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Bestsellers

Culture | The five best-selling children's fiction books (or series) as measured by placement on three leading lists of June 4, 2000

Issue: "UNbelievable," June 17, 2000
Scoring system:10 points for first place, 9 for second, down to 1 for tenth, on the lists of the American Booksellers Association (independent, sometimes highbrow stores), The New York Times (4,000 bookstores, plus wholesalers), USA Today (3,000 large-inventory bookstores), and Amazon.com (Web purchases).
Harry Potter series
J.K. Rowling 30 points (ABA:1st; PW series list: 1st ; Amazon.com: 1st)
CONTENT
The adventures of Harry Potter at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

GIST
Harry lives in a topsy-turvy moral universe, a place where your friend may be your enemy, the person you are talking to might be someone else, and even your pet cannot be trusted. The fourth Harry Potter book is due for release in July.

WORLDVIEW
Relativism. The line between right and wrong is often blurry (see WORLD, Oct. 30, 1999).

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CAUTION
Witchcraft.

Captain Underpants series
Dav Pilkey 24 points (ABA: 2nd; PW: 2nd; Amazon.com: 5th)
PLOT
Tales of two rude, bored schoolboys who use hypnotism to turn their school principal into a superhero called Captain Underpants.

GIST
These will please those who think it doesn't matter what kids read as long as they are reading. Pilkey combines comic book-style illustration with almost nonexistent plots and plenty of bathroom humor aimed at 9- to 12-year-olds for whom saying "poopy pants" (the name of a character in the fourth volume) is a laugh riot.

WORLDVIEW
N/A

CAUTION
Bathroom humor and bad attitudes.

Oh, the Places You'll Go
Dr. Seuss 17 points (ABA: 3rd; PW: not listed; Amazon.com: 2nd)
CONTENT
A piffle about life's ups and downs, rhymed and illustrated by Dr. Seuss.

GIST
First published in 1993, two years after Dr. Seuss's death, this book is a perennial bestseller at graduation time. It is far inferior to Horton Hatches An Egg or some of the doctor's other classics, but its optimistic message about persevering through good and bad times makes it a marketing winner.

WORLDVIEW
Humanism.

CAUTION
N/A

Holes
Louis Sacher 17 points (ABA: not listed; PW fiction list: 1st; Amazon.com: 4th)
CONTENT
Stanley Yelnats is wrongly accused of stealing a pair of sneakers and is sent to a juvenile detention facility at Camp Green Lake in west Texas.

GIST
Stanley is a loser from a long line of losers. It's all the fault of his "no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather" for initiating a curse that has been bringing bad luck to the family for generations. At Camp Green Lake, which isn't a camp and has no lake, Stanley reaches the end of the Yelnats' bad luck.

WORLDVIEW
Cynicism.

CAUTION
N/A

The Bad Beginning
Lemony Snicket 14 points (ABA:4th; PW: not listed; Amazon.com: 4th)
CONTENT
The newly orphaned Baudelaire children are taken to live with their distant relative, Count Olaf, who can't wait to get his hands on their money. As the narrator relates one catastrophe after another, the reader thinks, "Surely, there will be a happy ending." But don't count on it.

GIST
The Bad Beginning is the first in a series that promises "not only is there no happy ending, there is no happy beginning and very few happy things in the middle."

WORLDVIEW
Tongue-in-cheek fatalism.

CAUTION
N/A

IN THE SPOTLIGHT
We live in a culture that glorifies rebellion, but the Bible says that children (including teens) are to submit to their parents. That's hard for some kids; it sometimes seems that they'd rather be spanked or put in time out or grounded forever. It's for parents of those children that Christian counselor Steve Sherbondy wrote Changing Your Child's Heart (Tyndale House, 1999). Sherbondy writes like a counselor who has experience with kids. It comes through in his anecdotes and illustrations and in the practicality of the advice he gives. The book shows that biblical love is both soft and hard, and that parents have to be willing to show the whole range of love to their kids. It asserts that conflict can be good because it reveals bad attitudes. It challenges parents to pursue those attitudes in order to expose them so that they can be removed. And it offers a series of practical steps parents can take to bring about attitude adjustments in even the most intractable teen. Sherbondy includes chapters on spanking and tantrums, and answers questions and objections people might have with his methods.

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