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Best new books for kids

This season's best new reads for third through fifth graders.

By Susan Freinkel

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The Flint Heart

By Katherine Paterson and John Paterson; illustrated by John Rocco

Ages: 7 and up

Originally published in 1910, this fairy tale now appears in a new abridged version that has been updated for a modern audience. The story centers on the Flint Heart, a Stone Age talisman that hardens the hearts of its wearers, making them cruel and power-hungry. Lost for 5,000 years, the charm "starts bubbling away with wickedness" when it is unearthed by a kindly farmer. The moment he pockets it, the farmer turns mean — he snarls and shouts and hits his oldest son, Charlie. To rid their father of the evil charm, Charlie and his sister turn for help to a cast of magical creatures, including pixies and, bizarrely, a hot water bottle. The illustrations have a modern animated look (yes, a film is in the works), but the writing retains that wonderfully arch tone of Victorian classics like Winnie-the-Pooh.

Bottom line: The Flint Heart is a wonderfully wacky yarn made for reading aloud, one chapter at a time.

Susan Freinkel is the author of Plastic: A Toxic Love Story and has written for the New York Times, Discover, Smithsonian, Real Simple, and other national publications.

Comments from GreatSchools.org readers

11/28/2011:
"It is well written, but it needs more details. "
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