Stars and Stripes Forever

Pairing Katharine Lee Bates's famous 1895 poem with majestic watercolor panoramas, Wendell Minor creates a breathtaking visual journey to some of the country's diverse landscapes and monuments in America the Beautiful. He takes readers from coast to coast in full-bleed spreads, highlighting many of America's famous landmarks, from a space shuttle launch against a vivid Florida sky to a serene, golden Kansas wheatfield. The realistic paintings stretch across the centuries as well, including one of the 1627 Plimoth Plantation and another depicting the New York City skyline post-Sept. 11, 2001 (alongside the verse, "Thine alabaster/ cities gleam/ Undimmed/ by human tears!" the nighttime skyline shows the two memorial beams of light where the World Trade Center towers once stood). Concluding pages explain each illustration's location and significance. (Putnam, $16.99 40p all ages ISBN 0-399-23885-9; June)

And Now, Back to Our Story...

From teary-eyed teens to outer-space travelers, favorite characters return in new series installments. Girls in Tears wraps up Jacqueline Wilson's Girls quartet, continuing the story of Ellie and her best friends, Nadine and Magda. This time, Ellie's infatuation with Russell threatens the trio's unbreakable bond, as the author delivers a message about friendship and first love in an easygoing, humorous tale filled with British slang. (Delacorte, $9.95 192p ages 12-up ISBN 0-385-73082-9; June)

The intrepid Tashi returns for his ninth adventure in Tashi and the Haunted House by mother-daughter team Anna and Barbara Fienberg, illus. by Kim Gamble. According to PW's review of The Big Big Big Book of Tashi (which collected the first seven adventures), "Tashi's popularity is easy to understand." Here the clever hero must outwit an evil baron and outrace two dreadful demons; energetic b&w line drawings pepper the volume. (Allen & Unwin, [IPG, dist.], $5.95 paper 64p ages 6-10 ISBN 1-86508-840-4; July)

The worrywart hero of Stuart's Cape faces his first day of classes in a new town in Stuart Goes to School by Sara Pennypacker, illus. by Martin Matje. What if Stuart forgets everything he learned in second grade? What if he can't find the bathroom? Luckily, Stuart's magic cape, made out of 100 ties stapled together, will help him out again in this wryly funny mix of the real and the magical, enhanced by Matje's quirky line art. (Scholastic/Orchard, $15.95 64p ages 6-9 ISBN 0-439-30182-3; July)

Mary Pope Osborne delivers the third volume in her Tales from the Odyssey series: Sirens and Sea Monsters: Tales from the Odyssey, illus. by Troy Howell. Having emerged alive from the Land of the Dead, Odysseus and his crew now face encounters with the enchantress Circe and the monster Scylla in their journey back to Ithaca. Brief chapters and a fast-paced narrative create an accessible introduction to Homer's epic. (Hyperion, $9.99 112p ages 8-11 ISBN 0-7868-0772-5; June)

Young Buffalo Bill is back for his fourth outing in The Adventures of Young Buffalo Bill: West on the Wagon Train by E. Cody Kimmel. Young Bill signs on for a wagon trip from Fort Leavenworth over the Rocky Mountains to Fort Bridger, encountering plenty of trouble and excitement— especially when Wild Bill Hickok comes along—in this fictionalized biographical series bases on Buffalo Bill's autobiography. (HarperCollins, $15.99 160p ages 8-12 ISBN 0-06-029113-3; June)

Big Gray, the monster cat introduced in The Ghost of P.S. 42—which PW called "an agreeable romp"—is back to harass the sibling mice Molly and Jake in Class Pets: Battle in a Bottle by Frank Asch, illus. by John Kanzler. Eschewing the safety of the classroom, Jake pines for adventure and heads out to the playground. There Big Gray stalks him until he takes refuge in a ketchup bottle. Can he escape? (S&S, $14.95 96p ages 7-11 ISBN 0-689-84655-X; June)

Terry Denton continues his Storymaze series with The Wooden Cow and The Golden Udder, hybrid graphic novels featuring further adventures in parallel worlds for heroes Nico, Claudia and Mikey. Wooden Cow stars a bovine named Ulysses in a spoof of the Trojan horse story, while Golden Udder brings Ulysses back as it twists the tale of the Golden Fleece into a new and unusual shape. Both titles combine comic-strip art and farcical tales full of verbal puns, double-entendres and deconstructed story lines. (Allen & Unwin [IPG, dist.], $5.95 each paper 120p ages 8-11 ISBN 1-86508-783-1; -784-X; Aug.)

Gerald Hausman explores an array of situations across various centuries (many inspired by true stories) when men—and one woman—survive seafaring tragedies in a half dozen tales—Castaways: Stories of Survival. A Spanish traveler is the sole survivor of a shipwreck off the coast of Peru in 1540 and finds himself on a desolate island; a man aboard a Portuguese schooner in 1752 meets an old man on an island filled with beasts; and the haunting tale of Henry Roi describes an inhabitant of the island of Bequia in the Grenadines in the late 1940s who "cheated death." (HarperCollins/Greenwillow, $15.99 176p ages 9-up ISBN 0-06-008598-3; June)

Twenty years after the first Herbie Jones chapter book, the hero returns in Herbie Jones Moves On by Suzy Kline. When Herbie's best buddy, Ray, has to move to Texas for his father's new job, Herbie and Ray come up with a plan to try to keep the two together. Plenty of laughs are in store before readers discover the outcome. (Putnam, $14.99 80p ages 7-11 ISBN 0-399-23635-X; June)

According to PW's review of O'Dwyer & Grady Starring In: Acting Innocent, "With their likable personalities and sassy repartee, Billy and Virginia prove to be worthy of the spotlight and of an encore performance." And here they are for Act II: O'Dwyer & Grady Starring In: Tough Act to Follow by Eileen Heyes. It's still 1932, and the duo takes a break from life in the Big Apple to relax in New Bedford, Mass. A treasure hunt and a string of secrets lead them to anything but relaxation. (S&S/Aladdin, $4.99 paper 176p ages 9-12 ISBN 0-689-84920-6; June)