Monday, October 25, 2010

The Great Library Giveaway

Where the Best Books Are! will donate 300 books to a Denver, Colo., area school library in a giveaway beginning today!

The Great Library Giveaway runs through Mon., Nov. 22, and is open to public elementary schools in 16 local school districts.

With so many schools hit by budget cuts, Where the Best Books Are! hopes this donation will go a little way to help fill shelves and spur more ways to give back to schools.

All of the books in the giveaway were sent to Where the Best Books Are! for review purposes by these great children's publishers:

Abrams, Bloomsbury, Candlewick Press, Charlesbridge, Chronicle, Blue Apple Books, Disney-Hyperion, D.K. Publishing, HarperCollins, Houghton Mifflin, Imagine!, Kingfisher, Nomad, Peachtree, Penguin, Random House, Scholastic, Simon & Schuster, Sleeping Bear, Sterling and Tundra.

Among the highlights: Ingrid Law's Scumble, Over the Rainbow illustrated by Eric Puybaret with a 3-song CD by Judy Collins, The Night Before Christmas performed by Peter, Paul and Mary, and illustrated by Puybaret, Tammi Sauer's Mostly Monsterly, J. Patrick Lewis's Kindergarten Cat and Tad Hills's How Rocket Learned to Read.

Anyone can enter a Denver-area school in the giveaway, whether you live in-state or not -- school staff, district administrators, families of students, friends, etc.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Dark Emperor & Other Poems of the Night

By Joyce Sidman
Illustrated by Rick Allen
$16.99, 4-8, 32 pages

An award-winning poet invites you to "smell your way among the trees" in this beautiful, evocative book about nature's night life.

"To all of you who crawl and creep, / who buzz and chirp and hoot and peep, / who wake at dusk and throw off sleep: / Welcome to the night," Sidman writes in her opening poem.

Sidman's verses embrace the sights, sounds and smells of the night woods, while Allen's block prints envelop you in the dark beauty of things barely seen.

Richly textured and stunning to look at, Allen's engravings show only what the moonlight or approaching dawn affords.

In one spread, the moon illuminates the filaments of a spider web as if dusted with fine glitter, and in another, the bold shadows of sunrise divide trees between darkness and light.

"Where are the pale scarves of clouds?" the moon laments, as the sun rises in the book's last poem. "Where are my ghostly shadows, / my pools of molten silver, / poured with such extravagence?"

Monday, October 18, 2010

Mostly Monsterly

By Tammi Sauer
Illustrations by Scott Magoon
$14.99, ages 4-8, 40 pages

Bernadette the monster tries to do every creepy thing she's told. But deep down inside, she's just a softie.

The problem is, all the monster kids look down on sweet behavior and expect her to be just like them: gruff and loud and snarly.

In this adorably illustrated picture book, a monster girl discovers she can do nice things, and still be scary and revolting.

But it'll take Bernadette awhile to get there, and as the story opens, she's feeling a lot of pressure to behave badly at Monster Academy.

Most of the time in class, she acts as vile as everyone else: She slobbers and grunts, and keeps up her ghoulish looks.

Her skin is blue-green and sallow, her ears are pointy. She's got fangs, claws, a tail, big possessed eyes, even a skull necklace.

However, when no one is looking, Bernadette finds a quiet place to be nice.

She tiptoes through flowers, sniffs their petals, nuzzles with her cat and even bakes a muffin or two.

Then one day at school, Bernadette decides to take a chance and stop being so dreadful in class, though it doesn't quite go the way she hoped.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Day 5: Elise Primavera Blog Tour

After years of basking in Lulu's mouth, wrinkly, soft Thumb has to go.

And Elise Primavera is just the author to make it happen.

In her new picture book, Thumb Love, Primavera introduces Lulu, a girl with a self-help plan to kick the thumb-sucking habit.

But it's not an easy plan to live by, especially for her thumb. He's been cozy in her mouth for some time-- and now he'll be just another finger on a hand.

How will Lulu give Thumb the heave-ho and still show him he's a great digit to have?

From the author of the popular Auntie Claus comes an amusing tale about a girl, a thumb and the pangs of separation.

