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July 13, 2007 Edition
One moment Raoulino is playing with his adopted lizard brothers and sisters, the next moment he’s been swooped up in a net wielded by a zoo collector. Life in the Metropolitan Zoo isn’t bad, even though none of the scientists (nor Raoulino himself) seem to know what he is, exactly. Raoulino makes friends with the other reptiles, but he’s still homesick and finally devises a plan to escape. Three of his new friends decide to escape, too, and they all want to go home. But how will four reptiles find their way through a big city, let alone to Arizona, Maine, India, and an unknown tropical island?
Ted Hammond’s small farm town is shrinking. His entire school has only 9 students! Worse, his father wonders how, with beef prices going down, and fuel prices going up, the family farm is going to stay in business, which worries Ted. But most of his brain is filled up with the mystery of the face in the window of the empty Anderson house. Ted loves solving mysteries in books, but soon finds that real-life mysteries are more complicated and can’t be solved by one person. Clements’ books routinely explore vital aspects of growing up: in this case, independence, personal courage, responsibility, and duty, all packaged neatly in an enthralling mystery.
Tall, loud, red-headed Oliver stands out in any crowd, so when he finds a recipe for invisibility in an old magazine, he’s delighted to find it works perfectly! After being stuck in bus doors and nearly being killed crossing the street, Oliver’s ready to be himself again, but the magazine has vanished. His quiet, anxious, careful neighbor Nicky, who always takes pains to be unnoticeable in the way he dresses and behaves, may be the key to getting Oliver back to normal, if only the two manage to see each other through their various invisibilities.
10 year-old Dewey fits right into life at Los Alamos in 1943, where her father is doing “war work” – she’s a budding inventor who treasures the scrap piles, advanced math classes, and lack of adult supervision that are the natural result of a compound devoted to science. There’s lots that isn’t talked about at Los Alamos, though, notably something called “the gadget” that nearly all the adults are working on. As the gadget nears completion Dewey and her friends gradually realize what it is intended to do. The slow reveal of intent in this beautifully-written historical novel is poignant and effective.
Mrs. Bernthal’s third-grade class is full of practical jokers, including Robert, whose plastic snake accompanies Lester’s shrunken head and Kevin’s plastic vomit in the teacher’s desk drawer. When the class is assigned a report on gross or weird things, Robert chooses werewolves, working in a practical joke to capture the class’s attention. But Lucy gets the last laugh when her report on weird foods has Robert eating worms. Will he live it down? Can he top her joke?
In the 1950s, most of the land in Kenya is owned by Europeans and farmed by Kenyans working in brutal conditions, but the cracks in this racist system are beginning to show. Soldiers help the white farm owners keep order, while rebel mau-mau live in the forests and plot to drive the Europeans out of Kenya. In the midst of this, 12-year old Kariuki, whose father is a cook for the bwana, and Nigel, the bwana’s grandson become friends. Despite warnings to stay away from each other, their friendship endures, until one day, disaster strikes in this fast-moving historical novel.