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Books in brief

>CHILDREN'S

Dust Devil by Anne Isaacs (illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky, Schwartz & Wade ($17.99) Ages 5 to 9.

The creators of the 1995 Caldecott Honor book, the tall tale "Swamp Angel," have teamed up again for an appealing romp of a sequel. Heroine Angelica Longrider has grown too big for Tennessee and moves to Montana, "a country so sizable that even Angel could fit in." Isaacs, a Buffalo native, spins a lively yarn for modern readers, full of energy, color, wonderful humor and clever plays on language (Angel finds Montana uncomfortably flat, so plucks up some mountains and plants them one at a time around the countryside, proclaiming "that's a beaut." ... "And to this day, every stand-alone peak in Montana is called a butte"). A fine sidekick a horse -- emerges from a dust storm and becomes Dust Devil. Feisty, clever Annie has a worthy foe in Backward Bart ("half rattlesnake, half badger and half mad hornet") and his Desperadoes, who ride giant mosquitoes. The story is propelled along with Isaacs' energetic prose: "Every now and then Dust Devil got the wild jiggershanks and bolted from his corral." The oversize format is perfect for a tall tale and Zelinsky's primitive-style paintings match the story with their wit and energy.

-- Jean Westmoore

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>COMMEMORATIVE

Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra: The BPO Celebrates the First 75 Years by Raya Lee and Edward Yadzinski; Buffalo Heritage Unlimited, 121 pages ($29.95). Also: BPO 75th Anniversary Calendar ($14.95)

From Hungarian conductor Lajos Shuk in 1935 to current maestro JoAnn Falletta, the 75-year history of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra has been one of extraordinary performers and memorable performances.

To commemorate that illustrious history, notable guest musicians, orchestra highlights and lineups of BPO musicians through the years are recalled through this artfully rendered, richly archived and easily accessible soft-cover book, published just in time for the holidays. An accompanying calendar also celebrates the BPO's 75-year history.

-- Mark Sommer

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>NONFICTION

America by Heart: Reflections on Family, Faith and Flag by Sarah Palin; Harper (272 pages, $25.99)

Sarah Palin has a way of making things seem simple. Her fans will hail her new book as another folksy and forthright Palin put-down of the liberal elite. Her critics will dismiss it as tendentious tripe. And many people probably won't care one way or the other.

That's too bad, because the book does tell us a lot -- some of it good, some not so good -- about a woman many believe has an eye on the White House.

It tells us she's a loving wife and mother, professes deep respect for American ideals of equality and freedom, and voices legitimate concern about the world we're leaving our children.

It also tells us she has the courage of her convictions for standing by her anti-abortion principles and giving birth to a baby with Down syndrome, even though she admits the prospect scared her until she actually held the baby.

The political Palin who emerges is less appealing. That Palin is prone to unsupported generalizations, wants simple answers to complex questions, has no sympathy with bipartisanship, mistakes sarcasm for wit, prefers derision to debate, and, like other zealots of both the right and the left, fails to realize that the great heart of America is moderate.

One of the most interesting things "America by Heart" reveals about Palin is that she seems to know less than she ought about our history. This is not a minor point, because Palin makes a very big deal of using the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution as warrants for her political agenda.

"America by Heart" is a mix of autobiography and political propaganda, padded with long quotations from a host of luminaries It's a little disingenuous, because she cherry-picks congenial quotations from people who would otherwise disagree with her. For instance, Martin Luther King Jr. would vehemently disagree with Palin over the use of federal programs to address social problems.

-- McClatchy Newspapers

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