Read more about this fun story in Elise's post below! Then read my review and click live links to more blogs on the tour.

Thumb Love

Step 11: If you fail,...try again
Written and illustrated by Elise Primavera
$16.99, ages 4-8, 48 pages.

Breaking up is hard to do, and Lulu should know: she's developed a 12-step plan to quit the thumb-sucking habit.

But just try to convince Thumb that staying out of Lulu's mouth is a good idea.

In this hysterical, sweet book, a bob-haired Lulu finds the hutzpah to put her thumb in it's place:

Back with her other fingers instead of corked in her mouth like a lollipop.

Now, Thumb's pretty peeved that Lulu's cutting him off, but what other choice does she have?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A Not Scary Story About Big Scary Things

By C.K. Williams
Illustrated by Gabi Swiatkowska
$16.99, ages 4-8, 32 pages

A boy stares down his biggest fear in the forest by refusing to believe it's real, in this clever, remarkable book.

With subtle, artful cues, award winners Williams and Swiatkowska show readers that monsters can only get to us if we think they can.

Once upon a time, despite all of the scary things he'd heard about the forest, a boy decided to walk through it, though we don't know exactly why.

Maybe he was on an errand or he lived nearby or he just wanted to go from here to there. But it didn't really matter because there he was.

He was in the very place everyone said had big, dark trees that block sunlight and cliffs that he could fall off. You know, a regular, ordinary forest where there are probably bears who growl and wolves who howl.

And how does everyone know this? "Because if you listened very hard you could almost hear them," Williams writes.

Monday, October 11, 2010

A Bookplate for You

Click to enlarge.
Money may not grow on trees, but I'd like to think that somewhere books do!

I hope you enjoy my first attempt at making a bookplate, a morning diversion of doodling and playing in Photoshop.

If you'd like, you are welcome to print it out on sticker paper and use it in your fall books.

For more free bookplates, visit author Anne Fine's lovely web page, My Home Library, here.

There you'll find 200 bookplates by well-known illustrators, such as Jane Ray, Quentin Blake and Polly Dunbar.

Happy autumn to all of you!


Quackenstein Hatches a Family

By Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen
Illustrated by Brian T. Jones
$15.95, ages 4-8, 32 pages

A grouchy duck needs someone to love, but can he learn to love a beast whose parts are too hideous to bear?

In this adorable, rhyming read-aloud, a duck named Quack decides he's had enough with being a hermit at the zoo and hatches a plan to create a family of his own.

But then his plan takes a scary turn and Quack finds himself running for his life from a creature with mixed-up parts.

Will it bring about his ruin? Or will Quack discover that sometimes it's actually pretty great to be chased down?

Quack longs for affection, but he's grown very bitter watching all of the other zoo animals frolic about in their packs and gaggles.

It doesn't seem fair and you can tell he's worn out from anguishing about it.

His eye sockets are wrinkly, his eyes are bulgy and when he goes back to his shack, he wears his loneliness like a heavy coat, slumping into his nest.

Then one day he bumps his head into a sign in a secluded corner of the zoo that points to a pile of homeless eggs.

Seeing no one around, he creeps up and cackles, "I'll adopt."

Under the cloak of his wings, he steals off to his shack with one of the eggs, his eyes crazed by the possibilities it holds.

Once inside, he tucks the egg into his leafy nest then stares at it transfixed, dreaming of a little duck of his own.

Gently resting the tip of his beak over the egg, he calls it "ducky-poo" and promises the unborn duck that he'll never be neglected.

"Then one dark and stormy night, / The hour had arrived. / Quack heard a crack -- / He stumbled back / And shouted / It's Alive!"

