The Latest Scoop

Teen series installments dish up the latest in a smattering of titles. Including Alice by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor covers the first months of the heroine's sophomore year in high school. Thrilled that her father is marrying her seventh-grade teacher, Sylvia Summers, Alice contends with the resulting familial adjustments, while dealing with an off-kilter new student and attempting to reconcile with Penny, who had once stolen her boyfriend. (S&S/Atheneum, $15.95 288p ages 12-up ISBN 0-689-82637-0; May)

No one would ever confuse Naylor's Alice with the socially clueless heroine of Susan Juby's satirical Alice, I Think, now back for more misadventures in Miss Smithers. Still seeing her counselor, aka Death Lord Bob ("because of his Satan-is-my-fashion-consultant black clothes and small, pointy beard"), and still rebelling against her mother, "an evangelical vegetarian, peace activist feminist," the formerly homeschooled teen enters the Miss Smithers Pageant as the representative of the local Rod and Gun Club. (HarperTempest, $15.99 336p ages 14-up ISBN 0-06-051546-5; May)

Dirty laundry—all designer brands, of course—is duly aired in I Like It Like That by Cecily von Ziegesar, the fifth title in the Gossip Girl series. Here poet Dan starts a new literary internship; Blair, Serena, Nate and Erik head for spring break on the slopes; and Vanessa struggles with her mortifying artist parents. Other relationship dramas emerge and recede, all amid online updates from the anonymous Gossip Girl. (Little, Brown, $8.99 paper 208p ages 15-up ISBN 0-316-73518-3; May)

The paperback Girls on Film by Zoey Dean resolves many of the questions left hanging in The A-List. Anna's older sister, Susan, materializes in Beverly Hills, having been kicked out of rehab, and is soon targeted by toxic Cammie. Anna struggles to care for her sister, balance a prestigious new internship and create a Great Gatsby film project for school (bringing her dramatically tense romance with Ben to a climax). Descriptions of haute clothing and locales get as much weight as the plot itself. (Little, Brown, $8.99 paper 228p ages 15-up ISBN 0-316-73475-6; May)

The sixth paperback in Cathy Hopkins's series, Mates, Dates, and Mad Mistakes centers on Izzie's search for a new identity. A new boy, Josh, introduces her to a world of drinking, drugs and carousing, and her friends and family try to win her back. (S&S/Simon Pulse, $5.99 paper 224p ages 12-up ISBN 0-689-86722-0; May)

Jacqueline Woodson intersperses voices of the dead with voices of the living in Behind You, a soulful sequel to If You Come Softly. The story begins just where the previous novel left off, as cops in Manhattan's Central Park circle Jeremiah, an African-American high-school student, realizing they fatally shot the wrong person. Jeremiah makes a painless transition to the afterworld, where his narration alternates with that of his girlfriend, Ellie, and other characters whose lives he touched, and who eloquently express their sorrow in brief monologues. The author's poetic exploration of the healing process reveals a keen understanding of grief. (Putnam, $15.99 128p ages 12-up ISBN 0-399-23988-X; May)

Great Reads Redux

Previously published in the U.S. by Tor Books, The Ragwitch by Australian author Garth Nix now appears in paperback from the publisher of his Abhorsen series. Siblings Paul and Julia come across a doll (aka the powerful Ragwitch), which takes over Julia. Both children are transported to a strange world, where Paul and a legion of allies attempt to rescue his sister with elemental "Wild Magic." (HarperCollins/Eos, $6.99 paper 400p ages 12-up ISBN 0-06-050807-8; Apr.)

Working with a unifying theme of water and its beauty and power, Meredith Ann Pierce collects three new tales and four previously published short stories in Waters Luminous and Deep: Shorter Fictions. The new stories are "Rafiddilee," the story of a mute dwarf who enchants a queen and her court; "The Sea-Hag," about a young man who becomes a pirate, searching for his life's direction; and a feisty reimagining of Cinderella, "The Frogskin Slippers." The previously published stories are "The Fall of Ys," "Where the Wild Geese Go" (which originally appeared as a picture book), "Icerose" and "Rampion." (Viking, $16.99 320p ages 12-up ISBN 0-670-03687-0; Apr.)

The Liberal Arts

New titles offer fresh examinations of the arts, literature and the sciences. Delving into "outsider art," Susan Goldman Rubin portrays the achievements of the mentally ill, prisoners, and others who have channeled disadvantage and injustice into artistic creation in Art Against the Odds: From Slave Quilts to Prison Paintings. Among those profiled are Miné Okubo and Helga Weissová, who created works while imprisoned in internment and concentration camps, respectively. A chapter on slave quilts explains how this art form often incorporated encoded messages to help fugitives escape capture. (Random/Crown, $19.95 64p ages 10-14 ISBN 0-375-82406-5; Mar.)

