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February 1, 2009 Edition

The Trouble Begins at 8, by Sid Fleischman

On a night that Halley’s Comet streaked across the sky, Samuel Clemens was born. And 30 years later, after surviving school, an apprenticeship as a printer, and an exciting career as a riverboat pilot, Clemens invented Mark Twain and got ready to make his name as a writer. Now Fleischman, no writing slouch himself, brings Twain and Clemens back to life in this lively biography of the writer who changed the face of American literature and showed readers that good literature didn’t have to be stuffy and serious. (ages 9 and up)

The Way We Work, by David Macaulay

The master of explanation turns his talents from the mechanical to the organic and takes on the human body. With the witty and detailed colored pencil drawings that made his previous books (“The Way Things Work”, etc.) so engaging, Macaulay starts from cells and moves on through breathing, circulation, digestion, the defense, nervous and skeletal systems, and reproduction. Breaking each step down, he makes even the most complex ideas accessible (though certainly not simple!) for anyone interested in the hows and whys of bodies. (for ages 9 through adult)

Underwear: what we wear under there, by Ruth Freeman Swain, illustrated by John O’Brien

Kids curious about the history of undies, t-shirts, and other “unmentionables” can find answers in this slim book. Cartoons illustrate dhotis, fundoshis, petticoats, and pantalettes as the text explains where in the world each was worn and why. The evolution of underclothing, from its use in keeping people warm to its role in keeping fancy clothes clean and finally (in many cases) as a fashion statement, is a fascinating trip, and this book makes it kid-friendly. (ages 9-12, younger with help)

Howtoons: the possibilities are endless! by Saul Griffith, Nick Dragotta, and Joost Bonsen

It’s got cartoons! It’s got projects! It’s got brother and sister, egging each other on in the quest for fun, adventure, and flying marshmallows! Meet Tucker and Celine, two kids trying to stay out of trouble but still have fun – is it an impossible task? NO! Whether they’re making marshmallow guns, starting a rock band with homemade instruments, or sending notes to Martians using a bicycle pump rocket, the two are busy inventing and creating things their own ways to have a great summer. (ages 8 and up, with parental assistance for projects)

Blindspot, by Kevin C. Pyle

Dean and his friends love playing in the woods – they know all the good hiding spots and the best routes home, the most exciting place to be when the train goes by and the tree with the greatest view. Dean’s parents and teachers are worried that he’s not paying attention in school, but how can he? All the history and war books he reads have filled up his mind with ideas for the next battle he and his buddies will enact and the next raid they’ll go on. But eventually, alliances shift and his friends lose interest in their “army” and move on to baseball and girlie magazines and Dean’s left alone, watching the stars, eating Halloween candy and listening to the homeless guy who lives in the woods. This thoughtful graphic novel captures the confusing kaleidoscope of emotions and thoughts that mark the passage from adolescence to adulthood. (ages 12 through adult)

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