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Are you looking for a great, fast-paced page-turner for someone 9 or older?
"Peter and the Starcatchers", by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, will hold
the pace from start to finish.  The story reads like a prequel to J. M.
Barre's "Peter Pan" and answers many questions about why Peter can fly, why
he and his band of orphans live on an island, what happened to Captain
Hook's hand - and more.
The tone for the book is set in the first short chapter.  By the way, all
chapters are short, even though the book has about 500 pages.  Peter is the
leader of the small band of orphans, who until just now, had been living in
a house for wayward boys. But they are being lead by Gremkin, who is second
in command of the house. He's taking them to a ship that's about to set
sail. Once on the ship, Peter is very uneasy. It's old and dirty with a crew
that looks unreliable, mean and filthy. The ship's name is "The Never Land"
and is setting sail for the Kingdom of Rundoon. This is when he meets Molly,
a young 14 year old who's traveling with her governess. Peter becomes close
friends with Molly and throughout the many adventures on the ship and on a
tropical island, you'll begin to wonder if she might be an ancestor to
Wendy.
But Peter's first concern while on "The Never Land" is food for himself and
his poor urchins. What little food the crew throws their way is so
disgusting that it moves. As he searches the ship for leftover crumbs to
take back to the hole where they must stay, he makes a monumental discovery
that will change the course of his life. He finds a chest that's peaking out
from under a large canvass. He knows that this chest must be important
because there's a guard in front of the locked door where it's kept. When he
finally sneaks his way past the guard and the door, he witnesses a
surprising and magical event. But, suffice it to say, that's for you to find
out. This discovery precedes the beginning of a swash-buckling adventure set
on the open seas. Pirates are after this chest and they are approaching "The
Never Land" at a pace so fast you'll be biting your fingernails while
holding the book.
There are wonderful full-page pencil etchings throughout, by Greg Call, that
enhance the magic and drama this story presents.  The only problem is that
it's difficult to slow down the reading long enough to enjoy these wonderful
pictures. But, without them, the book just wouldn't be the same!  Mr. Call
brings the ornery hooligans and sneering pirates to life with their drooping
mustaches and the wrapped bandanas on their heads.
It does not matter what kind of genre you or your children like to read,
you'll love this book. This would be a wonderful read aloud for families.
However, you may want to pick a time other than bedtime to read it because
you'll all have a difficult time trying to stop reading. So, "ahoy mates",
and be prepared for some action packed adventures far out to sea in "The
Never Land."

I was looking for a picture book that would perfectly fit this season of
love and kindness - and then I found just the right book. "Thanks & Giving
All Year Long", edited by Marlo Thomas and Christopher Cerf, is a
magnificent anthology of stories, songs and poetry that will convey the
simple lesson that giving is much better than receiving. Most of these
stories are newly written just for this book and some of the contributors
are well-established children's authors and illustrators. However, other
authors are well known people in other fields, but surprisingly, meet the
expectations and deserve the highest praise for their literary work. Many of
these other authors reached into their memories to produce experiences that
make giving a more meaningful word.
Here is just a sampling of what you'll find in this awe-inspiring book -
Professional golfer, Tiger Woods, has a story about how he came to give up
his treasured coin collection at age five for the starving people in
Ethiopia. His father taught him while growing up to "Share and Care".
Screenwriter, producer, director and actor - Mel Brooks - tells of a story
about trying to study for a difficult exam when he was in the fifth grade.
His 20-year-old brother, Irving, came home late in the evening after working
many hours and saw the distress in his little brother. Both boys had lost
their father many years before and Irving had become Mel's surrogate father.
The time and ingenious help Irving gave his little brother, even though he
was exhausted, has never been forgotten by Mel. The poem by children's
author, Kate DiCamillo, is simple and sweet, yet powerful. "Snow, Aldo"
beautifully conveys the love and appreciation of an elderly owner and his
dog as they look skyward where snow swirls in late winter. And I love the
title of the song by popular musicians and composers Hilary Duff, Sarah
Durkee, Jim Marr, Charlie Midnight, Wendy Page and Marc Swersky - "(I'll
Give) Anything but Up".  These artists have discovered that you can give
your all - just don't ever give up.  This song will have you whistling all
the way to your achievements - by helping others.
The bright and varied illustrations throughout are painted by some of the
best in the business. These include children's illustrators, Dan Andreasen,
Jimmy Pickering and Jon J. Muth. And, by buying the book, you also help
promote the gift of giving because all of the royalties go to support St
Jude Children's Research Hospital.  This is a perfect gift for ages 5 to 10.