Kids today can have a hard time staying interested in reading, thanks to the high-energy feel of video games, TV and the Internet. These middle-grade tales are extra adventurous and sure to thrill.
"When Did You See Her Last?" by Lemony Snicket; Little, Brown; 277 pages; $15.99.
Lemony Snicket's second book in the "All the Wrong Questions" series arrives with great anticipation, as the first book, "Who Could That Be at This Hour" garnered rave reviews. This one, too, a witty, droll read for boys and girls, explores the mysterious origins of young apprentice Mr. Snicket, as he tries to find a missing girl.
With Pink Panther-like sly humor and open-ended situations, "When Did You See Her Last?" is a must read for kids nine and up who like their reading full of hilarity and mystery.
"Three-Ring Rascals: The Show Must Go On" by Kate Klise; illustrated by M. Sarah Klise; Algonquin Young Readers/Workman Publishing; 140 pages; $15.99.
Children not accustomed to the high-energy hoopla associated with circuses are missing out on a classically entertaining rite of passage. This fun tale, penned for the 7-to-10-year-old crowd, is the start of a new series from an award-winning team and bursts with jokes, wordplay, signs, documents and bold-line drawings.
When kindly circus owner Sir Sidney becomes too tired to travel with his show, Barnabas Brambles answers the want ad, touting himself as "degreed in lion taming from the University of Piccadilly Circus." His shake-up of this circus' traditions isn't too popular however as he pushes for more shows in more cities, with no free popcorn.
Enter the young performers, who aim to keep Sir Sidney's Circus as it was, with gourmet peanuts for Elsa the Elephant and not-so-much taming for star Leo the lion.
Clean cut, funny, almost vintage in its appeal, Klise's first book in the "Three Ring Rascals" is a fun keeper for girls and boys.
"The Further Adventures of Jack Lime" by James Leck; Kids Can Press; 158 pages; $16.95.
This zesty detective series for middle graders reads like a stylish whodunit, with writing akin to adult mysteries but aimed at kids. "I was closed alright; I was closed big time," reads a beginning sentence.
Jack Lime is a self-styled private eye who solves problems for his fellow students. In the book's three cases, Jack navigates a gritty high school underworld with pimply gangstas and gun-toting femmes fatales. In this second book in the series, Jack continues to hunt a hot comic instead of a rodent-napped hamster, proving there's no case too small for P.I. Jack Lime.
"The Case of the Missing Quarterback," "The Case of the Red Envelope" and "The Comic Book Caper" are the three uber-cool challenges our tough-but-sweet hero has on his plate. A hoot of a book, and series, "Jack Lime" rocks!
"On the Run" by Clara Bourreau; Delacorte Press; 120 pages; $14.99.
Young Anthony grows up thinking his father is busy traveling the world as a wildlife photographer. In reality, Dad is in prison awaiting trial. When everyone at school finds out, they, even his best friend, taunt Anthony about having a criminal for a father. In true dramatic fashion, Anthony's father escapes from the courthouse. Anthony, missing his dad, joins him, sending both on the run from the law.
Like a high-energy action movie, Anthony's dad slowly lets his son in on why he was jailed but still acts every bit like a caring, concerned father. Bourreau's thoughtful tale proves the man feels guilty for his part in bank robberies and showcases the love that still stands between father and son.
The action-packed ending of "On the Run" will surprise young audiences and will certainly thrill and entertain them.
"The Slither Sisters" by Charles Gilman; Quirk Publishing; 174 pages; $13.99.
The second in the creepy-but-cool middle-grade series "Lovecraft Middle School," this wacky book features a holographic front cover with two girls, turning from looking normal to having snakes on their heads. In the funky story, Sarah and Sylvia Price resemble normal middle school students, but they're actually hideous monsters in disguise. They even run for student council and have plans to abduct the entire seventh grade.
Tons of action, adventure and outrageous monsters reign in Gilman's popular new series; this is the second book. Bravery also figures in, as 12-year-old Robert and his best friends with the help of the school bully, the school ghost and a hungry two-headed rat help to save the day.
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.