Friday, August 31, 2007

Letter Perfect, Too!: Alphabet Mystery by Audrey Wood

If you know some kids who earned their letter sweaters on Alphabet Adventure (reviewed in my post of August 9), get them ready for another trip with Charley's adventuring lower-case alphabet.

In Alphabet Mystery little x fails to show up for morning roll call. The remaining 25 letters hop a handy pencil and soar out the window to find him. A clue! A clue! There's one of Charley's pencils parked inside a spooky castle wall!

Ushered inside by a lopsided big I (Igor?), the little letters find missing x dancing out a lullaby on a xylophone to help the Master (a big Green M) sleep. The Master (who describes himself as "Mean Miserable Monster") threatens to make them all into alphabet soup, but little x refuses to flee with his friends. "I ran way because Charley never used me," he confesses. "At least here I have a job."

But little i, (always the insider) whispers to little x that Charley is secretly planning to use him more than any other letter on his mother's birthday tomorrow. Master M is moved when he hears the story and bursts into merciful tears. "I have a mother, too," he confesses, Repentant, he allows each little letter to choose a gift for Charley's mother from his treasure room, and, of course, the little letters choose the gifts which match their initial sounds.

Back home Charley and Dad make the birthday cake, and Master M meaningfully becomes the big M in "Happy Birthday, Mom." Little x is happy four times over as he becomes the four kisses (xxxx) on the cake!

As in Alphabet Adventure the clever visual jokes with the little letters will keep kids spying out the fun in the wonderful three-dimensional illustrations, while the clever body language and phonic tie-ins of the letters will keep adults puzzling as well. Like its predecessor, this is another book that encourages thinking skills and which gets better every time you read it! It's xtra Marvelous!


Thursday, August 30, 2007

Hilariosity: The Confessions of Georgia Nicolson by Louise Rennison

I'm eons and eons away from high school days, and (truth in advertising) gave this book a second look only because of its weird title, but by the time I was half done, I'd declared it one of the funniest books I've ever read.

Georgia Nicolson is an over-the-top drama queen of the fourteen-year-old English schoolgirl variety, and in her nearly continuous journal postings she tells all--from her goofy and embarrassing family, her stud-muffin half-Scotch wildcat pet named Angus, her bedwetting but lovable little sister, to a trio of off-and-on boyfriends, including Dave the Laugh, Robbie the Sex God, and Masimo the Italian Stallion. Georgia presides over all this with a geniosity which is vair, vair amusant, to use her own inventive nouns and adjectives.

In book seven of the Confessions, Startled by His Furry Shorts, having given up on Robbie, who has moved to Kiwi-a-Go-Go-Land (New Zealand), Georgia has a date with Masimo, Italian-American lead singer of the local Stiff Dylans band, which results in some memorable snogging (kissing), which leads her to ask him to choose between her and his other frequent date, Gee's arch enemy, Wet Lindsay. Now Georgia is once more "on the rack of romance," in the "oven of luuurve," and at the "cakeshop of agony." Masimo promises to let her know his choice in a week's time, and Georgia drags through the week, going to school (Stalag 4), rehearsing their production of "MacUseless" (MacBeth), planning Rosie's distant future Viking wedding with her boyfriend Swen, watching Emma pair up with her once-and-sometime love interest Dave the Laugh, and pining with seriosity over Masimo.

When Masimo finally gives her the old "let's just be mates," speech, Georgia is left to contemplate a life of celebatosity as "spinster of the parish." Urged by her friends, the ace gang, to go stag with the group to the upcoming Stiff Dylans concert, Georgia is enticed to suffer through the gig by her friend's promise of a big surprise. Surviving an costume inspection from her parents ("Er, I think you will find that you have forgotten to put a skirt on, Georgia." "Oh, for goodness sake, Bob, it's fashion. They all look stupid. It's not just her!"), Georgia arrives at the concert, where Masimo startles her with a sudden profession of luurve:

So, Signorina Georgia, what do you think? Now I am the free man for you. If you still want to go out."

