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"Murder Afloat" by Jane Leslie Conly; Disney/Hyperion, $17.99, 164 pages.

Fourteen-year-old Benjamin Orville has grown up in comfort, living in Baltimore in a house with servants and his own pony. That all changes when his mother sends him to the market to buy a chicken in 1882, and he is kidnapped on the street with a bunch of German immigrants and forced to work on an oyster boat commanded by the murderous Captain Steele.

Locked up at night, forced to do back-breaking work in the freezing cold, watching one man thrown overboard and another abandoned after developing a fatal case of "oyster hand," Benjamin finds himself determined to escape but strangely appreciating life at sea and wondering if he will be able to adjust to his easy life back at home.

The author vividly describes life on an oyster boat and offers a colorful cast of characters, marvelous suspense and interesting detail about life in late 19th century Baltimore.

Conly, whose first novel, "Rasco and the Rats of NIMH," was made into a terrific animated movie, said her book was inspired by the true story of an 18-year-old Baltimore boy who was kidnapped and forced to serve on an oyster boat in Chesapeake Bay at the turn of the 20th century. (The work in the fall, winter and early spring was so tough that grown men refused to do it.)

-- Jean Westmoore



"Beakman on the Brain," for students in grades two through six, will be presented at 10:30 a.m. Monday at Shea's Performing Arts Center, 646 Main St. Tickets are $7. For information, call 829-1152 or visit



Where did the idea for the Frisbees come from? From 1871 until the 1950s, the Frisbie Baking Co. of Bridgeport, Conn., sold pies to many New England colleges. Legend has it that a group of college students at Yale University in Connecticut took the empty pie tins -- with the words "Frisbie's Pies" on them -- and began tossing and catching them. In 1948, two men created a plastic version of a pie plate and called it a Pluto Platter. In 1957, Wham-O bought the rights to the Pluto Platter and soon changed the name to Frisbee in honor of the baking company that inspired the toy.

-- Time Book of Why

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