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Top 13 Books for Halloween

from Calef Brown's Hallowilloween
It's time for rhymes and scary tales, and truths to make you pale:

1. First, the cracklety crack of bones in a sack, a boy in terror, running back. On a Windy Night

2. Then a boy in a horse, zapped to beyond by a plasma force. Ghostopolis

3. Now what's that flying in the night, swinging to home before the light? Bats at the Ballgame

4. In comes a boy and a hob, a whisper in the fog. An evil fay, a curse in the bog! The Crowfield Curse

5. Next in line, a wicked rhyme with brains of goat and a spout that floats. Hallowilloween

6. Then comes danger, gross and icky, sometimes clever, sometimes sticky. Danger!

7. Cutting in line, it's Zombie "Z", for "B" he has no empathy. But better be wary, "B" is scary! Alpha Oops! H for Halloween

8. Then a gravedigger rises from paper, haunting Marsh, with a scythe that tapers.  The Light: (Morpheus Road)

9. Next a monster needs a trim -- his hair? a snake? or something more grim? Even Monsters Need Haircuts

10. After which, a huggable lug who tries to scare, then learns to "luv." Big Scary Monster

11. Sillier monsters never seen, fiends to topple Frankenstein. Dr. Frankensketch's Monster Drawing Machine

12. Next a book to draw you near and sing a silly love of fear. If You're a Monster and You Know It

13. Clutch a cross, flash a mirror, better work fast, they're coming nearer!  Vampireology

1. On a Windy Night

By Nancy Raines Day
Illustrated by George Bates
$16.95, ages 4-8, 40 pages

A boy is haunted by crackling bones as woods transform into spooky creatures in this wickedly fun read-aloud.

As the boy in a skeleton jumpsuit heads home after trick-or-treating, he walks with his cat through a moon-lit wood that gets spookier with every step.

"On this winding road, on this windy night, / Clouds hide the moon -- / and / in / creeps / fright," Day writes, as imaginary cloud shapes sneak up from behind, one a clutching hand, the other a writhing serpent.

Bates brilliantly mimics the inky obscurity of night using parallel lines of ink, or hatching, over saturated blues, and delights with imaginative scenes of clouds, branches and leaves twisting into frightful sights.

The further the boy walks into the woods, the faster he steps. The wind rustles in his ear and he thinks he sees a bat with hollow eyes in the canopy of a leafless tree. Or is that just twigs meshed together?

Then a spooky voice calls out on the breeze, "Cracklety-Clack. Bones in a Sack. They could be yours -- if you look back."

The boy is so scared by the wind, his voice squeaks. "Who?" he asks, "Do you mean me?" On the opposite page, an owl with glowing orange eyes hoots, "Whooo else?" as an owl-like cloud dives down from the sky.

Next, the wind whips up rusty leaves into a ghostly swirl and it feels as if a ghost's tail is brushing past his face. The boy panics and race through the trees, holding his ears as the haunting voice grows louder.

As he looks up into a circle of towering bare trees, the upper branches seem to contort into ghosts. Their arms are raised as if to pounce as a ghostlike cloud looms over the boy with a gaping mouth.

2. Ghostopolis

Written and illustrated by Doug TenNapel
Graphix, 2010
$24.99, ages 10 and up, 272 pages

A dying boy is sent into the afterlife too soon and unless he can outwit a ruler who's corrupted the underworld city of Ghostopolis and find a ghost trafficker, he may not get back to Earth.

In this crazy-fun graphic novel, a boy with an incurable disease named Garth Hale is accidentally zapped into the underworld and goes in search of a Tuskagee airman who may know how to get him home.

The problem is, an evil mortal named Vaugner has taken over Ghostopolis from Airman Joe, who created the city so ghosts would have a place to live, and now Vaugner wants to destroy Garth, the only other living being there.

Vaugner believes Garth could threaten his reign because humans can harness supernatural powers in the underworld with their imagination. (Soon after arriving, Garth discovers he can fly and whip electrical balls at bad guys.)

As the tale opens, Garth is living alone with his mother and, though aware that his life is fleeting, he dreams of learning to fly a plane one day like his late grandpa, who became estranged from Garth's mother when she was a teen.

Then one day while reading in bed, Garth's life among the living is unexpectedly shortened by a night "mare."

A dead horse has snuck back to Earth from Ghostopolis and jumped through Garth's bedroom wall on top of him. Just as a ghost wrangler hits the send button on a machine that jettisons ghosts back to the hereafter, Garth and the mare evaporate in a puff of ions.

