Favorites for Toddlers


Toddlers as a reading audience can be very particular.  You have to find something that is short and simple.  But once they latch on to a book that they like, be prepared to read it to them multiple, multiple times.  Repetition is how they learn!

As the adult in a toddler’s life, you can increase your repetitive reading pleasure by choosing  books that appeal to you as well.  Here are a few that I have read over and over, and I’m not tired of them yet:

Grumpy Bird by Jeremy Tankard.  Bird’s friends lighten his mood, despite his determination to stay grumpy.

I’m Not Cute! by Jonathan Allen.  Baby Owl feels belittled by the other animals in the forest, but his wise mama knows what he wants to hear.

I'm the Biggest Thing in the Ocean by Kevin Sherry.  The giant squid boasts about being the biggest thing in the ocean -- almost.

What Will Fat Cat Sit On? by Jan Thomas.  In this supremely silly story, it looks like one of the animals is going to get squashed, until the desperate mouse suggests the use of a chair.

Jan Thomas has written several other books, but I didn’t think any of them matched up to Fat Cat until I read her newest title: Let’s Sing a Lullaby with the Brave Cowboy(Look at the website listed on the first page if you want to hear the tune.)  The not-so-brave cowboy keeps interrupting his bedtime song to the cows because he thinks he sees something scary (like a snake that is really a stick).

And for sheer brevity, you can’t beat Banana! by Ed Vere.   This entire book about two monkeys learning to share contains only two words, “banana” and “please.”  It will challenge you to read with many different inflections.

Have fun with these.  And if your toddler won’t sit still for them, don’t worry.  The important thing about reading to the littlest ones is to keep it light.  Catch them when they’re in the mood and stop when they have lost interest.  You can always try again later!


Paranormal action - Book Bomb

     So I have to admit it.  I am a paranormal action junkie.  I am NOT, however, a paranormal romance junkie.  In general, if there’s more than a kiss or two, I start to sound like a cat with a hairball and put the book down.  So if you’re looking for heaving chests and lots of lust, this list isn’t for you. 
     Anyway, I love books where a strong female character gets in over her head and somehow manages to save the day by becoming more than she thought she could.  If you’re a big fan of strong female characters, I’m going to put together a few book bombs for you.  At first I had planned to just do two, one for adults and then one for kids.  However, I put my list of authors together and needless to say, I ended up with more authors and series than could be fit into one list.  So I decided to split it up by type of fantasy.  I’ve divided it into contemporary fantasy parts one and two, Steampunk, and then high fantasy.  Once I’ve finished the lists for adults, I’ll move on to see how long the list is for kids.

Contemporary Fantasy

Part 1

We’ll start with one of my favorites.  Patricia Briggs writes the Mercy Thompson series.  Mercy Thompson is an unusual shape shifter.  She is a shape shifter in the Native American tradition and can turn into a coyote at will.  Set in the Pacific Northwest, I particularly like this series because Mercy owns her own business, a mechanic’s shop, and the series brings forth unusual dynamics within the supernatural communities.  Any book that merges vampires, werewolves, gremlins, fairies and Strega Nona in a workable fashion is creative in a way that I like.  Then there is a “romance” square going on in the series with two werewolves and a vampire all vying for Mercy’s affections, but there aren’t any hot and heavy love scenes.  The best part is that since Mercy is smaller than everything she’s fighting against, she has to figure out unusual ways to win including traps, alliances, and the odd divine intervention.  Moon Called is the first in the series.

If you like the Greek mythos, you will probably like Karen Chance’s Cassie (Cassandra) Palmer series.  As a clairvoyant on the run from a mafia-like vampire family, Cassie Palmer has to figure out how to keep herself and her friends alive.  This is made harder as she has foreseen her own murder.  Luckily, Cassie has something other clairvoyants don’t have:  the ability to talk to and befriend ghosts.  Set in Vegas, this series is sexier than the other series in the list, but I still wouldn’t count it as a romance.  Cassie is a likable character and there is a rich backstory.  The first in the series, Touch the Dark, sometimes gets a little bogged down with the backstory, but the rest of the series picks up speed with emotionally troubled demons, lamia coming back to earth, traveling through ley lines, and a fight with the God Apollo, which turned out so well for the first Cassandra after all.

