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If you've ever wondered about the true story of Anastasia (the non-animated version), read "The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion and the Fall of Imperial Russia." Author Candace Fleming immediately presents the Romanov family's extreme wealth. In 1903, the palace in St. Petersburg stretched for three miles along the Neva River.
What happens when you put four little chicks in charge of solving a backyard mystery? Chaos! "The Chicken Squad: The First Misadventure," by Doreen Cronin, begins when Tail (a squirrel) comes barreling into the chicken coop, scared to death of something "big and scary" in the backyard. Two of the chicks, Sugar and Dirt, help him with description. The scary thing is not a rhombus. It's not a triangle. But when Dirt draws a circle, Tail faints. Either he's afraid of the birdbath, the blow-up pool...or something worse. As Tail regains consciousness, he remembers more details.
Ophelia did not consider herself brave. But she was curious. In "Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy," by Karen Foxlee, Ophelia travels to a foreign city where her newly-widowed father must prepare a magnificent sword collection for an enormous museum. Still grieving for her mother, Ophelia decides to explore. On the museum's third floor, she discovers a tiny golden keyhole at the bottom of a large wall mural. When she peers inside she sees a boy. He tells his story.
When Princess Maeve was just 5 years old, she cut a chunk of hair from the tail of her father's prize bull. He father awarded her the bull, but took it back as his own. "Deception's Princess," by Esther Friesner, follows the life of the legendary Princess Maeve. As the youngest of six girls and the favorite of her father (Lord Eochu, High King of Connacht), an entire kingdom is her dowry. But Maeve does not want to be "awarded" to a man. She wants to be able to make her own decisions about her life.
When 10-year-old Henry Shipley boards the train to Ashtabula, Ohio, he has no idea he'll be solving a mystery with the help of a talking cat. "Lantern Sam and the Blue Streak Bandits," by Michael Beil, is action-packed from the start. Shortly into the trip, Henry meets Ellie, an heiress his own age, who within the hour is kidnapped. With the help of Lantern Sam (the talking cat) and Clarence the conductor, Henry finds Ellie. But this doesn't solve the problem: Henry is bound and gagged, too.
When a new Magic Tree House Book is released, the attention usually focuses on Jack and Annie's adventure. In "Soccer on Sunday," by Mary Pope Osborne, this will likely be the case. Jack and Annie travel back in time to the 1970 World Cup match to watch Pele play. However "Soccer" (The Fact Tracker companion book) is also worth reading. As you'd expect, the book begins with the rules, skills and history of the game. Osborne delights in the unusual.
If the Queen of England were robbed, would you help solve the crime? In "The Castle Crime," by Ron Roy, fourth graders Josh, Dink and Ruth Rose jump at the chance. It all starts when they visit London and tour the Madame Tussauds wax museum where they see look-alikes of famous people, including the royal family. While there, they discover that the queen was recently robbed by two thieves dressed as her grandsons, (Prince William and Prince Harry) as she drove to Windsor Castle. Josh, Dink and Ruth Rose are determined to solve the mystery, especially since the reward is 10,000 pounds, about
When I was growing up, one of my all-time favorite books was "Baked Beans for Breakfast." Just as fascinating was the author's name: Ruth Chew. So imagine my surprise when I opened a box of new books and saw Ruth Chew's name on one of the books. Instead of "Baked Beans for Breakfast," it was "Magic in the Park," first published in 1972. In this short novel, fourth-grader Jennifer Mace moves to Brooklyn. Following her mother's advice, she walks to Prospect Park where she meets an old man who feeds the birds. Yet, something doesn't make sense.
When I first picked up "Boys of Blur," by N.D. Wilson, I thought it was going to be about football. Twelve-year-old Charlie Reynolds moves back to a little town near the Everglades, with his mom, step-dad (a former professional football player), and half-sister. Because the long-time, well-loved football coach has died, Charlie's step-dad will take over his position. However, Charlie's abusive biological dad still lurks in the nearby cane fields.
If a sea horse's name is Peanut Butter, what do you think his friend's name is? Jellyfish, of course. "Peanut Butter and Jellyfish," by Jarrett J. Krosoczka, is the story of two undersea friends who spend their days exploring their ocean home. Too bad they have to deal with a heckler. His name is Crabby. From the bottom of the ocean, he waves his claws and taunts them. "Your guys swim like humans," he hollers. "You smell like rotten barnacles!