In "Rat Teeth" by Patricia Reilly Giff, Cliffe hates his life since switching schools. His teeth stick out a mile, causing Cliffe to believe he's the most laughed-at kid in America; his teacher yells at him; and he lives out of a beatup suitcase he drags between his divorced parents' houses. Cliffe decides acting tough and baseball are the only two things that will get him through fifth grade. But when he blows the big game, he vows never to set foot in school again. If you've ever felt like faking a note rather than facing up to your troubles, you'll relate to Cliffe. ($4 paperbook, Yearling Books)
** (out of four)
"Riding Freedom" by Pam Munoz Ryan is about an 18th-century girl who tossed convention out the window to do what she loved: riding horses. Based on the true story of Charlotte Parkhurst, this historical novel follows the orphaned Charley through her life as a stable boy, stagecoach driver and, finally, ranch owner. Always disguised as a man, she struggles through the loss of an eye, votes in an election and wins respect as an expert driver. Charley's story is an inspiration to those who dream of taking the reins of their destiny. ($16 hardcover, Scholastic Press) ***
Right from its spooky opening lines, "For Mike" by Shelley Sykes had us hooked. Jeff, a high school senior, can't stop dreaming about his best friend, Mike, who is missing. Through vivid dreams, Mike begs Jeff to "come get me." A confused Jeff turns to his old gal pal, Berry, to investigate Mike's disappearance. Sykes' gripping plot twists had us furiously flipping pages, but her characters don't get lost in the action. ($16 hardcover, Delacorte Press) ***
Not-so-nice things happen to the characters of this short-story collection, "The Young Oxford Book of Nasty Endings," edited by Dennis Pepper. Unsuspecting characters are tricked by evil statuettes, gobbled by nursery lions come to life or fooled by ghosts. Each story shares a common theme: At the end, the characters are surprised to learn that their worlds aren't always what they appear to be. Grab this book every time you're in the mood for a quick scare. ($23 hardcover, University Press) ***
1997 Chicago Tribune. Distributed by Knight-Ridder/Tribune, Inc.
Pub Date: 6/11/98