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Published: Saturday, 8/28/2010

Girls are the heroes in these children's books

This is one in a series of periodic children's literature reviews written by four area teachers. Today's are by Barbara Britsch, professor emerita of Lourdes College.

ALCHEMY AND MEGGY SWANN. By Karen Cushman. Clarion Books. $16. Ages 12-14.

This book is set in London in 1573, after Elizabeth becomes queen, and before Shakespeare shows up. Meggy Swann arrives in London. Sent for her by her father, an alchemist, Meggy finds a cold, dirty, empty house. A congenital hip condition forces her father to walk with two sticks. Everything is slow and sorrowful. Meggy, a girl with nothing whose father is a cheat and thief, finds friends, a warm place to live, saves a noble's life, and starts a job with a printer. Renaissance London portrayed at its best.

MY GARDEN. Written and Illustrated by Kevin Henkes. Greenwillow Books. $17.99. Ages 3-6.

A young girl with boundless imagination helps in her mother's garden, watering the flowers and chasing away rabbits. But if she had her own garden, how different it would be. Rabbits would be chocolate for her to eat, but carrots would be invisible. Huge tomatoes would grow side by side with morning glories that stay awake at night. There would be no weeds, but strawberries “would glow like lanterns.” An enchanted place happily portrayed in Kevin Henke's watercolors.


THEODOSIA AND THE EYES OF HORUS. Written by R. L. LaFevre. Illustrated by Yoko Tanaka. Houghton Mifflin. $16. Ages 9-12.

London's Museum of Legends and Antiquities still has secrets to give up, and Theodosia is ready to discover them. The third adventure in a series begins with Theo meeting an Egyptian occultist, Awi Bubu, who seeks the Emerald Tablet, the key to a great treasure. But other magicians seek it too. Theo's brother Henry, Sticky Will and his band of Ruffians, and, Theo's ever-present grandmother also are key players in this exciting new chase through London's foggy streets.


ABBY CARNELIA'S ONE AND ONLY MAGICAL POWER. Written by David Pogue. Roaring Book Press. $15.99. Ages 9-12.

If you could be given one magic power, would you settle for spinning an egg by pulling your ear lobes? Would the world say “wow”? Abby Carnelia doesn't think so. She spends the summer at Camp Cadabra, a place to learn “magic tricks.” Suddenly she's whisked away to super camp with other kids who have real magic powers. Sinister corporate forces threaten them; Abby and her friends must plan an escape. A taut, fast-moving plot with an unusual background.


THE RED PYRAMID. Written by Rick Riordan. Hyperion Books. $17.99. Ages 11-14.

This is the first in a new series, The Kane Chronicles, by the author of the Percy Jackson books. It promises world adventures as told by two appealing teens, Sadie and her brother Carter. On Christmas Eve they meet in London after six years of living apart. They accompany their father, an Egyptologist, to the British Museum, where he accidentally blows up the Rosetta Stone and disappears. Thus begins this fantasy adventure against evil in the world.


THE INCORRIGIBLE CHILDREN OF ASHTON PLACE: THE MYSTERIOUS HOWLING. Written by Maryrose Wood. Illustrated by Jon Klassen. HarperCollins. $15.99. Ages 9-12.

“Wanted immediately: Energetic Governess for Three Lively Children.” This advertisement begins plucky Penelope Lumley's new life at Ashton Place with her pupils: Alexander,10; Beowulf, 7, and Cassiopeia, 5. Their story is told in a 19th-century Gothic style with all the comic undertones possible. The children, found in the woods by Lord Ashton, have apparently been raised by wolves. This first in a new series promises more mystery to come.




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