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July 26, 2011 > Footnotes


For 1st grade and up:
My daughter and her husband are soon going to be proud parents of a Great Dane puppy (makes me a great dane grandma!). With that in mind, I've been thinking fondly of an older series of books about a Great Dane puppy named Pinkerton, written and illustrated by Stephen Kellogg. Prehistoric Pinkerton, stars a teething Pinkerton who loves to chew bones. When his little girl owner takes him along on a field trip to the dinosaur museum, you can just imagine what trouble Pinkerton gets into - dinosaur skeletons are all bones, right?

In Pinkerton, Behave!, our hero fails spectacularly at obedience classes. But when a burglar breaks into the family's house, Pinkerton knows exactly what to do! A Rose for Pinkerton is about what happens when the dog's family decides to adopt a companion for our hero... a kitten named Rose. Problems arise when Rose decides to act like a Great Dane and Pinkerton decides to act like a kitten! All Pinkerton books are charming, and the illustrations enhance the text with hilarious results. A favorite of all the members of our family and hopefully yours as well! (Puffin paperbacks, $6.99 apiece).

For 5th grade and up:
Walls Within Walls, by Maureen Sherry. Life used to be normal for the four Smithfork kids. Their dad, an inventor, worked from home, and their mom made their old house in Brooklyn a home. Then their dad sold his game invention to a big company and they moved to an exclusive apartment in Manhattan. They were going to have to attend new schools that required uniforms, their parents were always gone, out doing important things, and nothing felt like home anymore.

One day, when they were supposed to be unpacking, the kids discover a hidden wall behind an airflow grill; painted on it is a huge eyeball! There's enough space between the normal wall and the hidden wall for the youngest son, Patrick, to squirm into, so he crawls in to take a look and discovers a shelf and on it, a special book.

It turns out the book is an old library book. When the children try to return it, their adventures begin. It turns out that the man who used to own the building they live in, Mr. Post, was fond of riddles and hid his multimillion dollar fortune before he died. No one found his will, and no one found his fortune. The library book gives the children the first clue. They begin to find and decipher clues which show up in the strangest places. Their quest will send them all over New York City and uncover secrets that some grownups want very much to keep hidden! Will they ever find the treasure? (HarperCollins hardback, $16.99)

For 6th grade and up:
The Atomic Weight of Secrets or The Arrival of the Mysterious Men in Black (The Young Inventors Guild) by Eden Unger Bowditch. There are five incredible children, all raised by their respective parents in an odd way: they were encouraged to experiment and invent from a very young age, they didn't go to conventional schools, and their parents were always away doing mysterious things. Still, no matter how distant, the children knew their parents loved them. One day, in each household, mysterious men dressed in very odd black costumes - a lacy bonnet? A teddy bear hat? Pajamas? - show up at the doors. The next thing the children knew, they were sent to Dayton, Ohio, to attend school with Ms. Brett.

Their parents told them nothing about why they were separated from other children and Ms. Brett is unable to answer their questions either. All she can do is teach and distract them as the weeks roll by with no sign or word from their parents. But you can't expect children to stay content without answers.

They decide to follow the men in black to find their parents by inventing an ingenious device. You might wonder what great invention two 12-year-olds, one 13-year-old, one nine-year-old and one six-year-old can create but I wouldn't bet against them, if I were you! This is a suspenseful adventure, full of intrigue, danger, and very oddly dressed men. (Bancroft Press hardback, $19.95)

Young Adult and up:
The Amaranth Enchantment, by Julie Berry. Lucinda, as a young child, lived a fairytale life. Her parents were rich and adored their daughter. That all ended when her parents were killed in a carriage accident. Since then she has lived with her goldsmith uncle and miserable aunt, working as an unpaid maidservant. Everything changes one day when a thief shows up in her bedroom and a prince comes to the goldsmith's shop. Told to return a strange stone to a woman known locally as a witch, Lucinda becomes involved in an adventure which could return her to her ancestral home... provided she isn't killed first. Someone is definitely hunting for her - but why? If you enjoy Tamora Pierce books or Patricia Wrede's Chocolate Pot series, you're sure to find a new author to treasure here. And watch out for the goat! (Bloomsbury paperback, $7.99)

Young Adult and up:
North by Northwestern: A Seafaring Family on Deadly Alaskan Waters by Captain Sig Hansen and Mark Sundeen. Now I know you're going to think this is out of left field; a book written by a Deadliest Catch show captain? Really? Really!

This is a page turner, with three separate tales. The first is the story of how Sig Hansen became the captain of the Northwestern, one of the most successful crab boats on the Bering Sea. The second is of the development of those crab boats - the first designs all sank! There were brave fishermen aplenty, but getting a boat that could survive the trials and tribulations of severe arctic weather and the freezing Bering Sea was a different matter.

The third is one of the most compelling I've ever read, the story of Sig's father, Sverre, who survived immigration from Norway, service in the cold-war army and several shipwrecks to father the author. His story brings the dangers of crab fishing to the reader on a very personal level. Throughout the book we are treated to Sig's love of his family, his appreciation for hard work, and tales of the lives of the fishermen of Deadliest Catch. Of course he includes stories about his brother Edgar! A wonderful read for the summer if you are a fan of the show, or even if you're not! (St. Martin's Griffin Press paperback, $15.99)

Now, readers, I have a question for you! Years ago my mother (an author and avid reader) asked if any book had ever changed my life (she asked that I not include the obvious Bible, but anything else was open). I could think of several that changed my view of the world and my place in it, some on an intensely personal level. She, however, could not think of even one! I was astonished, and have since wondered about Tri-City readers.

Has reading a book, other than the Torah, Bible, Koran, or Bhagavad Gita, changed your life in any way? Please send me those titles, and a little bit about what it changed for you. Your emails will be welcome at (those very nice people in the office will forward your emails to me). I would love to do a column about books that are important to you! I can't wait to see what titles you recommend!

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