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Published: Sunday, 8/1/2004

Children can discover new horizons, friends, ideas through reading

By BARBARA ST. JOHN

Summer is the perfect time to meet a new friend, to participate in a new adventure, or to examine a familiar idea in a new light. Books can provide a way to do all of these things.

WHOSE GARDEN IS IT? Written by Mary Ann Hoberman. Illustrated by Jane Dyer. Harcourt. $16. Ages 3-7.

Mrs. McGee and her child are enjoying a beautiful garden. Who does it belong to? The gardener says it belongs to him, but the woodchuck assures them it's his. Then the rabbit, the butterfly, the bumblebee, and all the other creatures living in the garden stake their claims. Even the seeds, the wind, the sun, and the rain play a role in growing the garden. Exquisite watercolor illustrations capture the inhabitants of the garden. You decide: Whose garden is it?

DUCK FOR PRESIDENT. Written by Doreen Cronin. Illustrated by Betsy Lewin. Simon and Schuster. $15.95. All ages.

In this election year meet Duck, an unusual candidate. Duck runs for farmer, for governor, and finally for president. Each time Duck is successful, but the jobs are always disappointing - no fun, and far too demanding! Finally, a want ad catches Duck's eye - "Duck Needed." Duck returns to the farm in a new role. A bit of fun in this election year.

JACKALOPE. Written by Janet Stevens and Susan Stevens Crummel. Illustrated by Janet Stevens. Harcourt. $17. Ages 5-8.

Have you ever seen a jackalope? If not, perhaps there's a good reason. This is the story of a jackrabbit that wanted everyone to fear him. He enlists the help of his fairy godrabbit. However, there is one catch - he must not tell lies. Needless to say, this jackrabbit ends up in lots of trouble. Be careful what you wish for! The illustrations add to the fun as jackrabbit finds the truth is so easy to exaggerate.

THE SPIDERWICK CHRONICLES: BOOK 1 - THE FIELD GUIDE. Written and illustrated by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi. Simon and Schuster. $9.95. Ages 7-10.

When the three Grace children move into their aunt's aged Victorian house, strange things happen. They discover a secret room and a crumbling book, "Arthur Spiderwick's Field Guide to the Fantastical World Around You." As they begin to read the book strange sounds are heard and they meet a boggart. Great for readers who love mystery, adventure, and fantasy creatures. (There are five books in the series.)

HEARTBEAT. Sharon Creech. Cotler/Harper Collins. $15.99. Ages 8-12.

Annie is 12 and feels as if everything in her life is changing. Her mother is pregnant, her grandfather is becoming increasingly frail, and Max, her best friend and running partner, seems to look at running as a serious matter. As she tries to understand these events, Annie works on an assignment her art teacher has given - draw one apple one hundred times for one hundred days. As Annie observes the apple closely, she begins to look at her own life more carefully. A thoughtful book written in free verse.

CURSE OF THE BLUE TATTOO. L.A. Meyer. Harcourt. $17. Ages 12 and up.

Meet Jacky Faber, a bold, clever, feisty young woman who has been a midshipman on the HMS Dolphin. But the time is 1803 and young women are expected to become fine ladies. So Jacky must leave the ship and attend a proper school. French, embroidery, and manners are much more difficult than fighting pirates. However, Jacky manages to find adventure in the streets of 19th century Boston. A very likeable heroine.

Barbara St. John is a retired Bowling Green State University professor of children's literature.



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