Short stuff

Let the Harry Potter guessing game begin!

We don't know what happens in the book yet, but now we can start to judge it by its cover. Artist Mary GrandPre's illustration for the American edition of "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" was released last week. It is the sixth (and next to last) book in J.K. Rowling's enormously popular series about a young wizard. The book will be released July 16.

Ms. GrandPre of Sarasota, Fla., has drawn the covers and the small black-and-white illustrations since Book 1. So she's drawn Harry Potter growing up from a boy of 11 to a young man of 16.

"I feel like I'm his mom," she told the Associated Press. "I comb his hair or I mess it up, I make sure he looks good before he goes out the door."

GrandPre, who has been working as an artist for 25 years, had no idea what she was getting into when she first got the call from Scholastic, Rowling's American publisher, to illustrate "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone." She asked to read it beforehand, to see if it was a good fit. (She's one of the few people to have read Book 6 already! But don't bother asking her about it. Her lips are sealed.)

She uses a highlighter to pick out descriptions in the text. Next come the sketches. "I go through a lot of tracing paper," she said. "I redraw and redraw." The final art is done in pastels.

GrandPre is careful not to create anything too obvious. She wants to drop hints, not reveal what happens. "I kind of tempt the reader to keep moving on through the book," she says.(AP)

Peter Pan and Captain Hook set for a rematch

Speaking of books, children's author Geraldine McCaughrean has been chosen to write the official sequel to J.M. Barrie's "Peter Pan." The new work, "Captain Pan," will feature the original characters. McCaughrean was chosen by the London hospital that holds the copyright to the original work.

"It is an astonishing, daunting privilege to be let loose in Neverland, armed with nothing but a pen, and knowing I'm walking in Barrie's revered footsteps," said McCaughrean, a three-time winner of Britain's prestigious Whitbread Children's Book of the Year. The Peter Pan character first appeared in a 1902 novel, "The Little White Bird." The play that made Peter famous debuted in London two years later. Barrie turned the story into a kids' book in 1911. (AP)

MIT team bringing cheap laptops to developing nations

In rural Cambodian villages with no electricity, nighttime darkness is pierced by the glow from laptop computers that children bring home from school. The kids go to three schools that Nicholas Negroponte of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has equipped with inexpensive computers. Negroponte is founder of MIT's Media Lab and chairman of the 2B1 Foundation, which seeks to bring computer technology to the developing world.

His Cambodian project is small, but Negroponte and his colleagues are recruiting corporate partners to join MIT in mass-producing basic, durable laptops costing $100 or less. To keep costs down, MIT will use the freely distributed Linux operating system and design a battery that can be recharged with a hand crank. The project still faces many hurdles, such as providing customer support in rural areas. (AP)

Have you heard these?

Question: What did the necktie say to the hat? Answer: "You go on a head, I'll hang around." Q.: What did the sock say to the foot? "You're putting me on!" Q.: What bakery item aspired to rule the world? A.: Attila the Bun. Q.: What did the big flower say to the little flower? A.: "Hiya, bud!"

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