3. Bats at the Ballgame

Written and illustrated by Brian Lies
$16.99, ages 4-8, 32 pages

Anxious fans are hanging from stands in Lies's delightful followup to the best-selling Bats at the Library and Bats at the Beach.

Award-winning Lies reprises his wildly popular storyline about the escapades of bats who sneak into popular places after people go to sleep, this time with a tale about bats who swing on the wing.

Furry bats with leathery wings and pointy ears take flight to the ball park for a match against a rival team that's beaten them in every game and try to squeak in a win as the sun edges up the horizon.

As the story opens, some of the bats are waiting on tip-toe in their attic roost, their claws in mitts and caps on heads. They peer over a slat in the roof's vent and wish, just this once, they could push down the sun so night would come faster.

"Restless wings begin to itch -- / excitement's at a fever pitch," Lies writes in perfect rhyme, and at last it's time to soar to the stadium -- some of the bats to play ball, others to hang upside down from a tent's frame.

As the bats swoop under a red-and-white canopy, they're awed by the brightness of the field, as floodlights turn night to day, and they pass over a fence banner touting garlic flies and gnatwurst.

With no darkness to waste, flying vendors dive by fans, selling mothdogs and Cricket Jack candy, while on the field, ground crews roll out field lines with a shaker can of powdered sugar, and rake mounds and runs with forks.

Then silence descends as two bats in red uniforms fly in the U.S. flag. A bat in a fur-trimmed purple vest belts out an anthem song as a tiny long-earred bat to the side missteps and belts out a deafening note from his tuba.

4. The Crowfield Curse

By Pat Walsh
$16.99, ages 8 and up, 336 pages

After rescuing a hobgoblin in Foxwist Wood, a servant boy discovers a terrible curse that could shake the church to its foundations and doom a stricken man to an eternity of torment.

When William Paynel, a 14-year-old orphan working at the Crowfield Abbey, goes into the woods to collect firewood, he stumbles upon a hob whose leg's been mangled in a trap and learns about a long-guarded secret.

As William nurses the hob back to health with the aid of his friend Brother Snail, the hob tells him that long ago two brothers at the abbey hid the body of a mysterious winged creature in the wood.

The creature, said to have "skin the color of shadows on snow" and to stand as tall as a hut, was killed by an ancient evil fay for rescuing another hob the fay was hunting.

Now a hundred years later, whispers from the spirit world are telling hobs that the evil fay, the Dark King, has returned to Foxwist and will be forcing all hobs who live alone to join the king's court or be hunted to the death.

Back at the abbey, strange things are happening as well. William overhears a visitor frantically tell to the prior that someone is asking in town about a dead angel, which Williams realizes must be the winged creature from long ago.

William confides what he's heard to Brother Snail, who confirms the story of the dead angel and leads William to a casket locked away in the abbey. Inside is a feather the monks discovered after burying the angel.

Until now, Crowfield's curse, the secret of the angel, had been well-concealed. Brother Snail warns that if word gets out that an angel can die like a mortal creature, people may no longer think God is immortal and their faith in Him could be lost.

5. Hallowilloween

Written and illustrated by Calef Brown
$16.99, ages 5-8, 40 pages

Don't look now, nonsensical beasts are on the prowl and they're sure to make you giggle.

Brown, the master of silliness, returns with a celebration of 14 things to be wary of on All Hallows Eve.

He begins with the furriest of brutes, a werewolf named Jack who crouches in the doorway.

Jack's a "give you a scare wolf," a "constantly burping and fouling the air wolf," he writes.

And he's right over there on the page right beside you, so try not stare!

If you're feeling hungry, you might want to pass on supper with the Grim Reeper, who recites drop-dead epitaphs, or the raven on a tarantula ranch who likes his vittles crispy.

"This is the home / and humble haven / of Old Napoleon / the hungry raven / who gorges on spiders / each day at lunchtime. / Munch, munch, munch. / He calls it 'crunch time.'"

And by all means, never tarry if alley cats begin to hiss and scowl.

"Those fools who meddle / or get in the middle / end up in the hospital / covered in cat spittle," Brown says matter-of-factly.