Karen Chance also wrote the Dorina Basarb series.  This series is set in the same universe as the Cassie Palmer series.  It actually makes more sense if you read the other series first, as some of the characters make their first appearance as secondary characters there.  To be truthful, however, I prefer this series out of the two.  Dorina is a dhampir, and thus the natural enemy of all vampires.  Dhampirs are the child of a human and a vampire and are very rare. (Think Wesley Snipes in Blade)  She came about because her father became a vampire due to a curse, not the normal way.   The series is very dark.  Dorina, or Dory, is manipulated by her father, hunts her Uncle Dracula for revenge because he killed her mother, has blackouts where she goes into homicidal rages, and is generally in need of serious mental help.  There is a lot of discussion of vampire and fey politics and some really funny, odd humor.  It is definitely not a series for you to read to your kids.  It’s a little “sexy.”  Most of the sexiness is more along the lines of frustration and admiring the abs of people.  The first book is Midnight’s Daughter.

Watch out for tomatoes!  In Kim Harrison’s Dead Witch Walking, it’s a genetically engineered virus in tomatoes that kills most of humanity and exposes the weres, witches, and vampires that have been living amongst us for centuries.  The main character in this series is white witch Rachel Morgan.  One of my favorite things about this series is the strong supporting cast.   There’s Ivy the living vampire and Jenks the hyper-potent pixie.  The first book starts out with Rachel trying to quit her dead end job with Inderland Security, the equivalent of the FBI for the paranormal.  The only problem is that all she gets are the bottom of the barrel assignments, and you can’t just “quit.”   You have to hope to earn enough to buy off your contract and even then you normally don’t live that long.   Her only hope is to bust a politician who might be peddling Brimstone, a new type of drug for paranormals.

Here is another one of my favorite tough talking, big-walking, spike-swinging, shape-shifting heroines.  Jane Yellowrock is a Skinwalker who can take the shape of any animal of whom she has the DNA (or as she says the inner snake).  Sometime in the past, she came to share a body with the soul of a female mountain lion called Beast.  Beast is fiercely maternal, always hungry, and always on the prowl for a good fight or a good mate.  Jane is up for all but the latter.  In the first book of the series, Skinwalker, Jane heads down to New Orleans to do some freelance work hunting rogue vampires.   The Jane Yellowrock series is written by Faith Hunter.  The backstory is available in short story compilations.

OK.  Saving the best for last - My all-time favorite is without a doubt Seanan McGuire.  I have never before really considered myself a fan, but I have actually stood in line to get this woman’s autograph.  Her writing is amazing.  The first book in this series is Rosemary and Rue.  It tells the story of October Day, a half elf who was working as a PI for the fae.  She was working a missing person’s case and stumbled upon the wrong people in the Golden Gate Park Japanese Tea Garden.  Next thing she knows, she’s spending 14 years as a fish.  Needless to say, she eventually breaks the curse, comes back into San Francisco and works at your friendly neighborhood Safeway as the surly nightshift checkout girl.  (You know you always thought the night clerk was a little odd. Now you know why.) She gets pulled back into her old life when a message is left on her answering machine from an old friend.  The message turns out to be the last act of a dying elf, a death curse in fact.  Toby is left with a choice:  solve the murder of Countess Evening Winterrose or die.  I love the quirkiness of the characters and the sarcasm inherent in Toby.  She calls to the small part of me that just wants to smirk at the world even as I do my best to save it.  And that’s one thing that Toby will always try to do no matter what.  She was born to be a hero, a fate she can’t escape.


Cooking 101

For those of you who have plenty of time in your life to do nothing else but sit around and cook, I envy you.  But for the average individual who doesn’t get home from their job until well after 6:00, and then has to make something quickly before winding down and getting ready for the next day, cooking can become quite a chore.  What can put fun back in the kitchen for you?  What could make cooking a delight and not just a task?  I have two words for you: Alton Brown.
While I admit that his cooking method is as much about education as it is about the individual recipes or aesthetic appeal, anyone who has watched his television show knows that there is a little something in his work for everyone.   In his series of books, Good Eats : the early years, Good Eats 2 : the middle years and Good Eats 3 : the later years, Brown gives all the recipes and individual commentary to all the shows that he did under the Good Eats banner.  In the books, as well as in the show, he not only tells you how to cook the individual recipes but he gives reasons for all of the different methods that are used, and even explains why one pan is better at cooking the recipe as opposed to another, or why it’s better to use a weight measurement rather than a volume measurement for flour when it comes to baking.  Filled with fanciful characters as well as interesting tidbits about the history of cooking particular dishes, Brown has brought his own unique vision to cooking that is both stylistically pleasing and substantive.

