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"Man of the Family" by Kathleen (Csere) Karr; Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $16, 179 pages.

Istvan (or Stephen) Csere is only 10 years old, but he's learning how to run his family's chicken farm in southern New Jersey in the 1920s. In addition to going to school and improving his English, he has to baby-sit his younger brothers and sister, do farm chores and practice the violin.

His father, Apa, is a musician who fled Hungary just before World War I and has settled on farming as a way to support his growing family. He has grand plans for the little farm and teaches Stephen all about sharpening scythes and other farm tasks. Apa likes to try new things (he freaks out the neighbors by using dynamite to get rid of the stumps from a field, for instance) and has big dreams of someday buying an electrical generator and an automobile.

Apa is a great father, patiently teaching Stephen how to understand fractions using segments of an orange. He buys Stephen a crystal set to make a radio, then terrifies everyone climbing up on the roof to install the antenna.

But tragedy strikes in the last chapter, and Stephen truly becomes "Man of the Family."

Karr based this interesting and colorful novel on her own family's experience after arriving from Hungary. She paints a vivid picture of Stephen and his family and their experiences working hard on the farm. And because she saved the tragedy for the last chapter and left us hanging about the fate of Stephen and his family, we must believe she intends to write a sequel.

-- Jean Westmoore


Channel 7 meteorologist Mike Randall will bring his Mark Twain impersonation to the Lancaster Opera House, Central Avenue, Lancaster, at 8 p.m. Saturday in "Mark Twain Live!!!" Then on Sunday, an afternoon of Irish music and dance featuring Kindred and the Woodgate Championship Dance Company in "The Wearing of the Green" will be presented at the opera house at 2:30 p.m. Ticket prices are the same for both: $11 adults, $9 senior citizens and students and $6 for kids. Call 683-1776.


Tiarra Felix and her classmates at Grandview Elementary School on Grandview Avenue, Catskill, N.Y., 12414, are asking people around the country to send postcards, pictures, posters, magazines or anything that would help the class learn more about the United States and its geography. So far they've been sent a T-shirt, a sweat shirt, chestnuts, photos, letters -- and once even a person, a student from Wisconsin!


Have a mind for math? You might enjoy the math challenges in "Figure This," brain teasers developed by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics and others and available by logging onto


Q. What was the name of the first planet that was discovered?

A. You could say the Earth, in a couple of ways. After all, even the very first people couldn't help but "discover" it under their feet.

OK, too easy. You didn't mean that.

Thousands of years ago, when people started watching the sky, they noticed that some bright lights moved from night to night. That's how people, long before telescopes were even invented, knew about Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. Nobody knows who found which one first. Writing hadn't even been invented yet.

Oh, still too easy? You want a discovery by a scientist? The first faraway world found with a telescope was Uranus, identified by British astronomer William Herschel in 1781. Then again, centuries before, in 1543, a Polish thinker named Copernicus figured out that the Earth and the other planets all went around the sun. Since he discovered that Earth was a planet, too, you could say the Earth was the first planet "discovered" by a scientist. Even if people had been walking on it for years.


What did the monster want to eat after getting its teeth pulled?

The dentist!

-- Knight Ridder

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