If your child hasn't discovered the excitement and adventure involved in reading, I've just found another great mystery that will pull him/her immediately into the book.  "Sammy Keyes and the Hotel Thief", by Wendelin Van Draanen, is an exciting book that has many plot levels to it. 

Sammy has just started 7th grade and is living with her grandmother.  Her mother has dropped her off earlier in the summer, before she started school, and has gone on to pursue an acting career.  Meanwhile, her grandmother is living in a senior living high-rise and no other family members are allowed.  So Sammy has to be sneaky when she comes into and leaves the building.  And while she's living there, of course there are no other children, so she gets very bored. 

She has found that observing the street and the surrounding buildings from her grandmother's apartment can be very interesting.  Her binoculars have given her new things and people to observe.  For example, when she observes a man in a hotel window taking money out of a purse, she continues to watch.  But when he suddenly looks up at her, she doesn't hide, instead she waves.  Instantly, she realizes her mistake and becomes very worried that this thief will hunt her down.  Meanwhile, she finds problems at school when she gets into a fight with another girl.  Now, the principal has suspended her for a day.  There are so many different problems that she must face, and solve, that you'll find yourself reaching the end of the book before you know it and before you want it to end.  The good news here is that there are more "Sammy Keyes" books and they are all mysteries.  This book will be excellent for children 4th grade through 7th.


"The Water Hole", by Graeme Base, will be on my list for best picture books for the year 2002; there is no doubt. I'm sure it will become one of my very favorite books. Mr. Base has illustrated and written not just a number book, but a book with many different levels for the eye to behold. Children will enjoy the three dimensional water hole that you can see all of the way to the end of the book because of the opening through the water that gets smaller as you turn each page.

Upon first glance, you realize the water hole is growing smaller because the amount of animals that drink from it get larger and more numerous. But there is so much more going on with each page. It begins with one Rhino drinking at a large water hole. You could spend a lot of time just looking at this picture. There is so much detail that the eye cannot possibly grasp it all at just a glance. You'll probably see cute little frogs all dressed up and scattered throughout this setting. You'll probably see small outlines of many different kinds of animals around the top and the bottom of the page. But it took me several readings to realize that much more was going on at each turn of a page.

Perhaps one of the first discoveries you will make will be that each number has the same colors and hues of the animals depicted on the page. The smaller animals that you see outlining the pages, (and all are labeled as to what they are), relate to the area where the animals are drinking. So, the rhino must be in a jungle somewhere in Africa. These same small animals are all hidden in the jungle and with some effort you and your child will delight in finding them. There is a small opening on each page where you can see a far away landscape. This becomes significant as you try to guess where each of the animals that are drinking are located. For instance, on the page where there are five moose, they are drinking in a forest and the distant landscape has Mount Rushmore. As the water decreases, the geography that Mr. Base has depicted becomes more of a desert so that by the time you get to number 10! , the kangaroos are standing around a very barren land with cracked, dried up dirt where the water hole used to be.  But, this is not the end of the story.

Suffice it to say that every member of your family will enjoy sitting together and looking, learning and pondering over this powerful book. The text is also inspiring and goes perfectly with each location and type of animal. And, if perchance, you can't figure out where the animal is from, there are answers at the back. Mr. Base has written and illustrated other wonderful books including one of my favorites, "Animalia".  And, in the tradition of "Animalia", he hasn't written any directions or specifics as to what to look for on each page. He leaves that for the reader to discover. This is truly an amazing book for all ages!

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