But don’t just take my word for it. Try out any of his recipes for yourself.   I would have to say that I have had first-hand experience with success, cooking various dishes using his methodology.  I successfully produced simple sauces such as a homemade mayonnaise or English Rarebit, have been treated to both savory and sweet Pate a Choux that my daughter insists I make every Christmas, enjoyed sweet and tasty homemade marshmallows, and eventually aspired to attempt the more complicated yet equally rewarding cheese soufflĂ©, all following Brown’s advice.  If I were to take a look at one cook book for this year, or were to have one cookbook around the house (other than perhaps the Joy of Cooking), I would pick up at least one of Brown’s books. You would find yourself inspired to try cooking, you know, for the fun of it.


Book Bomb! Science Fiction For Dummies

Science fiction seems to have the unfortunate reputation of being this exclusive “for geeks only” or “dumb people need not apply” club, where spaceships, green men, and time travel, either singularly or in any combination of the three, are guaranteed elements.  But science fiction at its most basic is merely a glimpse into possibility, of what might be.  Not so long ago, thoughts of little machines that we could talk to, and have talk back, were definitely considered science fiction (or sometimes the deranged ravings of those who were enthusiastically imaginative before their time).  Now there are computers everywhere, in all their shapes, sizes and functions.  It’s a universal human proclivity to look forward, imagine, and ask “What if?”
Science fiction varies widely in its approach to this supposition, not always lasered on the purely technological, but also delving into the social, psychological, anthropological, and ecological.  If you’re thinking of dipping your toe into the literary waters of sci-fi for the first time, or if you’re an expert swimmer and want to try the unfamiliar tides, here are a few excellent titles that are classics in the genre (or should be, in my opinionated opinion).
The Giver (The Giver, #1) The Giver, by Lois Lowry, is a Newbery Award winning juvenile fiction novel, set in a deceptively simple utopian society.  A boy is called to fill a mysterious vocation in his community called the Receiver of Memories, a calling that requires he be the sole human repository of knowledge, specifically his society’s history - transferred telepathically to him by his predecessor, the Giver – from which the boy discovers the truth behind his people’s happiness, and the human cost of its seeming perfection.
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, by Philip K. Dick, is absolutely a sci-fi staple (as with most of his novels and stories), set in the future after a devastating world war has decimated not just the human population but all life on Earth.  Because of the rarity of life, ownership of a live animal is a mark of status (in some instances akin to owning a luxury vehicle today).  Synthetic life is much more common, even synthetic humans (called androids) with newer models almost indistinguishable from actual humans except by a psychological empathy test, or bone marrow test.  The story follows a bounty hunter sent to find six escaped androids who are the latest model.  Not a very long novel, Dick nonetheless manages to instill depth, thought, and human complexity enough for a book twice its length.  Inspired the cult classic film Blade Runner.

Hominids (Neanderthal Parallax, #1) The Neanderthal Parallax, by Robert J. Sawyer, author of Flashforward which was made into a television series of the same name, is a fascinating trilogy of books that details the discovery of two parallel Earths, ours as it is today, and another where Neanderthals have become the dominant race, and how the distinct evolutionary differences the two Earths have taken in religion (Neanderthals don’t have religion per se), society (theirs is definitely unique) and technology (thought-provoking) compare with each other.  The first volume, Hominids, won the Hugo Award for Best Novel.

