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>SOMETHING TO READ

"Finders-Keepers Place" by Ann Haywood Leal; Henry Holt, 272 pages ($16.99).

An elementary school teacher with a black belt in tae kwon do tells the heartwarming story of a can-do older sister who watches out for younger sister, Ruth, while dealing with their unstable mother (who once leaves Ruth overnight sleeping in the toilet paper aisle at the local supermarket) and fending off caring but nosy teachers who want to know what's going on at home. Esther's "finders-keepers" missions include trips to restaurant dumpsters in search of discarded hamburgers and a car in a junkyard where she hides mementos she doesn't want her mother to throw away.

All the while Esther is hoping their long-lost father, Ezekiel, will save them. Her hunt for the father she can barely remember takes her and Ruth out visiting every church in town.

Among their mother's "notions": living like the Amish and getting rid of all their electrical appliances (meaning Esther has to hide the toaster every morning), "remodeling" the house, which includes making giant holes in the walls.

Another title by this author: "Also Known as Harper."

-- Jean Westmoore

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>WACKY FACT

Was Juliet played by a man in the first productions of "Romeo and Juliet" back in the 1500s? The answer is yes. In the days of William Shakespeare, some 500 years ago, plays were performed only by men. Women were not allowed on stage. That changed in England in 1660, after King Charles changed the laws. That year, it is believed an actress named Margaret Hughes became the first professional actress when she played the leading female role, Desdemona, in Shakespeare's play, "Othello."

-- Time Book of Why