As Georgia is practicing an impression of a goldfish, all agog at this news, she suddenly spots Robbie, back from Kiwi-a-Go-Go, with eyes only for her. Bugger!

Book Eight in the series, the just-published Love Is a Many Trousered Thing, picks up the love saga the next day and follows Georgia into the last two weeks of fourth form, as the class goes on a campout and she struggles with, as she puts it, having "accidentally bought two cakes at the bakery of Luuurve." Georgia tries to figure out if Robbie is ready to resume their relationship, post Kiwi-a-Go-Go, and where Masimo fits in this luuurve triangle, when lingering thoughts of Dave the Laugh return to haunt her. As she hangs out with Dave during the camp week, he further muddles the waters:

"You are good value, Georgia. You are very nearly an honorary bloke, and that is why I love you!"

If all this sounds confusing, there's nothing to do but read the whole series of the Confessions of Georgia Nicolson to try to predict which boy will win Georgia's heart by series end. (I'm betting on Dave!) Finding humor in the teen scene isn't always easy, but Louise Rennison has the knack in spades. One warning: don't drink any beverages while you read these books! Word has it you'll laugh so hard they'll be coming out your nose!

Non-warning: Although she speaks frequently of luurve, Georgia and her friends are no racier than the kids in High School Movie, with a just a few well documented snogging (er, kissing) scenes as a casualositous change of pace.


Wednesday, August 29, 2007

You're Not Wearing That to School! Girls Go Mild by Wendy Shalit

As a parent who survived a daughter's teen years and now has a granddaughter just entering those restless years, I was interested in an extensive interview I heard with author Wendy Shalit, who roiled the waters a decade ago with her book A Return to Modesty.

Shalit's new book, Girls Gone Mild: Young Women Reclaim Self Respect and Find It's Not Bad to Be Good, takes on teen clothing and sexual practices head on, stating flatly that "looking 'wild' and acting 'wild' are supposed to be empowering, but more often they lead to misery."

Shalit lays most of blame for "girls gone wild" on "the old feminists" who she claims equated liberation with the sexual license formerly reserved in our culture for males. Her "new feminists," she says, are turning to a "modesty movement" in dress and personal behavior which she claims are a better fit for young women.

She tosses plenty of bombs at parents who dress their children provocatively and regard virginity in their teenaged daughters as cause for embarrassment. To her credit, she does come down on the side of a single standard of morality for boys and girls, believing as she does that the non-emotional "hook-up" style of the college-age crowd does not provide for the development of real or loving relationships between men and women.

Admitting that "clothing is just the tip of the iceberg," she nevertheless seems to think it's a good place to start, proposing a "modest but modern" line of attire for girls.

Does this proposal mean we'll see a revival of Peter Pan collars, long-sleeved blouses, and long dresses? Burkas beginning at middle school? I doubt it. The "casualization" of America has progressed to the point that we're all letting a lot of it hang out these days. I'm no expert on fashion or sexual mores, but I suspect Shalit's campaign is little more than spitting into the wind. However, if she manages to raise the level of adolescent decolletage by an inch or so, that won't be all bad.

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Little Wigwam on the Lake: The Birchbark House and The Game of Silence by Louise Erdrich

Insightful reviewers have likened Louise Erdrich's novels of an Ojibwe family in the mid-1800's to Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House series, and for good reason. Both document life on the developing frontier in the upper mid-West, with detailed descriptions of the tasks and tools of daily life, the warmth and demands of family relationships, soft, evocative pencil drawings, the hardships of life in a harsh environment, and the push and pull of living near the "other" people of the frontier. For Laura Ingalls, it is the Indians who frighten and fascinate, and for Omakayas it is the chimookomonag, the white settlers who threaten the bond to their land.

