Just the Facts

A trio of nonfiction titles delves into meaty topics. The forthright volume Understanding the Holy Land: Answering Questions About the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict by Mitch Frank, with chapter heads that read like a list of FAQs, may well help young people make sense of the complexities in the Middle East. The author attempts to objectively lay out the issues, focusing on the land and "religious dispute," and moves from a map of the region to chapters called "Who were the Israelis before there was a state of Israel?" and "Who were the Palestinians before they became known as Palestinians?" He ends with an exploration of the question that has stumped adults, too, "Why is peace so hard?" A timeline and glossary help readers get their bearings, and occasional b&w photos break up the text. (Viking, $17.99 160p ages 11-up ISBN 0-670-06032-1; Apr.)

A Home for Foundlings by Marthe Jocelyn lays out the problem of the growing number of orphans in 18th-century London, and describes the indefatigable efforts of one Captain Thomas Coram, who established a hospital to care for these abandoned youth. The author describes the challenges for the children (smallpox and other pre—Industrial Age health hazards, cruelty at the hands of "adoptive" parents) and the oasis that Coram's hospital—now a museum—provided. Period etchings and photographs give readers a flavor of the era. (Tundra, $15.95 paper 128p all ages ISBN 0-88776-709-5; Apr.)

A collection of poems from around the globe accompanies striking photographs of babies with similarly diverse backgrounds in Welcome to the World: A Celebration of Birth and Babies from Many Cultures, edited by Nikki Siegen-Smith. More than a dozen photographers (credited in the back) contribute the images herein, such as Carlos Reyes-Manzo's poignant image of a grandmother in humble accommodations but with joy on her face as she holds her grandchild. The photo beautifully illustrates "Praise of a Child," an anonymous poem that begins, "A child is like a rare bird./ A child is precious like coral." (Barefoot, $18.99 48p ages 8-up ISBN 1-84148-890-9; Mar.)

The Next Chapter

Popular series continue to take readers far and wide with some favorite escorts. In the fourth adventure about the teen criminal mastermind, Artemis Fowl: The Opal Deception by Eoin Colfer, fans can cheer that the antihero did not retire, as he had threatened in The Eternity Code. However, his career is now in peril because all memory of the fairy people (even the wicked Opal Koboi) has been erased from memory; and Opal has framed Capt. Holly Short for the murder of Commander Root of the LEPrechon fairy police. (Hyperion/Miramax, $16.95 352p ages 12-up ISBN 0-7868-5289-5; May)

Stravaganza: City of Flowers by Mary Hoffman wraps up the trilogy begun with City of Masks (about which PW said, "The Renaissance backdrop [and Venetian-style city] set an elegant mood for the time-travel toggling"). Here, a small blue glass bottle (another talisman of the Stravaganti) sends teenage Sky, whose mother is suffering from an illness, back to Giglia (the City of Flowers) in Talia—he even meets Lucien Mulholland from the launch title. (Bloomsbury, $17.95 496p ages 10-up ISBN 1-58234-887-1; May)

PW said of The Fall of Fergal, the first in the Unlikely Exploits series, "the novel provides plenty of black comedy to keep readers entertained." In the paper-over-board wrap-up of the trilogy, The Rise of the House of McNally: Or, About Time Too by Philip Ardagh, illus. by David Roberts, Fergal is a dog, Mr. Maggs has amnesia, and someone who looks very much like Lionel Lyons the French teacher shows up. Lots of rewinding and fast-forwarding occurs, and all loose ends are tied up. Or would a better term be "knotted"? (Holt, $9.95 160p ages 8-up ISBN 0-8050-7478-3; May)

PW called The Insiders, the launch title of the series by the same name, an "enticingly trashy entrant into the yearly teen beach read sweepstakes." Take It Off by J. Minter, the third in the series, finds Jonathan and his buds in a school-at-sea program on a luxury yacht. However, Jonathan pines for Flan, Mickey and Arno have their sights set on the same gal, and there's plenty more angst onboard. (Bloomsbury, $8.95 paper 300p ages 14-up ISBN 1-58234-994-0; May)

Forest of the Pygmies by Isabel Allende, trans. from the Spanish by Margaret Sayers Peden, wraps up the trilogy begun with City of the Beasts and Kingdom of the Golden Dragon, of which PW wrote, "Allende's complex heroes, suspenseful tests of courage and the mystic aura that surrounds the story add depth and excitement to a classic battle of good versus evil." Now Alexander, his grandmother, Kate, and Nadia are bound for Kenya, where Kate is on assignment to write about the first elephant-led safaris. But they also discover a ring of slavery and poaching. (HarperCollins, $19.99 304p ages 10-up ISBN 0-06-076196-2; May)