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Books in Brief: No Good Deed by Kara Connolly, Home in the Rain by Bob Graham

No Good Deed by Kara Connolly; Delacorte Press, 352 pages ($17.99) Ages 14 and up.
This marvelous time-traveling adventure offers a clever girl-power take on the Robin Hood legend and is swashbuckling good fun, but it's debut author Kara Connolly's attention to historical detail that makes it such a terrific read. Eleanor "Ellie" Hudson is grieving the loss of her older brother Rob - gone missing in action during a Peace Corps mission - as she competes as the front-runner for the gold for the U.S. Olympic archery team. She's in jolly old England to qualify at the trials when she takes a wrong turn in the caverns under Nottingham Castle, ends up in the Middle Ages and immediately finds herself in trouble and on the run.  (Connolly is a wonderful writer: "The groan of rope and wood torqued fresh knots of panic inside me.") With her green hoodie and short hair Eleanor can pass as a boy and the shire reeve - that is sheriff - of Nottingham wants this "Rob of Hudson" locked up. Ellie knows her Middle Ages - her mother is a professor of medieval history at Notre Dame after all - but navigating 12th century England, with its bandits, rapacious officials, poverty, sewage-caked rivers, primitive medicine, scary diseases and general lawlessness proves to be a real challenge. The adventure has a touch of romance as handsome Knight Templar Sir James, just returned from the Crusades, comes to her rescue - and happens to own a longbow just her size. Connolly plops her  champion female archer into the 12th century of the Robin Hood legends and lets her loose, and this smart, impulsive, brave and goodhearted lass  gives it her 100 percent, whether shooting a turnip off someone's head, trying to retrieve nuns' stolen goats or rescuing a friend from the hangman's noose. (Little John and Will Scarlett make appearances.) The author finds the perfect way to wrap up her wonderful romp of a tale.
Home in the Rain by Bob Graham; Candlewick Press, $16.99.
Family love, human connection, the natural world, the gift of rain and the gift of grace to be found in quiet moments are all part of this simple, lovely book from an award-winning Australian author-illustrator. Francie, her mom and Baby Sister (yet to be born) are driving home in their little red car from Grandma's house, "a long way from home." Graham is a poet and his language is so lovely: The rain was "bucketing down," the rain on the canal was "turning the water white."  "A big rig passed on a long-haul trip, headed for Heaven knows where! It rocked them in road spray and washed them up into the picnic area." The lovely watercolors, all muted by the grays of rain, show us a little boy Marcus, shivering in his yellow raincoat and miserable on a fishing trip. There's an adorable field mouse "wet and confused" and "lucky, too" - because a kestrel 300 feet up "had lost sight of its prey."
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