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KID BITS

SOMETHING TO READ

"Another Day," by Marilyn Sachs; Dutton, 180 pages, $15.99.

Fourteen-year-old Olivia feels abandoned after her mother, a high-powered attorney, walks out, leaving her with her dad.

Shortly after that, Olivia's grandfather dies, leaving her grandmother overcome with grief.

The Jewish family's Sabbath gatherings are no longer graced by Grandma's wonderful matzoh balls and chicken, but by bland store-bought substitutes. To make things worse, Olivia's father starts spending all his time in front of his computer and her best friend talks about transferring to a special music school. And Olivia is failing algebra.

Then one day Olivia and her grandmother are walking by the lake in the park and a model remote-control fireboat sprays her grandmother with water. Olivia is angry, but the soaking seems to wake her grandmother out of her mourning.

Then Olivia declares her own independence when she takes drastic intervention to "rescue" her math tutor's dog.

Marilyn Sachs, the prolific author of many excellent novels including "The Bears House," offers a coming-of-age novel with a wonderful twist in her parallel "awakenings" of Grandma from her mourning and Olivia from her grief over her parents' divorce.

The reader will cheer, first as Grandma resists her family's well-meaning attempts to run her life, and then as Olivia asserts her independence and finds her own way to deal with her grief.
-- Jean Westmoore

SOMETHING TO DO

Is this ever the weekend to visit the Buffalo Zoo! First, from Friday to Monday, the Howl-o-ween Safari will take place from 6 to 9 p.m. There will be hayrides, a visit to the Extinct Animal Graveyard, face painting, crafts, the Monster Mash game, and cider and doughnuts. Space is limited and you must register by calling 837-3900, Ext. 114.

Also, this is the first of the zoo's WOW Weekends, which include storytelling, games, crafts and other hands-on activities for kids and their families. All this takes place between 1:30 and 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

A NEW PET

Hardly anyone has heard of it, but the fat-tailed gerbil could replace its slimmer cousin, the common gerbil, as the perfect starter pocket pet.

The fat-tailed gerbil -- also called the duprasi -- is distinguished by a clublike tail that looks like a baseball bat and is about 2 inches long, half as long as the gerbil's body. It has long catlike whiskers, large dark eyes and a rounder shape than the common gerbil.

Common gerbils can be wiggly to hold, and guinea pigs and hamsters are more likely to nip. Fat-tailed gerbils actually seem to enjoy being petted; some like to have their tummies scratched. Their fine gray-and-buff fur feels like the fuzz on a baby chick.

The fat-tailed gerbil, from the sub-Saharan desert in Africa, is a rodent version of the camel. It stores fat in its tail as a camel does in its hump. A skinny tail is a signal that a fat-tailed gerbil is undernourished or ill.

Like any other pet, fat-tails are a responsibility. But they're relatively easy to care for. A pre-packaged gerbil diet you can get at pet stores is the menu staple for fat-tails, but they appreciate lettuce (Romaine, green or red leaf, please) and grape snacks, and a mealworm or cricket on special occasions. Fat-tailed gerbils live about four to five years.

Toys are easy to find, and they come cheap. A paper towel roll cut in half is a great tunnel, and a rodent block (found at pet stores) provides the fat-tails something to chew on. Like chinchillas, fat-tails enjoy bathing in dust. Canned dust is available in pet stores.
-- Chicago Tribune

WRITE HERE, WRITE NOW

Robin Williams' fans can drop him a line at:

Building No. 58

10201 W. Pico Blvd.

Los Angeles, Calif. 90035

Q. Why do books cost more in Canada than in they do in the United States?

A. They just seem to cost a lot more. True, the two prices you'll often see on a book use dollar signs. But they aren't in the same money. The U.S. price is for American dollars, while the Canada price is for Canadian dollars. American dollars are worth more. It takes about $1.38 in Canadian money to buy what one U.S. dollar buys. So a book that costs five U.S. dollars might sell for seven Canadian dollars.

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