In her first book, The Birchbark House, Erdrich introduces Omakayas, a seven-year-old Ojibwe girl living on the shores of Lake Superior in 1847. Omakayas has strong parents, an older sister who is beautiful, sometimes kind and sometimes belittling of her tag-along little sister, a thoroughly annoying little brother, Pinch, and a baby brother, Neewo, which she loves deeply. Omakayas is loved and taught by her kindly grandmother Nokomis and her cousins and aunt.

As the family moves from fishing camp to rice camp to winter cabin, Omakayas observes matter-of-factly the increasing encroachment of the white settlers nearby. When the settler's small pox epidemic reaches Omakayas's group, she and her family hover near death, and Omakayas is saved by the attention of a solitary woman, Old Tallow, who takes her apart and nurses her to health. Although most of her family live, Omakayas' beloved baby brother Neewo dies. Before the family can deal with their grief, a bitter winter almost kills the weakened people by starvation. At last spring comes and with it healing and hope:

Omakayas...closed her eyes and smiled as the song of the white-throated sparrow sang again and again through the air like a shining needle, and sewed up her broken heart.

In the sequel, The Game of Silence the family is camped in their summer birchbark house when a raggedy, starving group of Ojibwe approach the island in waterlogged canoes, bearing the news that their entire tribe is soon to be removed into the lands held by their feared Lakota and Dakota enemies. As the strongest men of Omakayas' clan set forth to find out their fate, the family waits though summer and fall to learn the nature of their future.

Eventually, the travellers return with word that the people must indeed leave their ancestral home and make their way into the western lands allotted to them by the settlers. Heavy-hearted with sadness, Omakayas goes out to the forest to seek her spirit helper who sends a dream vision of her life to come in the new land in the West. Omakayas resolves not to look back as their canoes enter the unknown river that takes them out of sight of their old home:

The children bit their lips and held their tongues, for they all understood...that the game of silence was now a game of life and death.

Omakayas gazed into the crush of green. Here, after all, was not only danger but possibility. Here was adventure. Here was the next life they would live together on the earth.

As Laura left each homeplace behind to take her seat in the Ingalls' wagon, so does Omakayas turn her face toward a new life to the west. Both series tell a vital part of the story of our people from the clear eyes and with the true voice of two young girls of their time.

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Monday, August 27, 2007

The "Lost" Little House Years: Old Town in the Green Groves by Cynthia Rylant

Generations of American children have lived the pioneer years with the Ingalls family in Laura Ingalls Wilder's autobiographical novels Little House series, but few are aware that Wilder altered the chronology of her books to omit the two years between On the Banks of Plum Creek and By the Shores of Silver Lake.

Perhaps the time spent in the long-settled town of Burr Oak, Iowa, did not fit her general theme of westward pioneering, or perhaps those years, with four moves to rented quarters and the death of the family's long-awaited baby boy, Charles Frederick, made the period too painful to revisit. Although Wilder left notes on this time, there is no clear evidence that she ever contemplated making the manuscript into a novel. Thus the broken thread of the Little House narrative was left to be mended by Newbery Award author Cynthia Rylant over a half century later in her Old Town in the Green Groves.

Times are very hard at the little house on Plum Creek. A plague of grasshoppers has destroyed their summer crop, and the Ingalls family is forced to move to a rented house in the new town of Walnut Grove where Charles Ingalls can hire out to work off their rising debt. But when the family returns to their farm in the spring, their new crop is again visited by the voracious insects. With much debt and no income, Charles Ingalls is forced to sell the farm, pack up the wagon with their possessions, and find work in the settled lands to the south and east.

After a summer stay working on Uncle Peter Ingalls' farm, where they sadly bury their frail baby, the Ingalls move to Iowa, where Ma's and Pa's work in a hotel earn the family a cramped little room and board at the hotel's table. Laura, Mary, and Grace happily enroll at the town school, and Laura makes her first close friend while the family moves again, first to three "sweet, clean" rooms above a store, and then to a real house, where baby Grace is born. The novel ends in a surprise departure from Burr Oak to move west again, with the familiar carved shelf and china shepherdess carefully packed away and Jack taking his favorite westwarding position beneath the covered wagon.

