A Monitor's Guide To Children's Bestsellers

September 1998


1. THE GIVER, By Lois Lowry, Laurel-Leaf, $5.50

In this richly imagined modern classic, Jonas lives in a pristine world. There are no disagreements or fears. Everything is regulated by Community Sameness. But when Jonas receives special training from The Giver, who alone holds the memories of true pleasures and pains in life, Jonas can never be the same again. Lowry's powerful book, simply and directly written, offers an inspiring defense of freedom. Both adventurous and skillfully plotted, this book is recommended for young readers 8 and up. By Caitlin Shannon

2. DISNEY'S MULAN, By Cathy East Dubowski, Disney, $3.95

When Huns invade China, young Mulan disguises herself and joins the army to save her ailing father from being sent to battle. Aided by a cast of unlikely characters, she proves that courage and quick thinking aren't just for boys. Adapted from the recent film, this junior novel is pure Disney - complete with climactic fight scene, goofy sidekicks, and a happy ending. Parents should be aware that there are several depictions of combat and death. By Kristina Lanier

3. I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER, By Lois Duncan, Archway Paperback, $4.50 This is a stock teenage chiller. Last summer, four high-school friends made a pact to conceal their involvement in a hit-and-run accident, hoping to bury it in the past forever. Now, they are stalked by a mysterious figure, out for deadly revenge. Duncan keeps the readers in suspense with a high-velocity roller-coaster plot, right until the shocking conclusion. Warning: This is not for younger readers. There are many instances of strong violence. By Caitlin Shannon

4. THE VIEW FROM SATURDAY, By E.L. Konigsburg, Aladdin, $4.50

Noah, Nadia, Ethan, and Julian are sixth graders in Mrs. Olinski's class. Earlier that summer, Ethan's grandmother married Nadia's grandfather, and unusual circumstances dubbed Noah as best man. But what unites the foursome is a weekly tea party at Julian's house. Nadia names the group The Souls, and Mrs. Olinski unknowingly chooses them as an academic bowl team. Blending different backgrounds brings out kindness and intelligence. This novel gracefully deals with diversity, ranging from race to disability. By Kendra Nordin

5. SMALL SOLDIERS, By Gavin Scott, DreamWorks, $4.50

High-schooler Alan Abernathy's life is dull, his classmates think he's a freak, and his crush, Christy, doesn't know he's alive. Worse yet, his father makes him work in his uncool toy store. Life becomes exciting when a shipment of Small Soldiers arrives - the hottest new toy. In no time, Alan discovers these action figures have minds of their own and are at war with each other! Soon, his family and friends find themselves in the middle of a battle with no way out. Violent acts between the soldiers are prevalent. Stereotypes of boys, girls, and parents are common, too. Based on the 1998 movie. By Kerry A. Flatley


1. MULAN CLASSIC STORYBOOK, Disney/Mouse Works, $7.98

Based on the Disney film, "Mulan" is bursting with the company's typically wonderful illustrations. And it's the drawings that tell the story of Mulan, a young Chinese woman who disguises herself and joins the army in her ailing father's place. There are several scenes of combat and the suggestion of death - both of which might frighten young children. But it's more likely that kids will be delighted by the colorful characters, energetic story, and happy ending. By Kristina Lanier

2. IF YOU GIVE A PIG A PANCAKE, By Laura Joffe Numeroff, illustrated by

Felicia Bond, HarperCollins, $14.95 So what does happen if you give a pig a pancake? Well, according to Laura Numeroff, your cute, cuddly little pig wants more and more. First, it's maple syrup, then it's a bath. One thing leads to another, and before you know it, you're building a treehouse for your rambunctious friend! The energy-packed flavor of this fun story is highlighted through Bond's colorful illustrations. Sure to be a bedtime favorite. By Kerry A. Flatley

3. HOORAY FOR DIFFENDOOFER DAY!, By Dr. Seuss, Jack Prelutsky,

and Lane Smith, Knopf, $17 A surprise accreditation test threatens to close the wonderfully independent Diffendoofer school. Trained in laughing, smelling, and "how to put a saddle on a lizard," the students fear they'll end up in dreary Flobbertown, where even "the dogs are scared to bark." Thanks to their wonderful principal, teacher, librarian, and coach, they pass with flying colors. In this collaboration, Prelutsky has preserved much of the late Dr. Seuss's quirky humor, and the surreal drawings by Smith are captivating and fun. By Ron Charles

4. THANK YOU, MR. FALKER, By Patricia Polacco, Philomel Books, $16.99

The author gives an emotional, autobiographical account of being teased and feeling dumb because she can't read in grade school. When her grandparents die, she has no one to help her feel special and cope with the devastating treatment from her peers. Fortunately, Mr. Falker, her fifth-grade teacher, praises her artwork and teaches her to read. Polacco's quiet book contains a serious message for students struggling in school - and would-be teasers. By Dawn Thomas

5. LILLY'S PURPLE PLASTIC PURSE, By Kevin Henkes, Greenwillow, $15

Lilly, a precocious mouse, loves everything about school, from pointy pencils to fish sticks on Friday. But most of all, she loves her teacher, Mr. Slinger. Unfortunately, one day she can't wait until sharing time to show off her treasures, so Mr. Slinger is forced to take them away. Lilly is crushed and takes revenge, even as Mr. Slinger offers reconciliation. Lilly is inconsolable until she finds a way to say that she is really, really sorry. The text rings true, and the lively illustrations dance off the page. By Karen Carden

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