Children's Corner: Try these page-turners for that reluctant reader
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Got a reluctant reader in your family? Try one of these fast-paced, high-interest adventure stories:
He may not be quite as popular as Harry Potter, but Alex Rider definitely is one of the major stars in the children's book world. As his many fans know, Alex Rider is the teenage spy created by British author Anthony Horowitz, who has detailed Alex's thrilling adventures in a series of best-selling novels.
In his latest mission, "Snakehead" (Philomel, $17.99), the 14-year-old Alex picks up -- literally -- where his last book, "Ark Angel," left off. That book ended with Alex fleeing from the bad guys in a spaceship, and, as "Snakehead" begins, the spaceship has splashed down off the coast of Australia, and Alex is rescued by the authorities there.
But these aren't just any authorities -- they are the Australian Secret Service. And, of course, they've got a job for Alex: infiltrate and, they hope, incapacitate, the terrorist organization known as Scorpia. Fans of the series know that Alex was orphaned and unwittingly pulled into the spy world after the death of his uncle/guardian and, despite his many successes, he's ready to put it behind him. But the Australian spymasters offer him an irresistible incentive -- the chance to work with Ash, his long-lost godfather. Ash was close friends with Alex's parents, who also were spies, and saw them perish in a mission gone awry.
Desperate for more information about his past, Alex agrees to pose as Ash's son. And so the two begin a dangerous journey into the heart of Scorpia, a worldwide organization that uses gangs, known as "snakeheads," to smuggle weapons, drugs and people. As always, the mission doesn't work as planned, and Alex is forced to rely on his wits, courage and the latest gadgets supplied by British intelligence to escape a harrowing death at the hands of a doctor who deals in human body parts.
Horowitz is a master storyteller who will have readers zooming through the pages to see what happens next. But Alex's quest to learn about his parents adds additional complexity and emotional depth to "Snakehead." As a result, fans of the series may find that "Snakehead" is their favorite book yet. Those unfamiliar with the series also will enjoy the book and likely will want to read the other volumes in the series to catch up with Alex's past adventures. (Ages 10 up.)
Longtime sports reporter John Feinstein won the 2006 Edgar award for best young-adult mystery with his first book for young readers, "Last Shot: A Final Four Mystery," in which two eighth-grade reporters ferret out a major college sports scandal.
Feinstein followed quickly with a sequel, "Vanishing Act," in which the two reporters, Stevie Thomas and Susan Carol Anderson, work to solve the mystery behind the disappearance of a star Russian player at the U.S. Open.
Now, Stevie and Susan Carol make a third appearance in Feinstein's latest book, "Cover-Up" (Random House, $19.99). Set at the Super Bowl, this book -- a nice blend of sports, mystery and romance -- finds the now-14-year-old reporter-sleuths uncovering a nasty scandal involving some players' illegal use of a growth hormone. Once again, Feinstein takes readers right into the heart of a major sports event, as Stevie and Susan Carol rub shoulders with all kinds of celebrities and cope with deadline pressures in their reporting roles as they work to solve the mystery.
Readers also will be intrigued by Stevie and Susan Carol's growing romantic relationship, which is threatened at the beginning of the book when Stevie is fired from the television sports program he and Susan Carol host. After some initial challenges, the two end up back together as they work to expose the illegal doping scandal. Let's hope that Feinstein plans to write further volumes in this crowd-pleasing series. (Ages 10 up.)
Other new page-turners include:
• Celebrated young-adult author Robert Lipsyte has written a winner in "Yellow Flag" (HarperCollins, $16.99). Here, he tells the story of how Kyle Hildebrand must choose between the music he loves and the expectations of his NASCAR-racing family. (Ages 12 up.)
• Author Roland Smith tells a tale of danger and intrigue in "Elephant Run" (Hyperion, $15.99), in which 14-year-old Nick Freestone must travel to safety through the jungles of Burma in World War II. (Ages 10-14.)
• Adult-thriller writer Jack Higgins teams with Justin Richards to detail how 15-year-old twins Rich and Jade Chance try to rescue their long-lost spymaster father while saving the world's oil supply in "Sure Fire" (Putnam, $16.99). (Ages 12 up.)
First Published November 20, 2007 12:00 am