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New Books

CHILDREN'S SELECTIONS

Walter the Farting Dog Banned from the Beach by William Kotzwinkle, Glenn Murray and Elizabeth Gundy (illustrated by Audrey Colman, Dutton, $16.99).

Another entertaining installment in the hugely popular series starring the irresistible flatulent canine. Colman's droll illustrations, as always, are delightful.

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The Girl's Like Spaghetti: Why, You Can't Manage Without Apostrophes by Lynne Truss (illustrated by Bonnie Timmons, G.P. Putnam's Sons, $16.99). Ages 6 and up.

This little book dramatically demonstrates the drastic difference in meaning that results from placement of apostrophes ("The dogs like my dad" or "The dog's like my dad," for instance). The accompanying cartoon illustrations certainly seem a fine way to permanently glue grammar rules into the impressionable brains of the target audience. This is an amusing follow-up to "Eats, Shoots and Leaves."

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The Neddiad: How Neddie Took the Train, Went to Hollywood, and Saved Civilization by Daniel Pinkwater (Houghton Mifflin, $16, 307 pages). Ages 10 to 14.

This original and entertaining fantasy, rich with details of Los Angeles of the late 1940s, tells the story of Neddie Wentworthstein, whose father decides to relocate from Chicago to L.A. after making a fortune in the shoelace business. During the cross-country journey, a shaman gives Neddie a turtle carved from a meteorite, and Neddie must figure out how to protect the turtle and ultimately save the world. The colorful details about the period -- the journey by train, the movie stars, the restaurant shaped like a hat -- are more successful than Neddie's strange mythic battle to save the world, but Pinkwater's offbeat narrative style will keep the reader turning the pages anyway.

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M Is for Magic by Neil Gaiman (illustrated by Teddy Kristiansen, HarperCollins, $16.99, 260 pages). Ages 10 and up.

The author of the supremely terrifying best-seller "Coraline" for young readers and the Sandman graphic novel series for adults offers a delectable smorgasbord of short stories for young readers. The rich and varied collection opens with the humorous nursery rhyme mayhem of "The Case of the Four and Twenty Blackbirds," cleverly lacing verbatim quotes from nursery rhymes into a '30s-style film noir mystery in which a gumshoe investigates the murder of one Humpty Dumpty. Other standouts include "The Sunbird," a darkly comic story about an Epicurean club dedicated to feasting on the world's rarest creatures; "October in the Chair" dedicated to Ray Bradbury; and the clever and surprising "Chivalry," in which a British pensioner stumbles upon the Holy Grail in an Oxfam thrift shop. Frightening stories in the mix include "Troll Bridge," "How to Talk to Girls at Parties" and "The Price," although none are as creepy as "Coraline."

***

The Lion Hunter: The Mark of Solomon Book One by Elizabeth E. Wein (Viking, $16.99, 216 pages).

A gifted author offers yet another gripping novel in her Arthurian/Aksumite cycle -- complex and fascinating works of historical fiction set in the kingdom of Aksum, Africa, in the sixth century. Here she continues the story from her novel "The Sunbird" about 12-year-old Telemakos, the half-Ethiopian grandson of King Arthur who was imprisoned and tortured after being sent to spy on traitors who were violating the emperor's plague quarantine. In this sequel, Telemakos is still haunted by nightmares but rejoicing over the birth of a baby sister when he is attacked by the emperor's pet lion and almost dies of his injuries. When threats start arriving in the royal household, Telemakos and his little sister are sent for safety to a neighboring kingdom. The rewards are many in this densely plotted but fascinating story, rich in invented details that may, or may not, describe the period. The family tree and glossary are helpful. The ending leaves the reader hanging with a "to be continued" in the second Solomon book, to be titled "The Empty Kingdom."

-- Jean Westmoore

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