Seurat andLa Grande Jatte: Connecting the Dots by Robert Burleigh explores the bucolic Parisian afternoon depicted in the title painting, asking readers to look for people and objects in the scene. Through this interactive approach, the author simultaneously demonstrates Seurat's careful methodology, as the artist uses his pointillist style (an accumulation of hundreds of dots, carefully applied and balanced) to preserve a moment in time. (Abrams, $17.95 32p ages 5-9 ISBN 0-8109-4811-7; May)

Tales from Shakespeare retold by Tina Packer takes 10 of the Bard's works, both comedies and tragedies, and adapts them into prose. Packer (head of Shakespeare & Co., a theater company in Lenox, Mass.) quotes some famous lines, then surrounds them with straightforward text that explains the plots (e.g., "Good night, sweet prince," Horatio says at Hamlet's death, and the retelling concludes, "Hamlet had indeed avenged his father—but at a terrible price to all). Plays such as Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet and As You Like It each open with a dramatic scene by the likes of Barbara McClintock and Mark Teague. (Scholastic, $24.95 192p all ages ISBN 0-439-32107-7; Apr.)

Future astronomers can utilize the spiral-bound, paper-over-board—encased Children's Night Sky Atlas by Robin Scagell. Organized by the months of the year, the "sky guide" pages show the stars visible (depending on the hemisphere) throughout the year. Transparent overlays provide an outlined image of Orion, Ursa Major (the Big Dipper) and more, guiding readers to see how the stars form the figure represented in the constellation depicted. Other topics include classifications of stars and galaxies plus information on telescopes and the planets. (DK, $19.99 96p ages 8-up ISBN 0-7566-0284-X; May)

A Red-White-and-Blue Parade

Patriotic titles roll out in time for summer celebrations. Based on the story of Caroline Pickersgill and her mother, who toiled over the sewing of the 42-foot-long flag that flew over Fort McHenry during the War of 1812, The Flag Maker by Susan Campbell Bartoletti, illus. by Claire A. Nivola, offers a picture-book snapshot of history (and the flag that inspired Francis Scott Key's "The Star-Spangled Banner"). Nivola's illustrations convey an appropriately early-19th-century feel, particularly a spread of a Baltimore avenue showing produce carts, milk wagons and children's games and activities. (Houghton, $16 32p ages 4-10 ISBN 0-618-26757-3; Apr.)

The paper-over-board ABC of America by Kim Bellefontaine, illus. by Per-Henrik Gürth, explores American standards, from apple pie to zoo (as in the San Diego Zoo). Along the way, readers visit the Grand Canyon, "where the sunset glows bright," and Kennedy Space Center, depicted in simple, bold computer-generated cartoons with heavy black outlines; endpapers show a map of the U.S. (Kids Can, $14.95 32p ages 2-6 ISBN 1-55337-645-5; Mar.)

The latest Holiday Mice title, Fourth of July Mice! by Bethany Roberts, illus. by Doug Cushman, takes a light, rhymed romp through the holiday with a parade, a picnic, a rousing game of baseball and more. The littlest mouse overcomes his fear of swimming and the happy day ends with sparklers and fireworks. (Clarion, $13 32p ages 3-6 ISBN 0-618-31366-4; May)


Interactive how-to titles offer strategies for future kings and queens of the game. How to Play Chess! Tactics, Traps, and Tips for Beginners by Michael and Sophia Rohde comes with a sturdy plastic carrying case that contains a full set of wooden chess pieces and an unfolding cardboard game surface. The instruction book, which is affixed to one side of the case, begins with a brief history of the game, then details the moves dictated by the various pieces, and explains setting up the board, official chess notation and numerous strategies (such as "make a pawn chain"). (Scholastic/Tangerine, $8.99 48p ages 7-10 ISBN 0-439-55129-3; Apr.)

A hardcover reissue, Checkmate at Chess City by Piers Harper now includes a magnetic chessboard with flat magnet pieces (stored within a transparent pocket inside the back cover). Under the pretext of rescuing the besieged Black Chess King and Queen, novices learn basic chess movements as they assist the other pieces across chessboard landscapes ("Help the Black Bishops cross the river to Chess City," instructs one spread). Tiny cartoon illustrations fill the margins with mice, dragons and bats in this clever introduction to the game. (Candlewick, $8.99 32p ages 6-10 ISBN 0-7636-2165-X; May)

Graphic Adaptations

Popular comic and manga series characters now appear in novelized spin-offs. Storm Riders: The Novel: A Tale of No Name by Wing Shing Ma explores the background of Nameless, one of the characters in the original manga series. Featuring spot sketches by the author, the novel traces Nameless's back-story as a boy born with tremendous "chi" energy, destined to become a powerful swordsman. The story will perhaps fill in gaps for series fans (though abundant grammatical errors may detract for some). (Comics One [Diamond, dist.], $7.95 paper 208p ages 13-up ISBN 1-58899-375-2; Apr.)

Sex-obsessed teens populate the similarly grammatically hindered Onegai Twins Novel 1: One and a Pair by Go Zappa, illus. by Taraku Uon and Hiroaki Gohda. High school student Maiku faces the arrival of Miina and Karen, one of whom is his long-lost sister. The plot consists of little more than a series of scandalous/humorous incidents involving these and other characters catching each other naked or in compromising situations. While the comics treatment did much to defray the erotic situations, in prose, the sex seems overemphasized. The frankly erotic spot illustrations and rampant innuendoes of hetero- and homosexual titillation strongly suggest that the publisher's age range should be heeded. (Comics One [Diamond, dist.], $7.95 paper 220p ages 15-up ISBN 1-58899-299-3; Apr.)