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Books in Brief: Pumpkinheads by Rainbow Rowell, Good Thieves by Katherine Rundell


Pumpkinheads: A Graphic Novel by Rainbow Rowell, illustrated by Faith Erin Hicks; First Second ($24.99) Ages 12 and up.


This irresistible fresh and funny tale, of two best friends hanging out on their last night working together in a pumpkin patch, is the inspired collaboration of Nebraska author Rainbow Rowell, author of award-winning "Eleanor & Park," and "Carry On," and Faith Erin Hicks, Eisner Award-winning author of "The Adventures of Superhero Girl" and author of "Comics Will Break Your Heart."

Every fall of high school Deja and Josie (actually, Josiah) have worked together in the Succotash Hut at the "world's best pumpkin patch," every year saying good-bye until next season with a post-Halloween trip together to buy cut-rate candy.

Now they're seniors, and it's their last night together at the patch, facing their final good-bye. Josie is bummed, but Deja is determined to hook him up with Marcy, a girl at the Fudge Shoppe he's been mooning over forever. What if they skip out on slinging succotash in favor of enjoying the park, trying Josie's favorite foods and tracking down Marcy?

Against the colorful backdrop of the chaos of the pumpkin patch, sturdy, no-nonsense Deja and earnest, clueless Josie, with the ease of longtime friendship, discuss relationships, fate, the future and their feelings for each other as they deal with lost children,  a rampaging billy goat, a candy apple thief, kids using roasting sticks to sword fight in the S'Mores Pit,  a chase through the Corn Maize. Included is a map of the pumpkin patch, apparently styled after one in Omaha, Nebraska: the Pie Palace, the Kettle Corn Kettle, the Pumpkin Slingshot, the Freeto Pie Stop, the Hayrack Ride. This heartwarming, hilarious romp is the perfect Halloween read.


The Good Thieves by Katherine Rundell; Simon & Schuster, 261 pages ($17.99) Ages 8 to 12.


A girl's fierce love for her grandfather propels this beautifully written, dazzling adventure of acrobats, mobsters and stolen real estate in 1920s Manhattan.

Vita Marlowe, with one leg weakened by polio, makes a fearsome heroine right from the get go, as she takes aim with a marble at a seagull attacking a crow as Vita's ship nears New York Harbor.

Vita and her mother (Vita's father died in the Great War) have come to take home Vita's grandfather, who was grieving his beloved wife's death when he lost possession of the family home, a castle dismantled and shipped stone by stone from France. Vita wastes no time tracking down and confronting Sorrotore, nefarious new owner of Hudson Castle. After learning of an emerald necklace hidden in the castle, she decides to assemble a crew (including an acrobat and a pickpocket) to pull off a heist and recover the necklace.

Rundell writes with lyric grace: "New York waited outside the window, stretching up to the sky like the calligraphy of a particularly flamboyant god." Or, in describing Vita's grandfather: "Jack was a jeweler by trade, tall enough for doorways to pose a hazard and thin enough to fit his legs through a letterbox." She brings to life 1920s New York, with its skyscrapers, Carnegie Hall, the Dakota, Central Park, the New York Public Library, a speakeasy in the basement of a lingerie store.

Most of all she paints an unforgettable portrait of a grandfather's unbreakable bond with his granddaughter (he calls her Rapscallion, and taught her to throw when she was bedridden from polio). Rundell's marvelous portrait gallery of characters includes Arkady, a circus performer with a magical gift for dealing with animals and Samuel Kawadza, a boy who can fly. In her skilled hands, the incredible becomes the possible as she deftly weaves together a complex caper that involves numerous narrow escapes, by boat, horseback, and fire.

Rundell's previous books include "The Explorer" and "Rooftoppers."


Paper Son, the Inspiring Story of Tyrus Wong, Immigrant and Artist; by Julie Leung, illustrated by  and Chris Sasaki; Schwartz & Wade Books ($17.99) Ages 4 to 8.


This beautiful picture book biography tells the fascinating story of a Chinese immigrant who made film history with his impressionistic landscape backgrounds for Disney's 1942 animated classic,  "Bambi." The artist, Tyrus Wong, came to the U.S. with his father at age 9, graduated with honors from the Otis Art Institute and was originally hired by Disney Studios as an "in-betweener"– artists who did the tedious work of drawing the frames "in between" a movie's key art – until he painted the landscapes that impressed Walt Disney and changed animation forever.

The delicate, evocative illustrations are by Chris Sasaki, a former character designer and illustrator for Pixar Animation Studios. The "Paper Son" of the title refers to Chinese' immigrants practice of inventing new identities for themselves to circumvent U.S. policy restricting immigration to Chinese who could prove they were citizens of high status.

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