Rylant sticks close to the tone of the original novels, with vignettes of warm family life and much detail about life in the period. Rylant's Laura is less daring and tomboyish at her hands, but the genuine sweetness and resiliency of her personality shine through the more sedate ways of life in an "old town." Jim LaMarche's soft-focus pencil drawings mirror the charm of the classic Garth Williams illustrations well. Children who want to know Laura Ingalls' whole story will welcome this addendum to her story.

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Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Brother-Sister Battles: Ride by Stephen Gammell

There's no more famous battlefield in the brother-sister wars than the backseat of the family car. Caldecott illustrator Stephen Gammell's Ride, pictured in a 1930's-era sedan complete with suicide doors, suggests that Gammell is a grizzled veteran of backseat sibling squabbles himself.

Cheery rumpled parents ("Come on kids, Let's go!" says Mama. "Good idea, Dear!" agrees Pop.) set off for a relaxing Sunday drive, not without a bit of a warning for the grumpy passengers in the back seat, "Please, just this once, try to GET ALONG!" The pouting siblings waste no time starting the usual refrain:

"Hey, your foot is over!"
"Well, you're touching!"
Well, you're a poopy face."
Well, you have booger breath."

No doubt remembering Mama's warning, the brother and sister extend their quarrel only in their imaginations--but, oh, what imaginations they have. The brother envisions sending his sister off in a rocket with a "Hah, like I'm sorry I'll never see you again. BLAST OFF!" Not to be atmospherically outdone, the big sister retorts with "How 'bout a BLAST from YOUR SISTER THE TWISTER!"

The battle royal escalates silently until Mama sunnily remarks "Goodness, I'll bet we're hungry..." and passes out gooey, gloppy peanut butter and jelly sandwiches--with fillings that seem to have the makings for an enticing backseat food fight finale!

All in good fun and viewed with a bit of nostalgia for the days before minivans, seat belts, and drive-by car food, Gammell's pastel, pencil, and water color illustrations feature his inimitable splotchy, smudgy spattery style, with highly expressive kid faces that make you smile even in the midst of the mayhem in the rear seating compartment.

For more of Gammell's over-the-top illustrative humor, you've got to see his collaboration with author Jim Aylesworth, Old Black Fly, an alphabet book which is a perfect marriage of text and illustration that follows old black fly from foodstuff to foodstuff until the last satisfying "SWAT!" Read it, chant it, sing it, swing it, SHOUT it! It's just pure joy!

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Saturday, August 25, 2007

Dog + Haiku = Dogku by Andrew Clements

Noted author writes
In ancient Asian verse form
To tell lost dog tale.

It's a familiar story--a lost, adorable puppy shows up on the doorstep, and a kind-hearted woman with dog-loving children implore the dad to let the pup stay. Notable fiction writer Andrew Clements turns his hand to this old story in picture book format--with a twist. In his new book, Dogku, Clements adapts the Japanese haiku form to the story of a homeless shaggy puppy who turns up at a family's kitchen door just as the mother of the family is trying to pour her first cup of coffee:

There on the back steps
The eyes of a hungry dog.
Will she shut the door?

No, of course she can't! Not with those big brown eyes and expressive floppy ears begging for a break! Getting into gear quickly, she gives the homeless pooch a bath before the kids come down for breakfast, and by the time the kids run for the school bus, the pup has a name ("Rags? Mutt? Pooch? No, not Rover! Mooch? Yes! Mooch! Perfect!"), a meal, and hope for a home.

Fast, loud, and crazy,
Food, coats, then the front door slams.
Mooch hates the school bus.