The Snow Queen (The Snow Queen Cycle, #1) The Snow Queen, by Joan D. Vinge, another winner of the Hugo Award for Best Novel, is wonderfully written, and one of my favorites by Vinge.  It is set on a world that experiences a bi-seasonal shift (winter or spring) every 150 years that impacts not just the environment but also the planet’s political, ecological, and social aspects, creating two distinct groups of people: the Winters (who believe in technology and progress), and the Summers (who follow more pastoral traditions). A Summer girl named Moon becomes what is called a sibyl, with the ability to answer with scientific precision any question asked of her, leading her to discover the conspiracies behind her planet’s civilization, and her connection to her planet’s Winter ruler, the Snow Queen.  It’s definitely original and thoroughly engaging.

The City and the City The City & The City, by China Mieville, is a brilliant cross between the more speculative and psychological side of sci-fi and detective fiction, and is also a winner of the Hugo Award for Best Novel, among a slew of other prestigious awards.  An inspector pursues a crime investigation that leads from his city, Beszel, to its sister city, Ul Qoma.  The catch is that these twin cities occupy pretty much the same geographical space, with the boundaries separating the two imposed in a fascinating psychological (psychic?) manner: citizens of either city are taught from birth to recognize the subtle differences of one city from the other, and to “unsee” those things not from their city, even if they are directly before them.  Buildings and roads, vehicles and landmarks, even people, may cross paths, intermingle, or occupy the same space, but if they are of the opposite city, it’s as though they don’t exist.  Well-written and surprisingly accessible.

The Windup Girl The Windup Girl, by Paolo Bacigalupi, shared the Hugo Award for Best Novel in the same year as The City & The City, and it is rightly deserving of that honor.  It is set in a future dystopian Thailand, when the carbon and fossil fuels have run out and common sources of energy are more mechanical, such as the use of spring-wound devices  (yep, springs, like clockwork hence the reference to “windup”).  Currency is centered more on what can be grown rather than what can be spent or earned, and those in power are the ones who regulate food production.  Genetic modification is a common method of creating living products to meet human needs, bioterrorism to enforce economy.  Definitely not a light read (violence and politics and sex, oh my), and there isn’t one single determinable protagonist (although my favorite is Emiko, the nominal windup girl), but it is without a doubt original.

Neuromancer (Sprawl, #1) Neuromancer, by William Gibson, is the novel that made the word “cyberspace” an official technology term, and is (of course) a Hugo Award winner for Best Novel (I seem to have a penchant for these award-winners).  The story follows a disreputable character who was once a promising hacker but as punishment for corporate theft loses the ability to access this future’s version of the internet, a virtual reality network called the Matrix (yep, like the film - it’s a very influential novel).  Offered a temporary cure as part of a job (and a permanent one upon completion of said job), the novel dives into this amazingly imagined world of technology (which may or may not be where we’re headed) with cybernetically enhanced samurai, self-aware artificial intelligences, and computer-programmed human beings (these are just a few of my favorite things).
Click on any of the titles to visit the OC Public Libraries website and reserve a copy today!  What are some of your favorite science fiction stories?


"Time is money" or "Time is something to hold close" . . . You decide"

The Beloved Dearly by Doug Cooney is a heartwarming tale that deals with the loss of loved ones in an industrious manner. Set in what sounds to me like an Italian neighborhood in New York, Ernie Castellano, future entrepreneur, is in trouble again, this time for selling cheeseburgers at school. His father Red is fed-up with his schemes, some of which in the past have included used homework, skateboard rentals, and my personal favorite, booger insurance. Where was he when the wimpy kid was having trouble?

Ernie’s mother has recently died from cancer, and his father works all the time; a fact that may have something to do with Ernie’s business obsession. When Ernie meets the Cat Lady, a lonely hermit of a young woman with over 100 cats, his brain can’t help itself: he immediately thinks of another great business idea—even though his father has promised to ground him if he starts up another business.

What ensues is a touching tale of genuine friendship coupled with the realistic issues regarding self-centeredness vs. selflessness, compromise vs. stubbornness, and how working towards a central goal that benefits everyone creates lasting human bonds. Cooney displays a clever kid's voice packed with just enough humor to keep your child -- or the child within you -- engaged.  I recommend this read to children in the third to fifth grades.


Come On, Get Happy!

“Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.” ― Dalai Lama XIV

 “People are just as happy as they make up their minds to be.”
― Abraham Lincoln

Do you ever wonder what you can do to add a little happiness to your life?  What would put a little more joy into your day?  Gretchen Rubin did and then she set out to do something about it.  Her result was The Happiness Project, in which she documented her attempt to be happier.  At first, she wondered if this were even possible.  Can we really make ourselves happier?  After thinking long and hard and setting up a game plan, she realized that she could.  As Rubin says, her project may not look like your project, which may not look like my project.  However, we can each discover what little (or big) things we can do to give ourselves a little more happiness.

Each month she chooses a different area of her life to work on, which include family relationships, parenting, and making time for play.  And then she figures out what distinct steps she can take in each of those areas.  For example, in her month of focusing on play, we find these:  find more fun; take time to be silly; go off the path (to learn about things she may never have otherwise thought much about); and start a collection. 

Rubin then takes happiness a step farther in Happier at Home, where she applies the same ideas specifically to her home life.  Here she tackles her relationships with her possessions, her neighborhood, and how she spends her time, among other things.  In the chapter on time, she decides to control the cubicle in her pocket (not let her cell phone rule her life); guard her children’s free time; suffer for fifteen minutes (in order to take care of all the little projects she’s been putting off); and go on monthly adventures with her husband. 

Each book offers plenty of little things we can do to add some joy to our lives.  To me, it seems to come down to improving your general quality of life in small, doable ways.  Though we tend to think of happiness as spontaneous or uncontrolled, Rubin shows us that this is not necessarily so.  We can add happiness to our lives.  It helps when we put some thought and structure into our own attempts, since we see more results when we have a plan, instead of continually saying, “One day…”

Are you ready to get happy?


A Memory of Light

The End of an Epic: Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series comes to an exciting conclusion with A Memory of Light.

A 23-year, 14-volume epic fantasy series comes to an end with Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson’s A Memory of Light. It’s been an emotional and dangerous journey for Rand Al Thor-the Dragon Reborn-and his friends, but the time has come to put an end to the Dark One’s influence over the world.
To recap the story of the series so far: Over 3,000 years ago, magic users called Aes Sedai accidentally bored a hole into the prison of the Dark One-an evil force that is bent on ending the world. In the process of trying to reseal this prison, the source of magic that the male Aes Sedai used was tainted with the Dark One’s power. Because of this taint, male Aes Sedai began going insane, using their extraordinary powers to break the land into pieces. To stop them from breaking the world apart, female Aes Sedai started a pogrom to gentle (sever magical ties) or kill all the male Aes Sedai.

 Fast forward 3,000 years, to a small, rural farming community called the Two Rivers, where a boy who will become the world’s savior and his friends-who will have their own parts to play in changing the world-embark on a journey with an Aes Sedai named Moiraine. Fleeing the servants of the Dark One with Moiraine, the Two Rivers folk eventually find themselves on separate paths that will all lead to the same destination: The Final Battle with the Dark One.
 A Memory of Light follows Rand’s friends and allies as they battle to hold back the tide of darkness that threatens to swallow the land before Rand can fulfill his destiny and fight the Dark One himself. Will the newly crowned Queen Elayne save her burning capital city of Caemlyn? Will Mat reconcile his love of the Seanchan Empress Fortuona (may she live forever)? Will Perrin stop Slayer’s wolf genocide? Will Logain cleanse the Black Tower of the Dark One’s influence? And most importantly: Will Rand survive his fight with the Dark One, or will he have to sacrifice himself to save the world? All of these questions and more are answered in this final chronicle of the Dragon Reborn.

 Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series is a thrilling epic fantasy story in the vein of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings or George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice (A Game of Thrones for the HBO watchers out there). Jordan’s characterization is thorough, his fantasy world is one of the most fleshed-out I’ve ever read, and his protagonist is one of the deepest, most multi-dimensional characters I have had the pleasure of getting to know. This series is a must-read for all teen and adult fantasy-lovers out there. Enjoy! 


