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KID BITS

SOMETHING TO READ

"Crazy Fish," by Norma Fox Mazer; Morrow, 184 pages, $15.

Joyce is happy at home, living with her uncle, "Old Dad," and helping him run the town dump, finding the occasional treasure amid the trash (a pretty bottle, a wooden chair).

But school is torture. The kids seem to find a new way to harass her every day about living next to the dump. They put garbage in her desk, draw mocking pictures on the blackboard, sniff and say, "Do you smell garbage?," etc.

Joyce hopes a new girl will be her friend, but the new girl finds out her "secret" and dumps her, too. Hope blooms in the form of the school custodian, a chubby, jolly wonder with a mop. Mrs. Fish invites her for tea, for lunch, and their friendship blossoms. But then Old Dad (called "Ape" by the townspeople for his long arms) collapses one day and Joyce despairs about what to do.

The prolific, popular Mazer offers memorable characters and a wonderful lesson on finding friendship in unlikely places in this heartwarming story, originally published in 1980 as "Mrs. Fish, Ape and Me, the Dump Queen."

(Among her other acclaimed books are "After the Rain," a Newbery honor book; "Taking Terri Mueller," winner of the Edgar Award for Best Juvenile Mystery; "A Figure of Speech," a National Book Award nominee, and "Dear Bill, Remember Me?," a New York Times Outstanding Book of the Year.)

-- Jean Westmoore

SOMETHING TO DO

If you're a budding artist, you might want to hear what award-winning illustrator Paul Zelinsky has to say. Winner of the Caldecott Medal for "Rapunzel," he will give free lectures to children and parents at 4 p.m. Dec. 4 in the Amherst Main Library at Audubon, 350 John James Audubon Parkway (reservations required by calling 689-4922, Ext. 9) and at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Dec. 5 in the auditorium of the Buffalo and Erie County Central Library downtown. Use the Clinton Street entrance (reservations required by calling 858-7181).

Zelinsky says he always loved to draw but as a child never thought of becoming a book illustrator. "In the third grade I drew bestiaries of ridiculous animals, their habits and habitats; in fifth grade, my best friend and I ... developed an island world of two competing countries called Igglebeania and Squigglebeania (I know we never did agree about the spelling). ... At 14 we wrote a 'novel' about a monkey astronaut who saves the world from encroaching gorillas." His friend's father sent it to real publishers, but it was rejected. His career in children's books was inspired when he studied at Yale University and took a course with Maurice Sendak, creator of "Where the Wild Things Are."

SOMETHING TO WATCH

It's Girl Power times three when "The Powerpuff Girls" are around. The new Cartoon Network show, which airs at 8 p.m. Wednesday, stars superhero sisters Blossom, Bubbles and Buttercup. The girls often are asked to save the world -- and get excused from school to do it. We watched Episode 1, "Monkey See, Doggie Do," and loved how the gutsy girls battled a maniacal monkey who schemed to have dogs do his dirty work. In Episode 2, "Insect Inside," cockroaches attack the town and the girls must stop them -- without squishing 'em (it's a matter of principle). Faster than you can say "step on it," the girls come up with a plan.

Q&A

Q. How many have climbed Mount Everest and survived?

A. Enough to fill about 14 buses. Or about double the number of players in the National Basketball Association. Climbing the world's tallest mountain is an amazing feat, but it's not unusual these days. More than 700 people have climbed Mount Everest and lived. More than 80 people have reached the top in each of the past four years. One guide, Sherpa Ang Rita, has climbed the mountain 10 times. On May 10, 1993, 40 climbers from 10 countries all reached the summit, the Guinness Book of Records says.

But that doesn't mean that scaling Everest is easy. Thousands have tried and failed, including more than 150 who died. Some even reached the top but died on the way back down.

Mini ha-ha

What's the hardest thing about learning to ride a horse?

The ground!

-- Knight Ridder

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