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Boy-Friendly Books for Reluctant Readers

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Often, boys aren't as enthusiastic readers as girls. Happily, there's a popular chapter book niche addressing that issue with humor and excitement. These new books are fun, mischievous, gadget-filled tales of adventure for kids who would rather play video games than read.

"Timmy Failure: We Meet Again" by Stephan Pastis; Candlewick Press; 258 pages; $14.99.

Third in the best-selling Timmy Failure series, this witty, tongue-in-cheek read is seriously funny. Timmy sums it up best: "My detective agency is on the verge of global domination. And yet the gods are throwing me curveballs." Plucky goofball Timmy deals with all sorts of setbacks, from riding his Mom's Roomba into chairs to being sent to Camp Monkeychuck, "where Chihuahuas eat kids."

Completely wacky in a fourth-grader kind of way, Timmy Failure's detective exploits include a polar bear business partner and an incredibly annoying opponent detective named Corrina Corrina. Pastis' goofy-fun writing style will hook elementary school readers, who enjoy diary-style text with comic illustrations peppered throughout.

"Nick and Tesla's Super-Cyborg Gadget Glove" by Science Bob Pflugfelder and Steve Hockensmith; Quirk Books; 270 pages; $12.95.

Science is fun and exciting. That's the message famous science teacher ("Jimmy Kimmel Live," History Channel, "The Dr. Oz Show") Science Bob Pflugfelder hopes to spread to the world. Along with mystery writer Steve Hockensmith, Science Bob has penned three other Nick and Tesla adventures: "High-Voltage Danger Lab," "Robot Army Rampage" and "Secret Agent Gadget Battle."

In their latest, 11-year-old amateur inventors Nick and Tesla Holt try to uncover the mystery behind why the robotic replicas keep going wacko at the science museum in Half Moon Bay. Gadget-loving kids will enjoy how the pair adds all-new gadgets to their latest creation, a customized super-cyborg glove, in order to help their sleuthing.

After reading the thought-provoking, fast-paced read, kids can follow illustrated instructions to build their own gadget glove with LED signal light, emergency alarm, sound recorder and UV secret-message revealer.

"Otis Dooda: Downright Dangerous" by Ellen Potter; illustrations by David Heatley; Feiwel and Friends; 220 pages; $13.99.

Scattered Otis Dooda starts at a new school in New York with his annoying older brother and fellow third-grade neighbor Boris, who looks like a grown man ("You could carpet a bedroom with all his leg hair.").

Otis' absurd, comical adventures at school and home make up 32 small chapters with titles such as "Alien Baby Invasion," "Belly Button Poppers," "Swamp Gas" and "2 Weird 4 Gunther." "Dingle-Dork of the Week" makes for a happy ending, as Otis wins a "giggle" award for feeding his nose some baby carrots. Though he doesn't win the coveted Lego contest, Otis, and readers, end up happy with this contest's new vacuum cleaner prize.

Zesty comic animation adds to the hilarity, while at the back of the book there's website and music information to add to more Otis fun.

"Super Schnoz and the Invasion of the Snore Snatchers" by Gary Urey; pictures by Keith Frawley; Albert Whitman and Co., 154 pages; $14.99.

Super Schnoz — a.k.a. Andy Whiffler — snores so loud aliens wants to use him to unleash their Robo-Nose on Earth and take over the planet. But he's not going to take it lying down, so he and his friends form a superhero group to "out-snot the mechanical booger blaster."

Sounds nuts, but Gary Urey's parody-filled story is smartly penned with action, danger and just enough gross-out jokes and clever wordplay to thrill reluctant readers. Add the brief chapters, superhero storyline and themes of friendship and weird nose jokes, and this green chapter book "nose no bounds."

KIDBITS

Too many funny books for reluctant readers to mention, but here are a few more:

"The Brilliant World of Tom Gates" by L. Pichon (Candlewick, $12.99) is another diary-like book about a personable, energetic boy.

"Einstein the Class Hamster and the Very Real Game Show" by Janet and Jake Tashjian (Henry Holt, $12.99) is a hilarious romp about a game show, a smart class and a hamster who gets the job done.

J. Scott Savage's "Case File: Making the Team" (Harper, $14.99) is the second adventure in the series about three boys who face off with monsters, grave robbers and mad scientists.

To find out more about Lee Littlewood, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

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