Tuesday, September 17, 2002

Kid Lit: New Books for Young Readers

        All-American Girl by Meg Cabot (HarperCollins; $15.99; ages 12-15). Ms. Cabot (The Princess Diaries) has hit upon a sure-fire formula for success: write about the transformation of an ordinary girl into someone extraordinary. Yes, it's the ugly duckling story all over again. And, yes, it's just as improbable. But Ms. Cabot fashions it as adroitly as the best fairy tale and punctuates it with such smart pop culture references that you can't help but suspend your disbelief and be entertained.

        This time, the city is Washington, D.C., and the girl is the arty Samantha, a frumpy, on-the-fringes, middle child with a brilliant younger sister and popular older sister.

        Sam's first person narrative is emotional and angst ridden but also archly funny and touching. It takes heavy prodding for Samantha to find her voice and learn how to use it but once she does, she becomes a true activist. And, yes, gets the guy, too.

        Ms. Cabot discusses and signs the book 7-9 p.m. Thursday, Blue Manatee Children's Bookstore, 3054 Madison Road, Oakley, (513) 731-2665; and 7-8 p.m. Friday, Books & Co., 350 E. Stroop Road, Kettering (937) 298-6540.

        “Slowly, Slowly, Slowly,” said the Sloth written and illustrated by Eric Carle (Philomel; $16.99; ages 2-6). Deep in a lush South American jungle, a sloth hangs out in a tree. It appears to be doing nothing. But watch. The gangly creature crawls along a branch, munches a leaf, falls asleep and wakes up - all while hanging upside down. And all at such an achingly slow pace that its energetic neighbors think the sloth is lazy. “I am relaxed and tranquil, and I like to live in peace,” says the sloth. “But I am not lazy. - That's just how I am. I like to do things slowly, slowly, slowly.”

        Leave it to Mr. Carle to make such a quiet life so appealing. Even rambunctious preschoolers will want to settle down to follow the mellow sloth.

        Mr. Carle (The Very Hungry Caterpillar) could just sit back and rest on his fame. Instead, he continues creating new books with painted tissue paper collages as vibrant as ever. Most striking here is the array of jungle life wandering beneath the expansive tree.

        He'll appear 4:30-5:30 p.m. Saturday at Books & Co., 350 E. Stroop Road, Kettering (937) 298-6540 (line numbers start at 3:30 p.m.), and noon-1 p.m. Sunday, Joseph-Beth, 2692 Madison Road, Norwood (513) 396-8960.

        - Sara Pearce


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- Kid Lit: New Books for Young Readers
Tristate Best Sellers List
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