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"Which Witch?" by Eva Ibbotson, illustrated by Annabel Large; Dutton, 231 pages, $15.99.

Arriman the Awful, Wizard of the North, goes looking for a wife, but which witch will he choose?

He's limited to a local witch, narrowing his choices to the pathetic specimens found in Todcaster. There's old Mother Bloodwort, who keeps turning into a coffee table and then can't turn back again. There's Mabel Wrack, the mermaid's daughter, who has a serious problem with itchy scales on her legs. Worst of all is evil Madame Olympia with her necklace of human teeth.

Then there's poor Belladonna, who is problematically nice and wishes she could be nastier. Then she adopts an orphan and his pet worm, Rover, and Rover seems to have a real talent for magic.

Ibbotson follows in the grand tradition of Roald Dahl and J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter books in this funny fantasy novel. She has a real talent for the acidly funny phrase, and while the action is occasionally a bit scary, it's never too much. She was widely praised for "The Secret of Platform 13."

-- Jean Westmoore


Check out the Sea-Do Festival from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at the Aquarium of Niagara, 701 Whirlpool St., Niagara Falls.


Fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders are invited to enter an essay contest, writing 100 words or less on "Saving Energy Starts With Me." Entries, postmarked no later than Oct. 15, can be mailed to EnergySmart Schools Kids Contest, c/o Owens Corning, One Owens Corning Parkway, Toledo, Ohio 43659. The 10 winners nationwide will each win a $250 savings bond and also become "EnergySmart Schools Ambassadors" and win an all-expense paid trip to Washington, D.C., for an EnergySmart Schools Student Summit in November.


Kids 12 years old and younger are invited to design a "mock" Oreo cookie package in the "Color Me Oreo Campaign," with a top prize of $10,000 and five runner-up prizes of $5,000 each. Deadline is Oct. 11. Find entry forms on in-store Oreo displays or print them out from Rules are listed on the forms as well as on the Web site.


Ten new Beanie Babies should hit stores any day now. But is it true that they'll be the last ever? Clues are everywhere: The last of the new Beanies, a black bear, has the ominous name "The End." And on Aug. 31, Beanie maker Ty Inc. posted a black screen on its Web site. It stayed up for hours, but a few collectors got around it -- only to find a notice that read, "On December 31, 1999, 11:59 p.m. all Beanies will be retired . . . including the (new ones)!"

"It's a very good marketing technique," said Becky Phillips, author of "Beanie Mania." "This has created a huge frenzy."

Beanies are flying off the shelves, but Ms. Phillips expects Beanies to return next year: "Why would Ty eliminate its greatest source of income?" (We called Ty for a response, but a spokeswoman declined to comment.)

Ms. Phillips advised kids to study the poems on the new Beanies, because they'll reveal the fate of the toys. "It's like a treasure hunt," she said. In the Beantime, visit Ms. Phillips' Web site ( for the latest.


What happened when Mozart and Beethoven died?

They decomposed

-- Knight Ridder

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