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Birds, Blood, and Hard-Boiled Detectives – New Books for Older Readers

The Book of Blood: From Legends and Leeches to Vampires and Veins by H. P. Newquist
“There is more to blood than that it’s red and kind of gross” and this books sets out to prove it, though keeping at least some of the gross factor too! Looking at the biological, cultural and historical significance of the red stuff as well as giving us plenty of gory facts about early medical practices and hematophagous (blood-drinking) animals, this covers everything a kid might want to know about blood in one absorbing and fun-spattered book. (Grades 5–8)

On the Road to Mr. Mineo’s by Barbara O’Connor
When a one-legged pigeon begins to make appearances in and around the small South Carolina town of Meadville, life perks up for its residents.  Stella, her friend Gerald, her brother and his friends all see the pigeon and set out to catch it. Even a stray little brown dog is part of the journey that brings this town together to find the elusive one-legged pigeon.  Short chapters, interesting characters, and a gentle yet exciting story make this an accessible book for new readers to the J Fiction Area of the library. (Grades 3–6)

Summer and Bird by Katherine Catmull
Summer and Bird, two young sisters, wake up to find their parents gone and the only clue they have is a picture letter left by their mother.  The letter leads them through a familiar gate and deep into the woods and, eventually, to a ruined frozen world of birds called Down.  But Bird sets off on her own and Summer needs to rescue her when she falls into the clutches of the evil Puppeteer. Catmull’s world of Down will pull you in just as it does the young sisters.  Beware, bird magic and mystery lurk around every corner. (Grades 5-8)

The Vengekeep Prophecies by Brian Farrey
The Grimjinx family has a storied history of thieving and forgery. Unfortunately, 12-year old Jaxter has not inherited the delicate skills of his parents and his clumsy attempt at a robbery sets off a wild series of adventures as he tries to put right what he’s unleashed – before it’s too late. Jaxter is our smart and slightly sardonic narrator in this rollercoaster ride around the imaginary Five Provinces with its many surprising inhabitants. A Brett Helquist cover and illustrations set just the right tone for this entertaining fantasy. (Grades 4–7)

“Who Could That Be at This Hour?” by Lemony Snicket
Hard-boiled dialog, and literary and film noir references abound in this first installment of “All the Wrong Questions,” a new series from genre-bending trickster Lemony Snicket. In this volume, a stolen statue of a mythical beast about the size of a milk bottle is recovered (and stolen again) in a story that has more loose endings than a pair of cut-off jeans. It’s all in good fun, though, and I believe that this tongue-in-cheek take on the hard-boiled detective story will not only make kids laugh and feel smart, it might even inspire a few to seek out the ‘real thing’ in Hammett and Chandler. (Grades 4-7)

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