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September 15, 2006 Edition

The Pirate meets the Queen, written and illustrated by Matt Faulkner.

Though Faulkner admits to embellishing the story of Granny O’Mally (also known as Grace O’Malley) somewhat, he has created a rough but charming heroine in Granny, who really did live in 1500s Ireland and really was a pirate. This melodramatically illustrated book spotlights a particularly intense period of her life, when she travels to England to meet Elizabeth I to petition for the release of her son from prison. Elizabeth agrees, but only because Granny assures her that she won’t attack any more of Elizabeth’s ships. But can the two powerful women trust each other? See Emily McCully’s “The Pirate Queen” for a different look at Granny O’Malley.

The Master Spy Handbook, by Rain Newcomb, illustrated by Jason Chin

There are two big reasons to read this: the fun mystery involving a youthful Agent O and Master Criminal Felicia, and the tips and hints on becoming a spy yourself. This is chock-full of advice on sending secret messages, reading codes, designing disguises, and sneaking around, all of which Agent O employs in her quest to keep Felicia from carrying out her evil plan to take over the world. See if you can keep up with Agent O and figure out the puzzle for yourself.

Langston Hughes, edited by David Roessel and Arnold Rampersad, illustrated by Benny Andrews

This is a beautiful first look at the poetry of Langston Hughes for middle and high school students, and may even work for younger kids with a little more background from adults. Hughes, a Harlem Renaissance poet, celebrates his African-American heritage and the struggle for civil rights in his poems. The four-page introduction gives readers who are new to Hughes a solid background from which to appreciate his work, and each poem is prefaced with a short introduction, often in Hughes’ own words. In addition, footnotes explain words and dialect, and help place the poem in time. But it is the pictures that make this special: they match the rhythm and vibrancy of Hughes’ poems and are alive with motion and feeling.

Mummies: the Newest, Coolest, and Creepiest from Around the World, by Shelley Tanaka

Prepare to be amazed by this book, which organizes information about mummies from around the world by continent. Tanaka emphasizes the scientific value of mummies and how much can be learned about climate, diet, and disease, and also addresses sticky questions about the ownership of mummies and other remains and the ethics of disturbing the dead. The latest research on some famous mummies (Tutanhkamen, for instance) is here, along with methods of mummification ranging from freezing and drying to a Buddhist self-mummification process. Lots of photos (some pretty graphic) accompany the text.

An Illustrated History of Japan, written and illustrated by Shigeo Nishimura

Detailed double-page spreads help bring select pieces of Japanese history to life for young readers, while the brief text supplies the facts. Each new page turn shows another of the fourteen major periods in Japanese history, starting from the time when Japan was part of the Asian mainland and ending with a view of the current well-populated geography. The pages between trace the birth of aristocracy, the rise of Buddhism, and the development of a cultural identity. There’s enough here to give readers an overview of the country, or to act as a supplement for drier material.

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