"Jake" by Audrey Couloumbis; Random House, $15.99.

Ten-year-old Jake is grocery shopping with his mom a few days before Christmas when she slips on the ice, breaks her leg and has to stay in the hospital for who knows how long. Jake's dad died years ago, and his aunts are traveling and can't be reached. The only relative who can stay with him is a scary grandfather he hardly knows.

But as Jake gets to know his grandfather -- and his grandfather's scary dog -- he realizes Christmas might be something to celebrate after all. This heartwarming family story is perfect for the holidays. Another great book by this author: "The Misadventures of Maude March."

-- Jean Westmoore



Have you had a "Wimpy Kid" experience? NeXt is asking readers 18 and younger to create their own "Wimpy Kid" diary entry modeled after Jeff Kinney's popular series about middle school misfit Greg Heffley. Feel free to include your own stick figure cartoons. Please make sure we can read your diary entry by including a typed version of it. We'll reprint some of our favorites in NeXt, and all who send entries will be eligible for a prize drawing for books. Send to: NeXt, Buffalo News, One News Plaza, Buffalo, N.Y. 14240. Include your name, age, grade, school, home mailing address and home phone number. The deadline is Dec. 31.



Knuckles crack because of gas bubbles popping inside the liquid that keeps the cartilage, tissues and muscles in your joints lubricated. When you bend your fingers, you stretch the case around the joint. That increases the amount of fluid. When that happens, the bubbles in the fluid pop.

-- Time for Kids Big Book of Why