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Books for Grandparents May 2009

We've teamed up with the editors of Publishers Weekly to scour the latest titles, from books for babies to cutting-edge fiction and nonfiction for teens, to help you find that just-right book for your grandchild.

FOR PRESCHOOLERS

Ladybug Girl and Bumblebee Boy

By David Soman and Jacky Davis (Dial Books for Young Readers, $16.99; ages 3–5)

Lulu and her ladybug costume are back in this picture-book sequel to 2008's Ladybug Girl. When Lulu meets a friend at the playground, they can't agree on what to play. But then Lulu finds that Sam is willing to battle "mean robots" and have other whimsical adventures. An ode to kids' abundant imaginations.

The Curious Garden

By Peter Brown (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, $16.99; ages 3–6)

Amid his gritty urban neighborhood, a redheaded boy discovers some plants trying to survive. With his help, and some trial and error, they thrive. By book's end, Brown has created a utopian city-country hybrid—think green roofs, waterfalls, fields of flowers—that's sure to inspire budding gardeners.

Duck! Rabbit!

By Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illus. by Tom Lichtenheld (Chronicle Books, $16.99; ages 3 and up)

Two offstage voices debate what the white creature in front of them is. If you look at it one way, it's a rabbit. Or could it be a duck? No matter how the reader views it, this book—and its clever lesson in perspective—is fun, and the wry banter keeps the mood lighthearted ("Are you kidding me? It's totally a duck!").

City I Love

By Lee Bennett Hopkins, illus. by Marcellus Hall (Abrams Books for Young Readers, $16.95; ages 4–8)

The poems pay tribute to urban life, while the illustrations give readers a taste of cities around the globe as they follow the travels of a bluebird and a backpack-toting dog. Readers will be entranced by the scenes of towering buildings and busy streets, filled with people constantly on the go.

All in a Day

By Cynthia Rylant, illus. by Nikki McClure (Abrams Books for Young Readers, $17.95; ages 4 and up)

In the course of a single day, a boy tends to plants, gathers eggs, enjoys a picnic, and spends time with his mother. Rylant's poetic text urges readers to seize each day: "This day will soon be over / and it won't come back again." And McClure's bucolic scenes—hand-cut black paper, set against blue and yellow backdrops—are captivating.

FOR THE ELEMENTARY SET

Emmaline and the Bunny

By Katherine Hannigan (HarperCollins Children's Books, $14.99; ages 7–12)

In this environmental fable, Emmaline, who lives in the town of Neatasapin (get it?), has just one desire: a bunny of her own. But the mayor won't allow that sort of thing—or untidiness of any sort. With its kid-empowering green message, this story should resonate with any child who has longed for a pet.

Melonhead

By Katy Kelly, illus. by Gillian Johnson (Delacorte Press, $12.99; ages 8–12)

Adam Melon, a.k.a. Melonhead, has a talent for getting into trouble, from becoming stuck in a tree to losing his (secret) pet snake. Melonhead's enthusiasm, goofy sense of humor, and interactions with friends—particularly best friend and fellow amateur inventor, Sam—give his hyperkinetic misadventures loads of appeal.

Joey Fly, Private Eye: Creepy, Crawly Crime

By Aaron Reynolds, illus. by Neil Numberman (Henry Holt Books for Young Readers, $16.95; paperback, $9.95; ages 8 and up)

Film noir meets graphic novel meets an array of amusing insects in this funny mystery spoof. Kids will love the wordplay ("The facts were starting to line up like centipedes at a shoe sale") as Joey Fly and his well-intentioned scorpion sidekick investigate a stolen diamond pencil box. Perfect for reluctant readers.

The Twilight Prisoner

By Katherine Marsh (Disney-Hyperion, $17.99; ages 10 and up)

This sequel to The Night Tourist whisks readers through the New York City underworld, where ghosts roam free by night. Marsh's hero, Jack, brings two classmates along, but his attempt to show off backfires when their return route is blocked. The book's historical cameos, allusions to Greek myth, humor, and adventure all make for an entertaining read.

Young Samurai: The Way of the Warrior

By Chris Bradford (Disney-Hyperion, $16.99; ages 10 and up)

In this debut novel set in the year 1611, ninja pirates attack the boat carrying 12-year-old Jack Fletcher, who washes ashore in medieval Japan. Taught by a powerful samurai, Jack learns to become a warrior himself. Filled with both action and historical detail, the novel should keep kids riveted.

FOR TEENS

The Secret Life of Prince Charming

By Deb Caletti (Simon Pulse, $16.99; ages 12 and up)

When Quinn discovers that her philandering father has stolen prized items from his wives and lovers, she takes a road trip with her sister and half-sister to set things right—and meets a Mr. Right along the way. Caletti populates her novel with a cast of believable characters; teens will easily relate.

King of the Screwups

By K. L. Going (Harcourt Children's Books, $17; ages 12 and up)

Kicked out of his own house by his father, 17-year-old Liam has to take up residence in a trailer park with his glam rocker uncle. Popular and good-looking, Liam tries to reinvent himself as a serious student and get his life back on track—no easy task. The multifaceted characters will stick with readers.

Marcelo in the Real World

By Francisco X. Stork (Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine Books, $17.99; ages 14 and up)

Pressured into working in the mailroom of his father's law firm, 17-year-old Marcelo, who has an autism-like condition, explores love, ethical dilemmas, religion, and interpersonal relationships during his first summer in "the real world." Marcelo's strong, first-person narration will grab readers—as will this story.

Soul Enchilada

By David Macinnis Gill (HarperTeen, $16.99; ages 14 and up)

Eunice "Bug" Smoot has plenty of problems, but her '58 Caddy (a gift from her grandfather) is not one of them—until, that is, Eunice discovers he paid for it by selling his soul, and a demon shows up to repossess the car. With a few gross details (vomiting, maggots), this book is not for the squeamish. But the funny dialogue and tough-talking protagonist make it a memorable ride.

Surface Tension: A Novel in Four Summers

By Brent Runyon (Knopf, $16.99; ages 14 and up)

This powerful coming-of-age story traces teenaged Luke's growing self-awareness as he and his family spend two weeks of every year at a lakeside cottage. The novel's strong sense of place will make readers feel they know Luke and the lake—and have them longing for summer.

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