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Absorbing Reads for Middle Graders These new novels for 4th- through 7th-graders feature lions, aliens, a Bronze Age adventure, a boy who sets out to save his sister's life and the environment, and a heartwarming tale of a homeless girl. "Feral Pride" by Cynthia Leitich Smith; …Read more. Pet Tales To Please These funny new books star a rambunctious bunch of pets sure to make children laugh and then want to read more. "Dogs Are People, Too" by Dave Coverly; Henry Holt; 214 pages; $12.99. "A Collection of Cartoons To Make Your Tail Wag," as it's …Read more. Rock and Relax with These New CDs Music made for children has evolved dramatically in the past 10 years. With high-quality music just as lush and well-produced as adult tunes, this gamut of new CDs is well worth a listen. All are, or soon will be, available at such outlets as iTunes …Read more. Books for Clever Teen Girls Young adult fiction has come a long way in the past 10 years, mostly due to the sheer volume of intriguing, fun and smart novels and the popularity of teen reading. These are a few of the most promising reads aimed at girls. "The Perfectionists" by …Read more.
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Promising New Books From Fresh Voices and Small Publishers


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

"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

"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 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



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Lee Littlewood
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