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"The Baby-Sitters Club: The Summer Before" by Ann M. Martin; Scholastic, 224 pages ($16.99) Ages 8 to 11.

The Baby-Sitters Club is back!
This hugely popular series, about the baby-sitting adventures of four girls -- Kristy, Claudia, Mary Anne and Stacey -- began in 1986 and ended 15 years later with 176 million copies in print.

Now Martin has written a brand-new book, a prequel to the series, and Scholastic plans to reprint the original books. The prequel introduces a new generation of readers to the four friends, Mary Anne Spier, Claudia Kishi, Kristy Thomas and newcomer Stacey McGill, and it's easy to see why readers love the series so much. Martin takes a realistic approach to what it's like to be 11 or 12 and starting a new life in middle school. Her books deal with tough issues kids can relate to. Kristy's parents are divorced, and Kristy hopes against hope that her dad will remember her birthday. Mary Anne's mother is dead, and her father is overprotective. Claudia is suddenly interested in clothes and boys and seems to be leaving her friends behind. Stacey has been newly diagnosed with diabetes and her former best friend has started a bullying campaign.

Even older fans of the 1980s series may want to check out "The Summer Before" to see where it all began.

-- Jean Westmoore



April is just around the corner and it's National Poetry Month. Kids ages 5 to 12 can celebrate by entering the third annual "Paws for Poetry" contest. Write an original poem of any length to, and provide a photo of, your favorite animal friend.

One grand prize winner in two categories (ages 5-9 and ages 10-12) will receive a $50 gift card to and a signed copy of contest judge Thad Krasnesky's "That Cat Can't Stay."

The contest is sponsored by Meet Me at the Corner ( and Flashlight Press (

Mail submissions to: "Paws for Poetry" Contest, c/o Meet Me at the Corner, 20 W. Del Norte, Colorado Springs, CO, 80907. Deadline is April 15. For more information, visit



The Eta Rho Sigma Chapter of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority is holding the Mwanamugimu Essay contest for students in grades K-6. The theme is "A Portrayal of Little Giants: The Children of Africa." Topics to choose from include The Music, The Language, The Lifestyle; Growing Up So Fast: Growing From Girl to Woman, From Boy to Man in Africa and the U.S., or the African Education System for Children.

Students must submit an official application form with a one- to two-page essay and report card attached (students in grades K-2 have the option to design a poster and two to three photos of you working on it) no later than April 1 to Jessica Lewis, P.O. Box 1617, Buffalo, NY 14215-1617. For information, call (585) 355-1667.

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