Hot off the presses

    If you have a Rick Riordan fan at your house, you’re well aware that the final book in his Percy Jackson series has just been published. 

     Percy, now 16, is a “half-blood,” the son of Poseidon, the ocean god, and a human mother.  In “The Last Olympian” he leads the final battle between the Greek gods and the forces of Kronos.  Strong characterizations, surprising plot twists, and enough mystery and suspense to keep readers on the edge of their seats have made this series a best-seller, and Riordan does not disappoint in the final book.  Readers new to the series would do well to start at the beginning with “The Lightning Thief.”

     Suzanne Collins’ “The Hunger Games” is likely to keep kids reading under the covers with a flashlight.   In a dystopian future, the country’s rulers keep control of the country through a real-life survival game that’s televised nationally as entertainment – but all citizens are required to watch.  Chosen by lottery, two dozen teens are pitted against each other in a fight to the finish until only one pair is left standing. 
     Readers will be rooting for Katniss, who impulsively takes the place of her younger sister and finds herself up against kids who have been training for this event their whole lives. Her teammate Peeta seems to have all the fighting skills of a lump of bread dough (he’s the son of a baker), but he keeps his humanity while Katniss, calculating and desperate to survive, seems at risk of losing hers.
     Collins, the author of the best-selling “Overlander” series, knows how to pace her story, and teen fans are eagerly awaiting the sequel, “Catching Fire,” due to be published September first.
     Photographer Nic Bishop has a remarkable ability to capture creatures close up and in action.  He’s already hooked kids with last year’s “Nic Bishop Spiders,” and now he’s published “Nic Bishop Butterflies and Moths.”  The accompanying text is written at three different reading levels and displayed in different fonts, allowing readers to choose the level of detail that suits them best.
     But it’s the photos that will draw in young readers.  The tiger swallowtail, shown twice its actual size, or a butterfly’s wing magnified twenty times are marvels of detail and color.  A praying mantis devouring a butterfly head-first has a chilly elegance.  A cecropia moth caterpillar, with its spiky blue and orange excrescences, looks like a creature from outer space. Most remarkable is a rain forest caterpillar that puffs up to look just like a snake – only close investigation reveals that the “eyes” are just black and white markings. 
     Getting photos like these takes more than luck, though that plays a part.  In an author’s note Bishop describes the time and patience required to find these creatures at just the right moment.  In the case of the rare rain forest caterpillar, getting the shot required years from the time a scientist first told him of its existence.  When Bishop got an email from the scientist saying he’d finally found another one, he took a last-minute flight to Costa Rica followed by a sixty-mile ride in the dark through mountains and rain forest.  All ended well when he arrived to find that the caterpillar had not yet turned into a pupa, and the shot was taken.  As a reader, I say it was worth it!