Saturday, October 3, 2009

Fall Fiction for Kids

There is a barrage of new children's fiction this fall, but a few really stood out from the rest. Let's go from youngest to oldest, shall we?

Lois Lowry (who normally writes for older readers) has new picture book, Crow Call, which is quietly dazzling.

The watercolor art, by illustrator Bagram Ibatoulline, shows the soft autumn landscape of rural Pennsylvania and the small-town life of the 1940s. It is the perfect backround for a complex story of a young girl who must become reacquainted with her father, just returned from the war in Europe. Simple events -- a walk through the woods, eating cherry pie -- highlight the family's efforts to return to "normal" even after the difficulties of the past years. This is definitely a book to read together, because the themes and language will be challenging for young readers. But it is worth the effort!

If all that sounds too serious, go with Wag!, by Patrick McDonnell. You'll recognize the style from the creator of the comic strip MUTTS, with Mooch, Earl, and Jules making an appearance. They're all trying to figure out just what makes Earl's tail wag so much. The answer, it turns out, is simple -- LOVE. The fun illustrations and sweet antics of the dog and his friends make for a charming story.

For older readers, we have great new books just in time for Halloween. I loved The Witch's Guide to Cooking with Children (Keith McGowan), a retelling of the Hansel and Gretel fairy tale. McGowan's update is both dark and unapologetically clever. Sol and Connie, children with less-than-parental parental figures, find themselves in danger of becoming the next meal of the neighborhood witch. Only their wits will save them! Intermediate readers will love the fast-paced, slightly scary plot.

Don't have time for a whole book? How about 30 seconds? Half-Minute Horrors, a collection of nearly one hundred supershort tales by well-known authors, will get even reluctant readers going. The contributors know their horror: Neil Gaiman, Holly Black, R.L. Stine, and Lemony Snicket are among the writers.

Vampires are taking over the teen section, but not all of them glitter. Catherine Jinks gives a fun twist on the teen vampire trope with The Reformed Vampire Support Group. Join Nina, reluctant vampire and eternal highschooler, as she tries to figure out who might be behind the mysterious "ashings" of her fellow reformed vampires. Witty dialogue, along with a decidedly unromantic view of vampirism, makes this a fun read for young adults who need a reprieve from certain other series full of moping, sighing vamps.

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