6. Danger!

Written by Laura Bueler, Susan Kennedy,
Jim Pipe and Richard Walker
$19.99, ages 10-17, 192 pages

Get ready to feel your jaw tighten at the horror of it all.

In this terrifying, tantalizing tome, a team of writers has come up with every scary thing you almost wish you didn't want to know.

The book begins with "Nature's Nasties," all those creepy things that may be lurking nearby, or somewhere in the tropics, or somewhere in the deep sea, or somewhere inside of you.

The first thing you see is a "Wanted" poster in sepia tone with the most dangerous critters on the planet, beginning with the mosquito, the greatest host malaria has ever known, to the King Cobra, who can take down an elephant in one bite.

In a shark-feasting diagram that follows, the team explores whether sharks are really the serial killers of the ocean we make them out to be or just poor, misunderstood fellows with a taste for human flesh (and a side of krill).

Next comes a gruesomely funny comic of guy trying to escape the clutches of a grey white shark. Ah ha! Rodney's poked the shark in the eye. But watch out, Rodney, he's darting up from behind!

Oh, no! There's red stuff oozing off your arm, Rodney. Will you meet your doom or have a cool scar to show the guys?

On another page, eight cuddly looking creatures bat their eyes at readers, while below authors reveal their wicked secrets.

Did you know that koala bears, with those cute tufted ears and velvety fur, have razor-sharp claws they're not afraid to use? Or that flipper sometimes hunts down porpoises for no good reason?

And that's only part of chapter 1!

7. Alpha Oops! H is for Halloween

By Alethea Kontis
Illustrated by Bob Kolar
$15.99, ages 4-8, 40 pages

A bumbling troupe of letters jockeys for parts in a Halloween play in this adorable encore to the best-seller Alpha Oops!

As the troupe prepares for their big Halloween show, a drowsy "A" insists that "H" go first on stage for "Halloween," once again mixing up letters A-Z.

"Z," who promoted himself up the alphabet in Alpha Oops!, asserts himself once again. As soon as "H" is done with his act, "Z" shuffles forward with red eyes for "Zombie."

Just below him on the page, "N" quakes in his bed from a "Nightmare," as a spider with googly eyes dangles nearby, and what's that on the opposite page?

Don't look now, "K's" jumped into the ocean in a floatie to be a "Kraken" and "P" the "Pirate" is lashing at him from his ship.

But wait, that's not fair. "P" has commandeered "B's" role as raider of the high seas!

That was my costume, "B" the "Buccaneer" complains in his seafaring hat and peg leg, his mouth agape at the injustice of it all.

But down in the lower corner of the next page, "Z" steps forward and scolds "B." "Buck up!" he yells, acting like he's first in the alphabet, before telling "B" to find another costume.

Poor "B." It's a letter-eat-letter world. Even after "G" sprouts horns for "Goblin," "V" flutters out of a coffin for "Vampire" and "R" gets carried away by a "Raven," "B's" still stumped over what to be.

8. The Light (Morpheus Road)

By D.J. MacHale
$17.99, ages 10 and up, 352 pages

Marshall Seaver is being chased by a ghoul from his imagination and unless he can find his missing buddy Cooper, he may be forced on a journey no living being should ever take.

In this heart-pounding thriller by the author of the Pendragon series,16-year-old "Marsh" discovers his sketch of a gravedigger has come to life and wants him dead, and already may have done something sinister to best friend Cooper.

Marsh's only chance to save himself and Cooper is to convince Cooper's snippy sister Sydney to help him on a dangerous search for Cooper around her family's lakeside home, as forces of good and evil converge in this first book of a trilogy.

The nightmare all started as school let out for the summer. Marsh was looking forward to hanging out with Cooper, but then a series of unfortunate decisions he and others made shattered his plans and catapulted him into a week-long ghost story.

First Marsh had a row with Cooper, who was starting to hang out with a bad crowd and seemed to be growing up without him. Cooper had always been a wild guy, but now he was getting into serious trouble. He'd just been caught by police for scalping tickets and Sydney's boyfriend, a bully around school, seemed to have it in for him.

