Picks and Pans Review: Spring's Best Kids' Books

updated 05/03/2004 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/03/2004 01:00AM

From the latest novels by two Newbery-winning authors to a story in: verse to great fantasy reads, here's a bouquet of the finest of the season s new titles forages 10 and up.

AL CAPONE DOES MY SHIRTS BY GENNIFER CHOLDENKO In this novel set in 1935, 12-year-old Moose Flanagan has just moved to Alcatraz, where his father is a guard and the titular criminal an inmate. Funny situations and plot twists abound.

THE REPORT CAIRO BY ANDREW CLEMENTS From an early age, Nora has hidden her intelligence. When she sets out to" prove the irrelevance of tests by getting D's on her-fifth-grade report card, all does not go? according to plan. But she makes a point about how grades" have repercussions not only for the student but for the teacher school and even the entire state.

MESSENGER BY LOIS LOWRY The third in a trilogy of political fables that began with the Newbery Award winner The Giver Messenger also works as a stand-alone as it follows Matty a once-scruffy thief who discovers that he has healing powers. Matty's skills become crucial in saving his formerly tolerant village from the-greed and suspicion eating away at it.

THE OUTCASTS OF 19 SCHUYLER PLACE BY E.L. KONIGSBURG Margaret, rescued by her great-uncles from an awful summer camp, ends up defending them against the city council in a novel that explores art, history and community.

HEARTBEAT BY SHARON CREECH Newbery Award winner Creech uses free verse to tell the story of 12-year-old Annie as she awaits a new sibling and eloquently contrasts the baby's arrival with her grandpa's slow withdrawal from life.

SIGN OF THE QIN BY L.G. BASS This first book in a planned trilogy blends mythology, fantasy and martial arts in a Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon-style tale about a boy, born to an evil emperor, who bears a birthmark that looks like the logo of a. rebel group.

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