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November 28, 2007 > Something old, something new

Something old, something new

What's great about children's books is that they are always new to their audience. These classics have been loved by generations of children because they bring together perfect text, humor and art.

"Are You My Mother?" by P.D. Eastman, Random House board book, $4.99 (1998)

Little ones can follow a confused baby bird's quest for his mother as he asks a dog, a cow, and a plane the Big Question. There is humor, pathos and a happy ending all in a board book able to withstand many readings.
Recommended for ages 1 - 3. Reviewed by JP.

"The Very Hungry Caterpillar" by Eric Carle, Philomel board book, $10.99 (1994)

The price might seem a little steep for a board book, but this classic is worth it. Follow this little caterpillar as he eats his way through the die-cut pages introducing fruits, the days of the week and numbers, along with a metamorphosis.
Recommended for baby to preschool. Reviewed by JP.

"Go Dog Go!" by P.D. Eastman, Random House hardback, $8.99 (1961)

Green dogs, yellow dogs, big dogs, little dogs - the world is a diverse place. There are simple silly phrases, cartoonish dogs, lots of concepts like colors and opposites, and even a romance. This is the original book - the board book version is very abridged. Recommended for preschool to kindergarten.
Reviewed by JP.

"The Wheels on the Bus" by Paul O. Zelinsky, Penguin hardback with movable parts, $20.99 (1990)

Zelinsky's illustrations are the perfect match for this preschool song favorite. Adults will marvel at the paper engineering, wheels that actually turn and wipers that swish. Watch the mothers' eyes move as the babies cry. Before reading to your child, try out the pull tabs and flaps which have to be unstuck before kid fingers pry them apart. For children who have never even seen a bus, an actual ride would be a great adventure.
Recommended for preschoolers. Reviewed by JP.

Science Fiction for Tweens

"The Alchemyst (Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel)" by Michael Cook, Delacorte hardback, $16.99 (2007)

Twins Josh and Sophia are living with their aunt in San Francisco for the summer. Josh has a job at a bookstore owned by Mr. and Mrs. Nick Flamel, while his sister works across the street in a coffee shop. One day a strange group of men show up at the bookstore, demanding Mr. Flamel hand over a book. Unbelievably, Josh witnesses a magical duel, an explosion, and then he and Mr. Flamel are running for their lives through an underground passageway. The book has been taken by the evil Dr. John Dee, except for a couple of pages that Josh managed to grab during the battle.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Perenelle Flamel, who was talking to Sophie in the coffee shop, sees the explosion, and runs across the street to see what has happened to the store and to her husband. In short order, she too has been taken by Mr. Dee. That's where the whole adventure starts.

Mr. Flamel explains that the contents of the book, if used badly, could lead to the return of Dark Elders, a race of beings who lived on Earth before man's time. Though some of the Dark Elders are nice enough, those that employ Dr. Dee want nothing less than the extermination of mankind. The two pages Josh has rescued are part of the critical spell to accomplish this.

Nicholas Flamel is in a quandary - protect the few pages of the book he has or go after Perenelle. He suspects that the twins could be the key in the fierce battle to come, and wants them to be prepared. But is there time? He takes the twins on the run, hoping to elude John Dee long enough to awaken the twins to their powers, whatever they are, while developing a strategy to fight for mankind's right to exist!

I liked the wild chase scenes, the adventure and the characters. Many don't particularly want to be cooperative, and the twins don't automatically trust their advisors, which is a nice bit of realism. Added to the interest is that Nicholas Flamel, his wife Perenelle, and John Dee were all real people in history, famous alchemists. The author leaves the plot at a hanging point, and the little excerpt from the sequel shows the team escaping to Paris, where they will meet up with Machiavelli!

Recommended for jr. high and for sci-fi fantasy fans. Reviewed by DH.

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