Then Marsh and his dad got into an argument. His dad was worried Marsh was becoming too much of a loner, and Marsh didn't want to hear it. He liked the way he was and stormed up to his bedroom. Looking for an outlet for his anger, he smashed a golden orb given to him by his late mother. As the orb broke open, blood splattered everywhere.

Or did it? Before Marsh could show the mess to his dad, it vanished as if it never happened.

9. Even Monsters Need Haircuts

Written and illustrated by Matthew McElligott
$14.99, ages 4-8, 40 pages

Some say full moons cause sleeplessness and craziness, and one little boy should know.

He gets up at midnight every month when the moon is as round as a beach ball and heads down to his dad's barber shop to give his monster friends hair-dos.

Like every lunar cycle before, it's been a month since their last cut and some are looking kind of shaggy -- well, sort.

Frankenstein needs his flattop squared up, an ogre has a maverick hair twirling out of the top of his purple head and Medusa's snake locks could use a few braids.

The boy's not a bit scared and he's careful to follow family rules, especially the one about not going out of the house alone.

His friend Vlad, the vampire bat, meets him outside his window and flies by his side as he walks to the back of Dad's shop with a skeleton key in hand.

Once inside, Vlad loses the wings and goes around the shop flipping around wall art of coiffed human heads to show glam monsters on the other sides.

Now it's time for the boy to unpack grooming supplies from his backpack: his stink wax, tangling brush and, of course, shamp-ewww to keep his customers nice and hideous.

Vlad is first in the barber seat: he wants a sculpted forward-combed do. You can tell he trusts the boy completely, since he can't see his reflection in the mirror.

10. Big Scary Monster

Written and illustrated by Thomas Docherty
$15.99, ages 4-8, 40 pages

A hulking blue monster struts about scaring every creature at the top of a mountain until one day he gets a taste of his own terror.

Standing on the top of the mountain, the monster knows he's the biggest, scariest creature around and delights in sneaking up on little creatures, yelling, "Boo!," and seeing them scatter.

After awhile, the cute little bunnies, pigs, wiener dogs, roosters, frogs and turtles learn to hide from the big blocky fellow, leaving him scratching his head and wondering what to do.

Then one day while looking out from the peak, the big scary monster sees tiny little animals frolicking around in the valley and decides he needs a new herd of hapless creatures to scare.

So he ambles down the mountain, his big clawed arms swinging with confidence. But as the monster gets further down the mountain, something strange begins to happen: his perspective changes.

Rocks become bigger, and so do plants, and soon both are shadowing over him. 

And what of the little creatures playing below?

They're enormous: every little creature he used to scare has a counterpart that is double his size.

Shaken by the growing size of things, the monster hides behind a giant fluffy rock for safety. He's never been so scared in his life.

But why is the rock twitching?

11. Doctor Frankensketch's Monster Drawing Machine

Created by Michael Sherman & David Avidor
Klutz, 2010
$16.99, ages 8 and up, 20 pages

Dr. Frankenstein wasn't much of a sharer.

Whenever anyone asked how he pieced together his monster, he'd clam up so no one would repeat his hideous mistake.

But thanks to those crazy, devil-may-care editors at Klutz, your kids can now make their own gruesome blunders with Dr. Frankensketch's monster machine.

Within the pages of this clever art book, young dabblers get to assemble and trace a closet full of yellow-eyed, tummy-bulging ghouls.

But beware, the editors warn, as you open the storage locker for the monsters, "Contents may be rabid and angry."

Not to mention brutishly cute.

Inside the book are 20 ready-made ruffians that can be torn along serrated lines into three parts, a head, torso and lower portion with legs, then mixed to create other ghouls that are terribly, adorably wrong.

By themselves, these fellows are already pretty hideous.

There's a pointy-toothed ogre with zebra-striped horns and a clown-size nose and even a four-eyed blue blob that drips goo and has dog bone hands.

For traditionalists, there's also Frankenstein's monster with flat, green head, bolts in his neck and a scowling mouth and a Dracula with menacing brow, beady eyes and bloody lips.

But you haven't seen nothing yet.

