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CHILDREN'S BOOKSHELF

On Giving Things Up

June 18, 1995|KATHLEEN KRULL

Out of the blue, my 14-year-old stepdaughter recently renounced red meat, and a spate of articles confirms that shifting toward vegetarianism is trendier than you might think for hamburger-chopping teens. A Teen's Guide to Going Vegetarian by Judy Krizmanic, illustrations by Matthew Wawiorka (Viking: $6.99 paperback, ages 12 and up) dispenses non-preachy help. Part 1 discusses the philosophical cons though mostly pros of making the switch. Part 2 takes on real life--your family's possible resentment, pressure from friends, the school cafeteria. Part 3 gets practical, with nutrition basics and recipes. The author, a former editor for Vegetarian Times, has written a thoughtful, thorough and fascinating handbook.

Kid's lives are full of losses far more significant than the loss of meat. Eleven true accounts about dealing with the death of someone close make up Part of Me Died, Too: Stories of Creative Survival Among Bereaved Children and Teenagers by Virginia Lynn Fry, introduction by Katherine Paterson, illustrated with drawings by grieving children (Dutton: $16.99, ages 10 and up). A kind, hopeful treatment demystifies death so that kids can move on with their lives. The author, a bereavement counselor for many years, interviews kids helped by various creative activities--drawing and writing, music, rituals, farewell projects. This compassionate, practical book, though specifically about death, offers techniques that could be used in many situations inducing grief: divorce, abandonment, loss of friends, moving to a new country or just across town and other sudden change. An epilogue describes the progress these 11 kids have made a few years after their losses.

A handy end-of-school gift (doubling as a gentle hint for kids to earn their own money during summer vacation) would be The New Complete Babysitter's Handbook by Carol Barkin and Beverly Hills author Elizabeth James, illustrated by Martha Weston (Clarion: $7.95 paperback, ages 10 and up). In 13 chapters, plus appendixes for emergencies, this meticulous, pocket-sized guide covers everything--certainly every situation I ever encountered as a young baby-sitter. It even lists reasons not to engage in what was my own personal downfall: snooping.

A book that Southern California baby-sitters probably won't want to cart along, for fear of inspiring nightmares, is The Great Fire by Jim Murphy, illustrated with photos, drawings, maps (Scholastic: $16.95, ages 8 to 12). The Chicago fire of 1871 may have taken place 2,000 miles away, but kids here will be able to relate all too well to some of its causes and effects. A perfect gift for kids thrilled by books about disasters, this one is unusually well told, following stories of real people, notably a 12-year-old girl who left a detailed letter describing her horrific experience.

But baby-sitters should grab Some Body! by Dr. Pete Rowan (Random House: $20; ages 8-12). This impossible-to-put-down, oversize book has hyper-realistic art and bizarre facts about human organs. In some cases it's more than you really want to know, especially about the digestive system, but kids will be riveted. It's also great for cocktail party chat: For example, blonds have the densest heads of hair, each cell in the nose lasts about 60 days and sperm travels at 0.00013 miles per hour. Yikes!

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