Mooch enjoys a ride in the family pickup, a good bark-up with the neighbor's dog, a test of patience with a squirrel, and a bit of a dust-up with the lady of the house over some chewed laundry and spilled week-old trash, followed by a satisfying nap ("Could life be sweeter?") before the kids return:

The sound of children,
That's what was missing all day.
Mooch loves the school bus!

But his bliss is over when Dad calls a family meeting about Mooch, and he hears the funereal word "pound." When Dad suddenly walks out the door, Mooch sags to the floor as the sad-faced boy strokes his ears. Things are tense as Mom and the kids wait wistfully until they hear Dad's steps at the front door again.

A new doggy bed!
Food, a bowl, a squeaky toy!
Mooch has found his home.

As a successful author of fiction for school-age children, Clements knows all too well the writer's dilemma: with the million or two words in the English language to choose from, how to select the right ones? As he says (in haiku, naturally),

Vast ocean of words--
I am almost drowned again.
A haiku floats by.

In the wide garden
I am dizzy with flowers.
I choose a small vase.

Dogku, with its charming illustrations by Tim Bowers, is an effective and delightful introduction to the haiku poetic form, which specializes in catching the sudden "bright moment." This happy little book is perfect for presenting this poetic form to young readers.

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Friday, August 24, 2007

Back to School: How Do Dinosaurs Go to School? by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague

How does a dinosaur
go to school?
Does he walk?
Does he ride
in a busy car pool?

In the eighth in their popular How Do Dinosaurs...? series, Yolen and Teague tackle the all important subject of school behavior. Would dinosaurs--large, burly, and scary--turn out to be the tyrant kings of schoolyard bullies? Would dinosaurs punch and roughhouse and terrorize smaller students? Would they make it hard for everyone else to learn in the classroom?

Well, Yolen and Teague tease us with some bright-colored dinosaurs that LOOK like they would be nothing but trouble for teachers and classmates--taunting the girls and picking on all the boys--but NO! In bouncy rhythm and rhyme, we learn that a dinosaur would "growl at the bullies 'til the bullying ends" and even tidy up his desk before he makes for the door at the last bell, ready for the last word in praise at home--"Good work, little dinosaur!"

Teague's illustrations of various lesser-known dinosaurs (see endpapers for identification) are as eye-catching and jazzy as ever in this picture book which is just perfect for the first day of school!

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Thursday, August 23, 2007

Sail On! United Tates of America by Paula Danziger

My name is Skate Tate. I'm eleven years old and I've just about finished my first day of sixth grade at Biddle Middle. Actually, my first day has just about finished me. Skate Tate of Biddle Middle. It sounds like a Dr. Seuss book but it's's my life.

Sarah Kate Tate (alias Skate) hates to leave her pleasant life at Maurice Sendak Elementary behind. After all, she could walk home with Susie, her cousin and best friend, in five minutes and 42 seconds, and the two inseparable friends could spend every afternoon playing, scrapbooking, and doing homework together.

But now all that is past. Entering middle school means riding a bus an hour each way, dealing with a locker that won't open, and watching Susie find a new best friend the first day of school. Middle school means having an English teacher, Mrs. Lipschutz, who seems all right and a science teacher, Mr. Booth, who has hair growing out of his ears. Middle school means sitting on the bus next to three boys, whose actual names are Hughie, Louie, and Duey, who quack instead of talking, and, worst of all, it means going home to spend her afternoons alone.

Paula Danziger's talent for catching the voice and cartwheeling emotions of early adolescence is seen full blown in this funny and poignant novel which documents the first of what will be many changes in the life of Skate Tate. Observant and resilient, she makes a place for herself in her new middle school world by earning a position as cartoonist and art editor for her school newspaper and begins to make a friend of her co-artist Garth Garrison. Lucky Skate, she has a strong family to support her as she moves forward--parents with a sense of humor, and a sister, improbably named Emma Tate ("what were my parents thinking?") a sometimes pest who shares her love for the "Happy Scrappys," the friends who meet to work on their projects every Saturday. Best of all is her globe-trotting Great Uncle Mort (called GUM by the family) who brings back wonderful, just right gifts and encourages Skate to "expand your horizons, not to be afraid, not to be stuck in one place."