12. If You're a Monster and You Know It

Written and illustrated by Rebecca Emberley and Ed Emberley
Orchard Books (Scholastic), 2010

If you want to see your children go zombie over a book, hold this one in front of them.

Then stand back and watch their eyes bulge out and their arms spring forward to get it out of your hands.

The Emberleys latest gem is an eye-popping delight. Bold, crisp cut-outs of rainbow colored monsters growl and jiggle to a raucous rendition of the popular repetitive song, "If You're Happy and You Know It."

As monsters jump out from all angles of the page with huge, hypnotic eyes, readers are coaxed to join in with the song and show they're monsters too by acting out various prompts.

First the monsters snort and growl, then they smack their claws, stomp their paws and twitch their tails. Next comes the silliest yet, wiggle your warts, as monsters shake their spotted bodies and flip around.

Then it's time for readers to show their stuff with a roar. As your child turns the page, a jagged mouthed monster opens his jaws wide over a two-page spread, suggesting just how loud they should cry out.

But wait, isn't it time for the tail of the song?

Clear out some furniture, Mom and Dad, it's time to do all six prompts at once!

13. Vampireology

The True History of the Fallen Ones
By Archibald Brooks
Edited by Nick Holt
$19.99, ages 9-12, 30 pages.

Vampires are lurking everywhere and unless you take heed, you may be cursed with bloodthirst for all eternity, the late Archibald Brooks warns in this entrancing visual guide to dealing with the undead.

As you flip through the pages of the album-size scrapbook, scholar Brooks provides everything you need to evade the curse of the Fallen Ones, including tips to detect vampires and protect yourself from their deadly charms.

Above all else, Brooks writes, don't be fooled into believing the romantic stories you've read from Bram Stoker and his ilk about vampires, for these fanged creatures are more than a glamorous fiction.

They have insinuated themselves in every corner of society and, if they want to, they can wipe out humankind forever. For now, they've refrained from doing so, but only because they need our positive energy as much as our blood.

"…the more they can corrupt human energy into something wicked, the more powerful they become, for it is from destruction of our essential humanity that they derive strength," Brooks explains. "…we are their playthings as much as their food."

Sadly, our Brooks was murdered at the British Museum on May 12, 1920, two decades after writing the book. We can all be grateful that he had the foresight to hide it in a museum cupboard, and leave instructions with his trusted friend, detective Joshua Kraik, to guard his research and take up the call of "Protector."

A Protector is a person of courage and intellect who takes on the fight to defeat the Fallen Ones. If the Protector's life is threatened, he chooses another human to take up the mantel, and as the books opens, we read the last letters Brooks would ever write, in which he beseeches Kraik to be the next vampire slayer.

Filled with scintillating details, Brooks's make-believe book is both a guide to survival and a call to readers everywhere to take up the call of vampire slayer. "Be certain," he warns, "this is not a child's game. It is a war, and we face the enemy's heavy assault dressed in our human weakness."

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Klutz Book of Inventions

By John Cassidy and Brendan Boyle
Klutz, 2010
$19.99, ages 4-8, 200 pages

No one celebrates the goof in us like Klutz, and in this hilarious salute to innovation, Klutz authors once again dare us to appear ridiculous.

This time, they ask us to invent something at home that's so outrageous that it could very well flop because that's how really great stuff happens.

Like Reusable Toilet Paper on page 140 or Outboard-Powered Floaties five pages later.

Well, OK, those probably need a little more work.

In this fast-paced followup to the best-selling encyclopedias of immaturity, Klutz co-founder Cassidy and IDEO Toy Lab's Boyle come up with 162 absurdly funny inventions that could develop into really good ones! (Really!)

Then at the end of the book they challenge us to send them one nutty idea of our own.

First things first, we must think like a Klutz inventor and to do that, we'll need a pep talk from the authors on the importance of taking crazy chances and being called a nitwit behind people's backs.

"…We're huge supporters of big flops and grand failures. Not so much because we enjoy a creative face-plant, but out of the belief that it's an absolutely necessary step," they write in an intro. "Potholes, dog doo and unguarded edges are always on any path worth taking and if you're not stepping into, onto, or over any of them -- the sad truth is, you're not going anywhere."