by dh

“Flotsam” by David Wiesner, Clarion hardback, $17.00 (2006)

David Wiesner is the master of books without words.   His pictures fire up the imagination by suggesting more than what is seen.  In this latest work, a boy walks along the beach one gorgeous sunny day.  As he looks closely at the sea life, too closely in this case, a wave overtakes him! After the wave recedes, he gets up and finds the ocean has left him a gift: an underwater camera with film in it. After the film is developed, nothing prepares him for the fantastic scenes captured in the photos. Sea creatures never seen before, octopus families, underwater aliens, HUGE starfish…  Are these things real? You decide.  I find myself picking this book up again and again, discovering new delights every time.  Recommended for ages 7 and up.  Reviewed by dh.
For ages 8 and up:

“Ghosthunters and the Incredibly Revolting Ghost” by Cornelia Funke, Chicken House paperback, $4.99 (2006)

Cornelia Funke is best known for her books for older children, like “Thief Lord” and “Ink Spell.”  Now she’s created a new series for younger ghost story and mystery readers, perfect for “Bunnicula” (by James Howe) fans. The first in the series is “Ghosthunters and the Incredibly Revolting Ghost.”  Poor Tom has a ghost problem in his basement, and no one will listen to him. Finally his grandmother refers him to her friend Hetty Hysop, who is a world-famous ghosthunter. “No problem,” she says assuming this is an ASG, average scary ghost.

Tom starts the process, only to discover that his ghost has a problem of his own!  Hugo, the ghost, has been evicted from his long-time home by another, more scary ghost. This ghost is not average. It’s going to take Tom, Hetty and Hugo working together to make things right!   Lots of humor, and nothing overly scary, and best of all everything works out in the end. Recommended for 8 years and up.  Reviewed by dh.

“King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner, HarperCollins hardback, $16.00. (2006)
Fans who have been waiting for six long years for the sequel to “The Queen of Attolia” (2000) and the Newbery Honor Book “The Thief” (1996, both HarperCollins) can finally rejoice. Eugenides, the former Thief of Eddis, is back. As King of Attolia, after literally stealing and marrying the Queen, he must convince the rest of her court and her subjects that he deserves his title. The Attolians think he’s an idiot who is no match for the imperial Queen. They refuse to believe that he and Irene could honestly love one another, considering that she’s responsible for having his hand cut off. His attendants and guards mock and play pranks on him, all the while thinking that he’s too spineless and incompetent to protest.

When the naive young guard Costis expresses his contempt for the king in no uncertain terms, he is dragged by Eugenides into the center of the political maelstrom. Instead of a beheading, the usual penalty for such a transgression, Eugenides devises a better punishment.  Costis is given a promotion which takes him away from his squad and puts him at the beck and call of the king. It is through Costis’ eyes that readers see how he and the court consistently underestimate the shrewd young man. This third book in the series continues to involve political intrigue, espionage, and attempted assassination.

Unlike the previous two books which were dominated by the wars between kingdoms, all the action takes place within the confines of the Attolian palace. There is less action but more character development as “The King of Attolia” explores the complex and very romantic relationship between the monarchs. Although the book does stand alone, to appreciate the amazingly charismatic and beguiling character of Eugenides fully, it is best to read the titles in order.  Recommended for 7th graders and up.  Adults will love the tightly woven prose.  Reviewed by jp.

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