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Books to Help Gear up for the Olympic Games

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Kids are starting to see ads for London's upcoming Olympics. These books help explain Olympic action, both past and present, and introduce youngsters to London in a spectacular pop-up book. A few new baseball books are also thrown in for good measure.

"Through Time — Olympics" by Richard Platt; illustrated by Manuela Cappon; Kingfisher Publishing; 47 pages; $16.99.

Organized through the subject of time, this big, bold Kingfisher guide first shows a world map and timeline marked with locations of past games and even those of the future. Then, the stories are presented from all Olympics, from the ancient games of 776 B.C. to the Athens Olympics of 1896, right up through 2008's Beijing games and onto expectations for London.

With information on different stadiums, landscapes, constructions and, of course, competitions, Platt's comprehensive book offers plenty of descriptions of shot puts and springboards and even explains the terror that happened in Munich. Sidebars bring attention to important facts, such as the number of events, competing nations, and athletes and countries who won the most gold medals. Detailed illustrations make Platt's narrative style accessible, and a "facts and records" section plus a glossary and index make "Through Time — Olympics" easy to use for kids of all ages.

"Pop-Up London" by Jennie Maizels; paper engineering by Richard Ferguson; Candlewick Press; 10 pages; $19.99.

Colored like a Union Jack, this fascinating pop-up book follows the Thames River as it winds past Buckingham Palace, Big Ben and Leicester Square, pointing out famous buildings along the way. From the Opera House to Mansion House, from Covent Garden to the Tower Bridge and even onto the Olympic Village, the flow of the fun book keeps things simple and entertaining.

Ferguson's sturdy, intricate pop-up buildings offer comment blurbs with descriptions and feature small fold out "travel guides" to the different sites. History's thrown in, too, with "famous faces" fold outs that introduce kings, queens, authors, playwrights, and conquerors. Flaps also reveal spooky stories and other surprising secrets. The most fun, though, is what happens when readers turn the book around to reveal what's on the backside of all those popped-up buildings, from famous paintings to store goods to wax figures and concertgoers at Royal Albert Hall.

A must for families with London on their travel maps, Maizels' three-dimensional book is magical and interactive.

"So You Think You Know the Olympics" by Clive Gifford; Hodder/Hachette Children's Books; 166 pages; $8.99.

An ultimate Olympics quiz book with 1,000 questions. This paperback covers it all, from the first ever games to London. Questions are organized from easy to medium to hard, with a separate portion covering the Winter Games. Typical questions include "Over what distance are all Olympic rowing races held?" to "In which sport do competitors wear a white uniform called a dobok?" to "When was the last year the Winter and Summer Olympics were held in the same country?"

Answers are organized clearly at the back of the book. While an enticing medal game will help kids get excited to score their answers and win bronze, silver or gold.

KIDBITS

Sporting readers with a penchant toward baseball books will enjoy this grouping.

"Fenway Fever!" by John H. Ritter; Penguin; 232 pages; $16.99. Ritter's latest adventure celebrates the 100th birthday of Boston's Fenway Park in this middle-grade tale of a boy with a heart defect who helps unify the entire city amidst a fear the Curse of the Bambino has returned.

Kevin Markey's "The Super Sluggers: Rainmaker," (HarperCollins; $15.99). In this final book of the series, its token hilarity and baseball action combines with spooky spelunking, extreme weather and high stakes to result in an exciting read for all young baseball fans.

Beginning readers aren't forgotten as Flat Stanley plays ball in the "I Can Read" book, "Flat Stanley at Bat," created by Jeff Brown, ($3.99). In this fun Level 2 reader (ages 5 to 7), Stanley finds it hard to play baseball and tries to unflatten himself.

Readers 12 and up will feel inspired with "Curveball: The Year I Lost My Grip," by Jordan Sonnenblick, (Scholastic, $17.99). The heartbreaking and hilarious story of an all-star pitcher who injures his arm and can't play freshman season, Sonnenblick's book gives adolescents comfort that they'll survive family troubles and what happens when they "lose their grip."

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

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