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"Sea of the Dead" by Julia Durango (Simon & Schuster, $15.99) ages 8 to 12. 132 pages.

This action-packed adventure tells the story of Kehl, the son of a warrior prince. His mother was recently murdered, but Kehl knows he must never show weakness or fear.

Kehl has always been told that the Teshic Empire ruled by his father is the center of the world. But when he is kidnapped by a seafaring band of rebels, his talent for drawing maps comes in handy. But should he believe what his father has always told him?

Durango creates memorable characters, page-turning suspense and the worthwhile lesson that new ideas are worth seeking out -- even when they upset your notions of the way the world is. The author based her story on this "what if": What if Europeans had never come to America and the Aztecs had expanded their empire, and all the conquered nations had gone into exile at sea?

-- Jean Westmoore



Hold the jelly! How creative can you be with your favorite, peanutty spread?

Jif, the peanut butter company, is sponsoring a contest to see who can come up with the most creative PB sandwich.

The details:

Open to kids ages 6-12.

Enter now through Nov. 13.

One grand prize winner receives a $25,000 scholarship; four runners-up $2,500; and five finalists will receive round-trip accommodations to attend a live final event in New York City.

All sandwiches must include two tablespoons of Jif PB (any variety).

Judging criteria: taste, appearance, nutritional balance, creativity and ease of preparation.

Downloadable entry form available on at:

Last year's winner was a 10-year-old from Lebanon, Pa., who created a Po' Boy Peanut Butter Chicken Cheesesteak, made with chicken, peppers, onions and mozzarella cheese, with a sauce made up of Jif peanut butter, Worcestershire sauce, honey and honey mustard.



How is a smashed TV set like a retired surgeon?

Neither one operates anymore.

-- McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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