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"The Amah," by Laurence Yep; G.P. Putnam's Sons, 181 pages, $15.99.

Amy Chin is busy rehearsing for her role as a stepsister in a "Cinderella" ballet when her widowed mother takes a job as an "amah," or Chinese nanny, for a wealthy man with one daughter.

This means Amy must often baby-sit her younger siblings and miss dance class, jeopardizing her role in the performance.

To add insult to injury, her mother constantly sings the praises of "Miss Stephanie," who showers the Chins with presents, including hand-me-down clothes for Amy. And Amy is left feeling she must compete with this strange girl for the affections of her own family.

The prolific author of both picture books and young adult fiction (including the "Chinatown Mystery" series) creates a compelling and interesting story as two girls from different backgrounds work toward an understanding of each other.

Yep based the story on his grandmother's experience working as an amah for an American family and interviewed other amahs, their children and the children they cared for to better understand the strange "love triangle" of relationships created by such an arrangement.

-- Jean Westmoore


Online bookseller, celebrating Scholastic's release this week of the third Harry Potter book, "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban," is inviting kids 6 to 13 to invent a wizard candy "so wonderful, so fabulously strange, with such magical powers that it would even impress Harry Potter." (Remember the ear wax-flavored Every Flavor jelly beans in the book!) Just draw a color picture of your candy creation on white, unlined paper, name it "something wild and goofy," describe its magical powers or unusual flavors in 100 words or less and include name, age and street address. Entries must be mailed by Sept. 30 to Harry Potter Magical Candy Contest,, P.O. Box 81226, Seattle, Wash. 98108-1226. The grand prize winner's school library will get a $4,000 gift certificate for and an autographed box set of Harry Potter books, and the winner will get a wizard magic kit, a 3-D model of the candy invention, a boxed set of autographed Potter books and a $500 certificate for Prizes for 10 runners-up will be a $500 gift certificate for school library and a $100 gift certificate for


If you want to keep the tuna wrap cool in the school locker, check out the space-age "Z series" lunch boxes from Arctic Zone. The 2-Cool, priced at $5.99 to $7.99, is an insulated bag with separate compartments for food and drink. The Z-20 model, $12.99 to $14.99, has a separate drink holder. (Will the thing fit in that crowded backpack?) The smaller mini-cooler and sandwich box, for $3.99 to $5.99, promise to keep sandwiches "from looking like road kill."

Mini Ha-Ha

Why did the basketball team keep the teammate who was always sick?

Because he was so good at throwing up!

-- Knight Ridder

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