A New Take on Zombies

Zom-B by Darren Shan opens with a bloody scene in an Irish village overcome with zombies. Everyone in London thinks it’s a hoax and even if it isn’t, B Smith’s racist father thinks it’s alright to lose a few Irish. The master of horror, who is best known for his Cirque de Freak series, reels you in from the beginning and keeps you at the edge of your seat till the end. The gore-fest, in this fast paced first book in the series, plays like a George Romero movie. Most of the book is set in London and is about B Smith: a punk, bully, shoplifter and racist. B’s prejudices are rooted in the teachings of a father who believes there should be no immigrants or people of color in England. B’s best friend is black so B claims not to be racist, even though most of B’s behavior is bigoted. The zombie action kicks in when there’s an attack at B’s school, forcing B and a group of fellow students to work out a tactic to escape and survive the mayhem. The book ends with an exciting cliffhanger. The good news is the second book, Zom-B Underground, is already available.


The Chaperone

Long before LiLo’s every mishap was broadcast across the Internet, there was Lulu – in the 1920’s, Louise Brooks was the toast of Hollywood and a favorite of gossips. Even in the age before 24/7 access to the minutiae of celebrities’ lives, America loved to share the ups and downs of stars. In The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty, it’s Louise Brooks whose unconventional life provides plenty to talk about.

The cover features Brooks’ lovely face (although oddly, in a photo without the signature, iconic bangs that are mentioned so often throughout the novel), but the real heart of The Chaperone is Cora Carlisle, the Wichita matron who volunteers to chaperone a teenage Louise in New York City during the summer of 1922. Louise, already a beauty and well aware of the effect she has on men, is quite a challenge for Cora, who is serious about her responsibilities as guardian of the young girl’s virtue. The summer is a turning point for Louise; at the end of her stay, she earns a spot in a prestigious dance company which leads eventually to her ill-fated film career, but the change of direction that Cora takes is actually the more interesting and more moving story.

At 36, Cora is already settling into middle age; a very young bride, her twin sons are on their way to university the summer she finds a way to get to New York City to look for answers from her early years. Alternating with the events of that summer, Cora’s back story unfolds; the reader learns that even respectable society matrons have secrets.

Over the next six decades, Cora’s inner world changes dramatically, as she absorbs the changing social mores of the 1920’s and beyond, she learns to claim her own happiness and to stand up for what she feels is right, even if it isn’t popular. As the years go by, she maintains a soft spot for the troubled star, whose summer dance class gave Cora the opportunity to change her own life forever.

The audiobook is outstanding, with excellent narration from Elizabeth McGovern (Lady Cora in Downton Abbey).

In related reading, Cora reads Edith Wharton’s Age of Innocence; the themes of desire and betrayal are echoed in Cora’s own story, and the curious may want to check Moriarty’s version against Brooks’ own in Lulu in Hollywood, the collection of autobiographical essays published a few years before her death.

Other novels of women’s lives that stretch across many decades:

Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittmann by Ernest J. Gaines

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Atonement by Ian McEwan
...And Ladies of the Club by Helen Hooven Santmyer
The Color Purple by Alice Walker 


Adventure List for Intermediate & Upper Readers

XFICU Orlev, Uri
This tale is based on the true story of a nine-year-old boy who escapes the Warsaw Ghetto and must survive throughout the war in the Nazi-occupied Polish countryside.
 Someone Was Watching
XFICU Patneaude, David
When his baby sister disappears from the river near
their  summer home, eighth grader Chris fights the assumption that she has drowned.

XFICU Gary Paulsen
After a plane crash, thirteen-year-old Brian spends fifty-four days in the wilderness, learning to survive with
only the aid of a hatchet given him by his mother, and learning also to survive his parents' divorce.

 White Water
XFICI Peterson, P.J.
James and Greg go on a white water raft trip with their dad. Everything is fine until their dad is bitten by a rattlesnake.

 Night of the Twisters
XFICI Ruckman, Ivy
A fictional account of devastating tornadoes hitting Grand Island, Nebraska, as experienced by a 12 year old boy, his friends and family.

XFICU Sachar, Louis
As further evidence of his family's bad fortune which  they attribute to a curse on a distant relative, Stanley Yelnats is sent to a tough correctional camp in the
Texas desert where he finds his first real friend, a treasure, and a new sense of himself.

 Frozen Stiff
XFICI Shahan, Sherry
Cody and her cousin Derek sneak away for a two-day camping and kayaking trip in Alaska, but the trip goes horribly wrong when Cody's kayak is swept away along with their supplies and her life vest.
Zach's Lie
XFICU Smith, Roland
When Jack Osborne is befriended by his school's  custodian and a Basque girl, he begins to adjust to his family's move to Nevada, after entering the Witness Security Program, but the drug cartel against which his father will testify is determined to track them down.

