Looking for some holiday distraction?

Tween Books - December 2006


Sandi Pedersen

Mystery and history. Kings and queens. Intrigue and romance. Rune stones and rhinestones. Kidnapped, orphaned or tricked. Take your pick. This month we have it all. These page turners will keep you busy.

FAIREST, by Gail Caron Levine, HarperCollins, $16.99; ages 10-12.

Aza is the girl with a gifted singing voice, but not the gift of beauty. Ivi is the girl of beauty, but has no gift of voice. Ivi is the queen of Ayortha. Aza is the orphaned daughter of innkeepers. Ivi creates a plan to make Aza her lady-in-waiting. Aza's family will receive money and land as payment for her services. In return, Aza must sing for Ivi and no one must know who truly belongs to the beautiful voice.

Gail Carson Levine is the author who brought us the lovely Ella Enchanted. Here is another story that leaves me with that I-want-to-meet-a-handsome-prince-and-be-a-princess-too feeling. Good conquers evil, beauty isn't everything and you really can live happily ever after.

ENDYMION SPRING, by Matthew Skelton, Delacorte Books for Young Readers, $17.95; ages 11-13.

Blake's mom is a visiting academic in Oxford, England, in the famous Bodleian Library. The job is temporary, and one she could not resist. Blake and his sister Duck have come along because Mom thinks it will be a terrific learning experience. Blake is not so sure that hanging around an old library and a bunch of old books could ever be considered a good time.

Then, one day, while waiting for his mom, Blake is running his fingers along shelf after shelf of dusty old books and one bites him. Blake finds the book, called Endymion Spring, but the pages are completely empty. What good is a blank book? He puts the book back on the shelf.

This tale takes us from 1452 Mainz, Germany, to present day Oxford. The story begins with a boy named Endymion Spring who is an apprentice to his master Herr Gutenberg. Yes, the printing press Gutenberg. The story of how Blake's and Endymion's lives are intertwined can only be told after the blank book was found. Now, the story will be written.

THE QUEEN OF SECOND PLACE, and QUEEN B, by Laura Peyton Roberts, Delacorte Books for Young Readers, $15.95; ages 12 and up.

Queen B is the sequel to The Queen of Second Place. I just have to write about both books at the same time. Cassie is a great kid and we can all relate to her and her typical teenage life. Cassie considers herself to be the best at coming in second place. She thinks she will never be number one. Yes, of course, she is pretty, she's been on dates, she gets good grades, but she will never be able to top her nemesis "Fourteen Karat" Carter. The greatest claim to fame Cassie has is runner up for Snow Queen.

We all have a friend just like Cassie. If she would just try to have a little more self confidence and spend less time putting herself down and fretting the goofy small stuff, she would realize she is already number one.

FETCH: THE RUNESTONE SAGA #1, by Chris Humphreys, Knopf Books for Young Readers, $15.95; ages 12 and up.

The word Fetch comes from Nordic lore. It is believed that every one of us has a fetch, or double. Our fetch is the part of us who can travel through time.

Sky has been plagued by nightmares all his life. One summer, he and his cousin Kristin discover his grandfather's old chest in the attic. Inside they find their grandfather's journal and his rune stones. All of a sudden Sky's dreams are no longer just fantasy.

With the help of the rune stones, Kristin and his grandfather's voice, Sky learns to travel through time. Sky's fetch meets his grandfather's fetch. In this story, Sky travels to Norway. My 12-year-old son and I both enjoyed the mystery, the history and the tension. We are anxiously waiting for Saga #2.

VANISHING ACT: MYSTERY AT THE U.S. OPEN, by John Feinstein, Delacorte Books for Young Readers, $16.95; ages 9-12.

Eighth-grade journalists Susan Carol and Stevie have convinced their school papers to let them cover the U.S. Open. With the help of a reporter friend, they even manage to get media credentials, which allows them into the press box and behind the scenes. They are eagerly waiting for the beginning of the first round match with the Russian champion, Nadia Symanova. But Nadia never makes it to the court. Nadia has been kidnapped, right under the noses of all the spectators.

Instead of reporting tennis wins and losses, Susan Carol and Stevie are now in the middle of a great mystery. Can two teenagers help solve the mystery? Can they find the kind of love that has nothing to do with a tennis score?

Author John Feinstein is a veteran sportswriter and his insider knowledge makes this mystery very intriguing and very real. This book is the sequel to the bestseller Last Shot: A Final Four Mystery.

Sandi Pedersen is the mom of four and the Web mistress for Chicago Parent.


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