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KID BITS

SOMETHING TO READ
All the Way Home by Patricia Reilly Giff; Delacorte, $15.95. Ages 8 to 12.

Mariel and Brick are both in fifth grade and both fans of the Brooklyn Dodgers.

And both are having a hard time. Mariel was stricken with polio as a child and lives in Brooklyn with her adopted mother, a nurse named Loretta. Teased by the other children about her funny-looking legs, she dreams of the mother who left her in a hospital in Windy Hill years before.

Brick lives in Windy Hill but after a fire burns their apple orchard, his parents have to move to other towns for work and Brick is sent to Brooklyn to live with his mother's friend, Loretta. Brick wants to go back to Windy Hill to help his old neighbor with the harvest; Mariel wants to go there to try to uncover the mystery about her mother.

Patricia Reilly Giff offers a vivid picture of a 1940s childhood in this simple, but appealing story, told in alternating chapters by Brick and Mariel. Other excellent titles by this author: "Lily's Crossing," "Nory Ryan's Song."

-- Jean Westmoore
MAKE A DIRT PIE
Think making dirt pies is only a backyard game for little kids? Wrong! It's also a fun way to spend an afternoon with friends and feed your face. (Recipe is adapted from "Zany Rainy Days: Indoor Ideas for Active Kids" by Hallie Warshaw ($19.95, Sterling Publishing).

DELICIOUS DIRT PIE
2 cups chocolate-cookie crumbs

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 stick ( 1/2 cup) unsalted butter, melted

6 milk chocolate bars (about 1 1/2 ounces each)

3 1/2 cups miniature marshmallows

6 disposable aluminum cupcake cups

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Put the butter in a glass bowl and melt it for 15 to 25 seconds in the microwave. (If you don't have a microwave, melt the butter over low heat on the stove.) Combine the melted butter, cookie crumbs, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Stir until all the dry ingredients stick together. Spoon the crumb mixture, divided evenly, into each cup. Press the crumbs so they cover the sides and bottom. Place the cups on a cookie sheet and bake the crusts for 10 minutes. When time is up, take the cups from the oven and cool them on a wire rack.

Turn up the oven to 450 degrees. Break the chocolate bars into a glass bowl and microwave it on high for 1 minute. Then stir the chocolate. If the chocolate isn't melted, microwave it again for 30 seconds more and stir. Repeat until the chocolate is smooth. (If you don't have a microwave, place the chocolate bars in a metal bowl and set it over a saucepan of barely simmering water. Stir until smooth.) Once it's melted, pour the chocolate evenly into the six crusts. Scatter marshmallows on each pie, pressing them lightly into the chocolate. Arrange the dirt pies on the cookie sheet and put it in the oven for about 2 minutes or until the marshmallows are golden brown. Let dirt pies cool, then dig in (no plastic shovel required)!

SOMETHING TO INVENT
Inventors with imagination in grades kindergarten through high school are invited to enter the Toshiba/National Science Teacher Association ExploraVision Awards program. The program gives prizes to students for innovative technology that could be used to make the world a better place 20 years from now. In the first phase of the contest, judges will select 24 winning projects, one from each of four grade-level categories in six regions in the U.S. and Canada. Each member of the 24 regional winning teams will get a digital camera and their schools will receive a Toshiba laptop computer and software. In the second phase of competition, the 24 regional finalist teams must design Web pages showcasing their technology. The judges then choose eight national finalist teams. Entry deadline is Feb. 4. For more information, check the Web site at www.toshiba.com/tai/exploravision.

Mini ha-ha
Where did the ghost eat his breakfast?

At the boo-ffet.

-- Knight Ridder Newspapers

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