 Bad Beginning
XFICI Snicket, Lemony
After the sudden death of their parents, the three Baudelaire children must depend on each other and their wits when it turns out that the distant relative who is appointed their guardian is determined to use any means necessary to get their fortune.

 Sign of the Beaver
XFICI Speare, Elizabeth George
Left alone to guard the family's wilderness home in eighteenth-century Maine, a boy is hard-pressed to survive until local Indians teach him their skills.

XFICI Stewart, Trenton Lee
After passing a series of mind-bending tests, four children
are selected for a secret mission that requires them to go undercover at the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened, where the only rule is that there are no rules.

 Ice Drift
XFICI Taylor, Theodore
Two Inuit brothers must fend for themselves while stranded on an ice floe that is adrift in the Greenland strait.

 Journey into Terror
XFICU Wallace, Bill
A country kid and his half-brother from the city team up and learn from each other in order to save their lives in an adventure set in rural Oklahoma.

Whipping Boy
XFICI Fleischman, Sid
A bratty prince and his whipping boy have many adventures when they inadvertently trade places after becoming involved with dangerous outlaws.

Slave Dancer
XFICI Fox, Paula
Kidnapped by the crew of an Africa-bound ship, a thirteen-year-old boy discovers to his horror that he is on a slaver and his job is to play music for the exercise periods of the human cargo.
XFICU Funke, Cornelia
Jacob and Will Reckless have looked out for each other    ever since their father disappeared, but when Jacob         discovers a magical mirror that transports him to a warring world populated by witches, giants, and ogres, he keeps it
to himself until Will follows him one day, with dire              consequences. First in a series.
Thief Lord
XFICU Funke, Cornelia
Two brothers, having run away from the aunt who plans to adopt the younger one, are sought by a detective hired by their aunt, but they have found shelter with--and protection from--Venice's "Thief Lord."
Stone Fox
XFICI Gardiner, John Reynolds
Little Willie hopes to pay the back taxes on his grandfather's farm with the purse from a dog sled race he enters.
Julie of the Wolves
XFICI George, Jean Craighead
While running away from home and an unwanted marriage,    a thirteen-year-old Eskimo girl becomes lost on the North Slope of Alaska and is befriended by a wolf pack.
Running Out of Time
XFICI Haddix, Margaret Peterson
When a diphtheria epidemic hits her 1840 village, thirteen-year-old Jessie discovers it's up to her to save the lives of the dying children.
XFICU Hiaasen, Carl
Hiaasen's wildly funny satire features the new kid, Roy,       joining forces with tough Beatrice and the elusive Mullet      Fingers to defeat a bully, thwart an avaricious corporation, and save a colony of burrowing owls. Hiaasen's work is both  a rollicking adventure and a serious examination of values  that threaten our environment.

XFICU Horowitz, Anthony
When Alex Rider's uncle dies, he is coerced in continuing his uncle's job as a spy. First in a series.

Wild Man Island
XFICU Hobbs, Will
After fourteen-year-old Andy slips away from his kayaking group to visit the wilderness site of his archaeologist     father's death, a storm strands him on Admiralty Island, Alaska, where he manages to survive, encounters            unexpected animal and human inhabitants, and looks for traces of the earliest prehistoric immigrants to America.
Jack Black and the Ship of Thieves
XFICI Hughes, Carol
Having fallen from his father's airship, Jack blunders into a feud between a pirate ship and a deadly ocean-going war machine and encounters danger, intrigue, and treachery.
Journey to the River Sea
XFICU Ibbotson, Eva
Sent with her governess to live with the dreadful Carter family in exotic Brazil in 1910, Maia endures many      hardships before fulfilling her dream of exploring the  Amazon River.
Earthquake Terror
XFICI Kehret, Peg
Jonathan and his sister Abby are alone on a deserted island after a devastating earthquake hits.
Chasing the Falconers
XFICI Korman, Gordon
Aidan and Meg Falconer are their parents' only hope of proving them innocent of treason. The problem? They are stuck in a juvenile detention center. (On the Run; Bk. 1)