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KID BITS

SOMETHING TO READ
Matilda Bone by Karen Cushman, Clarion, $15, 166 pages.

The master of the medieval historical fiction novel provides a fascinating look at the medicine of the Middle Ages in this story of a young girl sent by a priest to be apprentice to "Red Peg the Bonesetter." (Cushman won the Newbery Medal for another novel about a teen career girl in "The Midwife's Apprentice, and a Newbery Honor for "Catherine, Called Birdy," also set in medieval England.)

Matilda, an orphan, has grown up with a priest as her mentor and has been taught to follow a strict routine of prayer and spiritual discipline, but knows nothing practical about making porridge, shopping at the market or setting a broken bone. She's of little help to Peg at first but gradually starts to appreciate the wisdom Peg and her doctor friend have gained in caring for the sick and wounded.

As she has in all her novels, Cushman offers an interesting historical backdrop, rollicking humor and a fascinating cast of characters, along with a spunky heroine.

-- Jean Westmoore
SOMETHING TO PLAY
"Ecco the Dolphin: Defender of the Future" ($40, Dreamcast) is a groundbreaking game that doesn't easily fit into any one category. Gamers play as Ecco the dolphin, who battles Foe, an alien force that threatens the harmony between humans and dolphins.

Visually, "Ecco" is awesome and takes full advantage of Dreamcast's graphic capabilities. Gamers swim past beautifully animated sharks, turtles and other underwater creatures. Plus, "Ecco's" controls are easy to master. On the downside, the game evolves slowly. At many levels, the objective is unclear at first. Gamers looking for an action-packed adventure should look elsewhere.

SPIDERMAN -- THE TEEN
Peter Parker, a k a Spider-Man, is going through a big change. The same is true for the X-Men -- Cyclops, Wolverine and the others.

Marvel Enterprises Inc. is reintroducing its most popular comic book characters under a new line called Ultimate Marvel, starring superheroes as teens who, when they're not battling evil, worry about school and fitting in.

In "Powerless," the first Ultimate Spider-Man issue, a picked-upon Peter Parker gets french fries hurled at him at the mall and has his Aunt May worrying whether he has Social Anxiety Disorder. Although it seems a little heavy on teen angst, the issue does set up Parker's transformation into Spider-Man (the story is based upon creator Stan Lee's original plot). For more info, go to www.marvel.com.

THE WAR ON DRUGS
The National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign is holding a contest for the best "anti-drug" idea from kids, with the prize the chance to see their idea incorporated into anti-drug public advertisements this fall. An "anti-drug" is something that makes you feel alive, that you can't live without, that makes you you. Submit your "anti-drug" as a poem or a rap and e-mail it to www.whatsyourantidrug.com or mail your videos or paintings to P.O. Box 2687, Buffalo, N.Y. 14240-2687. The mandatory parental permission form can be found on the Web site. Deadline for submissions is Oct. 10.

-- Knight Ridder

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