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"Following My Own Footsteps," by Mary Downing Hahn; Clarion, 186 pages, $13.95.

Mary Downing Hahn peers into the heart of a bully in this wonderful novel set during World War II.

Gordy Smith made his first appearance in "Stepping on the Cracks," which won the Scott O'Dell Historical Fiction Award in 1992.

Hahn says she wrote this sequel because she just had to know what happened to young Gordy after his father went to jail for beating up his older brother and his mother packed up the family to move to North Carolina.

The novel is told from Gordy's point of view, and every word of it rings true.

He hates his drunken, abusive father, he hates school, and he has a hair-trigger temper.

But Gordy has his redeeming qualities: He loves his sister June, defends his mother whenever he can, tries to help take care of his little brothers and makes friends with a boy next door who has polio. He even learns a grudging respect for his tough-minded grandmother, who takes the bedraggled Smith family into her home.

The most chilling portrait in the book is not Gordy's nasty "old man," but his wimpy mother, who keeps returning to her horrible husband, despite the terrible toll on her children.

This is possibly the most memorable portrait of a troubled child since Louis Sachar's "There's a Boy in the Girls' Bathroom."
-- Jean Westmoore


If you think Disney's version of "Beauty and the Beast" is the only one worth seeing, think again.

The live stage version of the classic "Beauty and the Beast" will be at Shea's Performing Arts Center for one performance only -- Saturday at 2 p.m.

At noon, before the performance, Shea's lobby will be filled with fun activities like Kids' Karaoke, clowns, face painting and crafts. These free activities will be kicked off by the appearance of Shea's Starman, whose message to kids is, "Culture is cool!"

For tickets, have a parent call Ticketmaster or Shea's at 847-0850.


If you've never heard of R.L. Stine, now's your chance: Walt Disney Records is producing Stine's "Goosebumps" books as audio cassettes.

The series includes "A Night in Terror Tower," "The Haunted Mask II," "A Shocker on Shock Street," "Revenge of the Lawn Gnomes," "Attack of the Mutant" and "Deep Trouble." Each is roughly an hour and costs $6.98.

The tapes are recorded with radio-style sound effects and full casts. They are thoroughly imaginative, well-produced and, best of all, not creepy enough to cause psychological damage. Just creepy enough to ... well ... raise goose bumps.


It's almost time to carve your Halloween jack-o'-lantern, so here's how to prepare those delicious pumpkin seeds for a holiday snack:

Rescue the seeds from that gloppy goop inside your pumpkin, rinse them in a strainer with cold water, then dry on paper towels. Next, spread the seeds on a cookie sheet with sides and bake for 20 minutes in a 400-degree oven. (Get an adult's OK first.) Check and stir the seeds a couple of times. Put the warm seeds in a bowl and mix in 2 tablespoons melted butter and 1 teaspoon salt.


Globally inclined? Drop a line to these folks:

International Pen Friends

P.O. Box 290065

Brooklyn, N.Y. 11229

Q. What was the first musical instrument?

A. The first instruments were probably objects used to bang out a beat. Think of sticks for drumming the ground, then for hitting other sticks and hollow things, such as logs. Drums made of pottery and animal skins were used at least 6,000 years ago in Africa and Europe. String instruments called lyres have also been around since then. Flutes, the oldest wind instrument (not counting seashells), are at least 5,500 years old.

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