The Birdman by Veronika Martenova Charles (illustrated by Annouchka Gravel Galouchko & Stephan Daigle, Tundra Books, $17.95). Ages 5 to 8.
The author is a student of folklore and she traveled to India to research this interesting true picture book about a grieving tailor in Calcutta who finds healing by spending money to buy caged birds, nurse them back to health and release them to the wild. The artists are from Quebec and their stylized, colorful drawings are delightful. Photos of the real Birdman are included at the end.
The Green Glass Sea by Ellen Klages (Viking, $16.99, ages 9 to 12). 272 pages.
This finely crafted novel offers memorable characters and a vivid portrait of the secret city in Los Alamos, N.M., where scientists and mathematicians were racing to build what was dubbed "the gadget" (the atomic bomb) during World War II. It's told from the viewpoint of 10-year-old Dewey Kerrigan, who must travel alone to New Mexico to join her scientist-father. Dewey, who loves math and mechanical things, is used to being an outsider, with her orthopedic shoe, her thick glasses and her interest in "boy stuff" -- and she finds herself in the same role in this secret city until circumstances force her together with an unlikely ally. Klages offers a sensitive exploration of what it's like to be a girl who is "different," along with a fascinating look at what it must have been like for kids to live in Los Alamos. She wisely withholds the secret of "the gadget" until the end of the novel. This fine book won the Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction; the author is working on a sequel called "White Sands, Red Menace."
Firestorm: The Caretaker Trilogy Book 1 by David Klass (Farrar Straus Giroux, $17, 289 pages). Ages 12 and up.
The talented author of fine novels for Young Adults offers a thrilling environmental adventure in this original and suspenseful novel about a high school student who discovers he has a mission to reverse the Earth's environmental decline before it reaches the Turning Point. But first he must figure out how to escape assassins who await him at every turn. Klass's environmental warnings, that the fate of the planet hinges on the fate of the oceans, hit their mark in the midst of non-stop action involving shape-shifters, a bloodthirsty parrot, a fire-breathing villain, a Great White shark, an erupting volcano, a ninja maiden and a telepathic dog.
-- Jean Westmoore