STEPHEN FAIR, by Tim Wynne-Jones. (DK Publishing, $15.95; young adult.) Seeking the meaning of his recurring nightmare about a baby crying in a treetop, 15-year-old Stephen uncovers deep family secrets, including the truth about his own identity. Award-winner Wynne-Jones shows his knack for witty dialogue, intriguing plot, and quirky characters.
BREAKING GROUND, BREAKING SILENCE: The Story of New York’s African Burial Ground, by Joyce Hansen and Gary McGowan. (Henry Holt, $17.95; grades 6 and up.) The bones and artifacts unearthed at New York City’s African Burial Ground in 1991 offer new, fascinating details about the lives of slaves in colonial America 200 years ago. With black-and-white photographs of the site as a guide, Hansen and McGowan, the head conservator, describe how archaeologists and anthropologists divine history from these buried treasures. They also give an authoritative regional history of slavery, complete with historical drawings.
THE SQUIRE’S TALE, by Gerald Morris. (Houghton Mifflin, $15; young adult.) In this rollicking and bewitching adventure, Terence, an orphan living in the woods with a slightly dotty yet clairvoyant hermit, becomes the squire to Gawain, soon to be a Knight of the Round Table. Once at King Arthur’s court, the boy plunges into the heady world of knights, wizards, magic spells, and damsels not always in distress.
THE SPACE BETWEEN OUR FOOTSTEPS: Poems and Paintings From the Middle East, selected by Naomi Shihab Nye. (Simon and Schuster, $19.95; all ages.) This glorious collection of Arabic, Hebrew, Persian, and Turkish poetry and painting dazzles with its depictions of the lives and rich cultures of the anthology’s talented contributors. Nye calls the book “a feast of little dishes,” and it is indeed a rich banquet of subjects, emotions, perceptions, and styles.
RIDING FREEDOM, by Pam Muñoz Ryan. (Scholastic, $15.95; grades 4-6.) The unusual and gutsy heroine of this historical novel is Charlie, a spirited young orphan girl who is wild about horses. Disguising herself as a boy, she runs away to work in a stable and, after grueling training and hard work, becomes Charlotte Darkey Pankhurst, the legendary stagecoach driver and the first woman to vote in 19th-century California.
THE CHILDREN OF CHINA: An Artist’s Journey, by Song Nan Zhang. (Tundra, $8.95; grades 3-5.) Chinese artist Song traveled through his native land on the centuries-old trading route known as the Silk Road, painting nomadic tribes along the way. Among those included in this stunning volume are a young Hui baby surrounded by boldly colored toy tigers, two shy Kazakh girls riding an ox to school, and a Mongolian shepherd playing chess with his grandson in a meadow. The simple, spare text accompanying the paintings describes fascinating details about each of the subjects’ daily lives, dress, games, festivals, and customs.
THE LOST AND FOUND, by Mark Teague. (Scholastic, $15.95; grades K-2.) When Wendell and Floyd, the two characters from Teague’s delightful picture book The Secret Shortcut, see classmate Mona dive into the school’s lost-and-found bin, they don’t need much coaxing to go in after her. To their great surprise, they plunge into a labyrinthine world of misplaced toys, clothes, and other belongings that include a lost pirate treasure, a suit of armor, a variety of ships, and millions of hats. Teague’s amusing tale and fetching acrylic paintings are perfectly crafted for a child’s imagination.
WARTHOGS IN THE KITCHEN: A Sloppy Counting Book, by Pamela Duncan Edwards, with illustrations by Henry Cole. (Hyperion, $13.95; grades K-2.) This new title from the team behind the entertaining Some Smug Slug is a bit of a gross-out. But then what would you expect from a book about a bunch of warthogs determined to bake a panful of cupcakes? Cole’s illustrations and Edwards’ rhyming text are hilarious.
-Barbara Hiron and Blake Rodman