Skate is perplexed when GUM gives her his Christmas presents in October and devastated when he dies of a heart attack soon after. Typically, Mort leaves behind a personal video and a behest in his will which will fund family trips to places he had wished to take them. The "United Tates," as they name themselves, buy a new van (christened "Vincent Van Go") and make a trip to the first site on GUM's list, Plymouth Rock and Plimouth Plantation. As they visit the Pilgrim sites that Uncle Mort chose for her to see, Skate suddenly understands what her favorite uncle wanted her to know--that life is indeed a series of many settings forth and many landings.

United Tates of America includes a bonus appendix, Skate's scrapbook pages documenting her first semester at Biddle Middle School, designed by Paula Danziger, herself an ardent scrapbooker.

Danziger's other novels of early adolescence include her classic The Cat Ate my Gymsuit and its sequel There's a Bat in Bunk Five, The Divorce Express, Can You Sue Your Parents for Malpractice?, and the first in her Matthew Martin series, Everyone Else's Parents Said Yes.

Additionally, in a collaboration made in literary heaven, there are the two wonderful books, P. S.: Longer Letter Later and Snail Mail No More co-written with Ann M. Martin. The story of two best friends, separated by a family move at the beginning of middle school, consists of a series of letters which become emails in the second book, in which Ann M. Martin writes in the voice of Elizabeth, thoughtful and reserved, and Danziger writes in the voice of Starr, an adventurous and flamboyant character always ready to jump into new experiences.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Kids with MORE!: Raising Your Spirited Child and Setting Limits with Your Strong-Willed Child

In Victorian times they were called "naughty;" in mid-century they were "maladjusted" or just plain "spoiled brats." Whatever the label, "difficult" children have always been with us. Some grew up to be talented geniuses or leaders of society; some less fortunate or less well-parented did not. Now termed "strong-willed," or "spirited," we recognize these children as kids who are normal--and then some!

Authors Mary Kurcinka and Robert MacKenzie assure harried parents that these strong-willed children come with qualities which are prized in adults, but as young children who are "wired to be more," they can be strenuous to raise. Compared to the average child, such children are more persistent and yet more distractible, more energetic and active, more sensitive, more reactive and demanding more regularity in daily routines, and more extreme in mood, whether upbeat, soberly analytical, or gloomy. They have a hard time with transitions, hating to stop an activity they've committed to. They hear and see everything, it seems, except what their parents or teachers are saying to them. Some can't tolerate scratchy or too-warm clothing, crowds, or vivid sounds, smells, and lights. The normal slings and arrows of life, such as having their sandwiches cut in triangles (or not cut in triangles), can provoke long sob sessions, and a sudden change in plans can cause a tantrum.

Both authors describe these characteristics in similar terms, pointing out to struggling parents that these are temperaments which are genetic, hard-wired from birth for the most part, but also temperaments which have real strengths to be brought forth by informed and nurturing parents. Both authors offer advice about recognizing these children and the triggers which lead to "meltdown" when the child is on system overload. Kurcinka and MacKenzie offer extensive tips and behavior plans to apply to such situations as getting dressed, following directions, bedtime and sleep habits, mealtime behavior, dealing with visitors at home or away, non-routine situations such as vacations and holidays, and, of course, the big challenge--school.

