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Boy-Friendly Books for Reluctant Readers 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 …Read more. Amazing Animal Tales This batch of animal stories — some fiction, some true — introduces real squirrels, weird frogs, birds that teach music and toy rats that attack. "The Secret Life of Squirrels" by Nancy Rose; Little, Brown and Co.; 32 pages; $17. Mr. …Read more. Halloween Books, Round Two These new books are super-fun and help kids get in the mood for the year's spookiest holiday. "Scary Tales: One-Eyed Doll" by James Preller; Feiwel and Friends; 98 pages; $5.99. Dedicated to the memory of "The Twilight Zone's" Rod Serling, this …Read more. It's the Time of Year for Spooky Tales Kids love slightly scary books. It helps them anticipate one of childhood's most popular holidays, Halloween. Here are a few books, for preschoolers through chapter book readers. "Otis and the Scarecrow" by Loren Long; Philomel/Penguin; 38 pages; $…Read more.
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Promising New Books From Fresh Voices and Small Publishers

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Small or independent publishers don't often receive the recognition and press they deserve for worthy books. These are a few of the newest from "the little guy."

"Chippy Chipmunk Parties in the Garden" by Kathy M. Miller; Celtic Sunrise; 40 pages; $19.95.

Chipmunks have a dual reputation. Some people find them adorable in their scampering ways, while others consider chipmunks a nuisance as they raid bird feeders and dig in gardens. In this photographical following of an eastern chipmunk known as Chippy, all these traits and more are exhibited.

Author Miller photographed Chippy for over two years in her own backyard — with the results being amazingly delightful and captivating images of the animal sniffing flowers, munching on peanuts and drinking from a birdbath. More than just a photo album of Chippy, the book's text offers fun scientific facts about nature, plants and other little creatures that wander around.

Miller's book is a popular addition to elementary school classrooms, and she hopes the vividly photographed tale inspires children to spend time outdoors exploring nature. This chipmunk is certainly one of the cutest real animals photographed for a children's book. For more information, visit www.chippychipmunk.com.

"Batty Malgoony's Mystic Carnivale — A Magical Drawing Escapade" by K. Michael Crawford; self-published; 60 pages; $18.95.

Author/illustrator K. Michael Crawford has concocted a colorful carnivale of absurd performers and beastly creatures in this quirky, interactive book for youngsters who love art. The star of the book, carnivale owner Batty Malgoony, is in search of artists who can create these characters for his spectacle, and kids are prompted by brief instructions to do their own creating.

With directions at the start of the book on how to draw people, animals, props and to complete other already started creatures, Crawford's imaginative book sends youngsters ages 7 and up off on their own open-ended circus journey that knows no bounds.

Also from independent publisher Crawford, "The Mystery of Journeys Crowne — An Adventure Drawing Game" (48 pages; $14.95).

In this archeological exploration, kids must answer clues on each page in order to draw the missing elements to solve the mystery of Journeys Crowe. Hidden treasures and finds abound as young artists and explorers fill in the missing blanks with their own symbols, clues and historical finds.

For more information on K. Michael Crawford's books and to order them, visit www.happilyeverart.com.

"A Most Vivid Day!" by Justin Young; Golden Tree Press; 40 pages; $16.95.

Tommy the bat lives in a world of nighttime and darkness, until he meets a persuasive caterpillar that tells him about the wonderful world of color. Tommy stays awake past his bedtime and is introduced to the sun — portrayed in this book as a character that paints the world with color. Tommy wants to be colored, but Sun runs out of paint. And none of the other animals want to share their colors, enraging Cloud, who makes the day dark and rainy.

Tommy soon enlightens the mad cloud and talks him into reflecting everyone else's colors, helping him become a hero and a wiser, more colored bat; he understands the world's colorful appeal.

Lovingly and clearly written, "A Most Vivid Day!" introduces the youngest of children to the importance of sharing, working together and valuing the beauty and uniqueness in others. It also helps kids learn colors and offers a new spin on teamwork.

"A Most Vivid Day!" is available in bookstores, libraries and by calling 800-888-4741.

"Dinosaurs on the Move" by Cathy Diez-Luckie; Figures in Motion; 48 pages; $14.95.

Ages 6 to 12 can make and color their own sturdy dinosaur "paper dolls," or action figures, in this innovative activity book. The illustrations for 10 dinosaurs are based on authentic fossils and skeletons in both pre-colored and color-them-in versions. Kids cut the dinosaurs out and color them if desired. They use easy-to-find fasteners and a hole punch to make them move.

More than just an art/activity book, "Dinosaurs on the Move" is also full of key facts about the prehistoric creatures, making this a fantastic way to combine dramatic play with science and natural history learning.

Best of all, the book's sturdy quality ensures hours of creative play. Visit www.figuresinmotion.com for more information on this book and other books in the series.

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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