Although the scope of both books is similar, there are some salient differences in style. MacKenzie's take is a bit more of a "tough love" stance. "The hard way is the clearest way for strong-willed children to learn your rules.... Strong-willed children are action learners. They require large amounts of hard data in the form of experience before they learn you mean what you say," he writes. MacKenzie's style is more succinct, with fewer anecdotes, and quickly gets down to pragmatic programs and tips for shaping behaviors in the child which help him or her mature safely and well. The text offers frequent shaded summary boxes to drive home key points. Setting Limits with Your Strong-Willed Child is a bit more of a a how-to manual, and if time is a factor (for parents, isn't it always?) his book helps the parent start changing the child's behavior right away.

Kurcinka's book, however, has some strengths of its own. She spends more time developing and describing the characteristics of what she terms the "spirited child." For example, in her longer discussion of the extroverted and introverted child, she points out that it is not the social skills of the child by which one determines the type, but the way in which the child renews his or her energy which is crucial: extroverts recharge by talking and socializing, whereas introverts renew themselves by solitary activity and thought. She takes pains to teach re-labeling, that is, replacing pejorative labels for spirited children with favorable ones. For example, she suggests pointing out to kids whose internal clocks are irregular that their flexibility will make them great emergency room doctors or fire fighters.

Kurcinka also gives much more attention to the match between the parents' inborn temperaments and the child they seek to guide, pointing out that if a child is "spirited," it's almost certain that there is a "spirited" parent, or at least grandparent, in his or her family tree. Kurcinka also stresses the importance of "getting to yes" with the strong-willed child, respecting the nature and dignity of the child whenever possible rather than simply imposing a rule. Recipient of the Parents Choice Award and recently fully revised, Raising Your Spirited Child is substantial, with 458 pages of text, but is absorbing, deeply thoughtful, and thought-provoking reading.

My advice to the parent seeking help with a strong-willed child would be to read Robert MacKenzie's book first to jump start a behavior modification plan and then to read Mary Kurcinka's book at a more leisurely pace for further insight and more nuanced advice. If face time with a book is limited, her text is also available in audio book and audio download format.

Other books which also deal with this subject are Transforming the Difficult Child, by Howard Glasser and Jennifer Eisley, Taming the Spirited Child, by Michael Popkin, Parenting the Strong-Willed Child, by Rex Forehand, and The Everything Parent's Guide to the Strong-Willed Child, by Carl E. Pickhardt.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Who Ya Gonna Call?: Ghosthunters by Cornelia Funke

Cornelia Funke, noted author of The Thief Lord and Inkheart, also has written a mostly silly, slightly scary, and frankly fun group of books about a spectre-smashing trio who do the ghostbusting at some of Europe's finest destinations--the Ghosthunters series.

The series stars Hetty Hyssop, phantom fighter extraordinaire, who is ably aided by her spunky assistant Tom and their associate apparition, Hugo, the A.S.G. (Averagely Scary Ghost). The first installment in the series is Ghosthunters and the Incredibly Revolting Ghost, in which Tom calls in Hetty and Hugo to fight a phantom, the Incredibly Revolting Ghost or I.R.G.), he finds in a dark, dank cellar.

The next case takes the triumphant trio to a the deluxe Seafront Hotel, where they find the fourth floor being held hostage by fire ghosts. Although the ghosthunters know how to deal with this species of spectre, they soon realize that their main foe is the G.I.L.I.G., the Gruesome Invincible Lighting Ghost, which can only be stopped by a winning combination of sugar, champagne, and mega-amounts of super slime from Hugo. The capricious A.S.G. comes through to help Hetty and Tom vanquish the electrical apparition in a flash.

Other entries in the sequence include Ghosthunters and the Totally Moldy Baroness, Ghosthunters and the Muddy Monsters of Doom, and the newest, Ghosthunters and the Mud-Dripping Monster.

With monsters and mayhem threatening, the trio of Ghosthunters out think, out slime, and outmaneuver the various shades and spectres which they are summoned to exorcise, with some chuckles and chills along the way. Kids who love ghost stories that aren't too frightful and feature friends who face up to their fears and fight phantasmal foes successfully will love Funke's ghostbusting series.