Lionboy: The Truth, by Zizou Corder (Dial, $16.99; ages 10-up). As this finale to a diverting British trilogy opens, Charlie Ashanti, "lion-rescuer, shipwreck-survivor, circus veteran, son of asthma-cure-inventing scientists, and Catspeaker," is enjoying a reunion with his parents and a "well-deserved and refreshing rest" after his strenuous adventures in Books 1 and 2. Before The Truth wraps up, he will once again have to outmaneuver the evil Corporacy across oceans and continents, but don't worry: While plot and cast may spin out into what Charlie would calmly call a complete shambles, the trilogy's best feature -- its wry British humor -- remains intact.
The King in the Window, by Adam Gopnik (Miramax/Hyperion, $19.95; ages 10-up). Oliver, 12, lives morosely in Paris with his expat parents. His is not the familiar springtime Paris but a wintry city of "gray-violet skies [that] always look as if they are about to snow, and never do." School is discouraging, and Oliver's dad has almost disappeared into his computer screen, that "soul-trap." But one night, still wearing the paper crown that came in the Epiphany cake, Oliver glances at a window and sees, not his own reflection, but a boy in a doublet stitched with fleurs-de-lis, the symbol of French royalty. Oliver, the boy tells him, is the "king of window and water," and he has been elected to lead the window wraiths in their war against the mirror spirits. This mission takes Oliver all over Paris, back in time and into a parallel reality; mobilizes a cast that includes Moliere, Racine, Nostradamus and Alice in Wonderland; and unleashes a torrent of philosophizing. And that's just one plot strand. Gopnik, a journalist and author of a well-received collection of essays on Paris, may have tried too hard with his first children's book -- certainly, he belabors his metaphors and overdoes the Francophilia -- but fantasy-loving, computer-savvy kids with a literary and historical bent will probably forgive him.
Waiting for Eugene, by Sallie Lowenstein (Lion Stone Books, $19; ages 12-up). "Eugene" is just one of the mysterious presences haunting this quiet but intense novel by a local author. Twelve-year-old Sara Goldman's father, Michel, is a survivor of a wartime trauma; what war is never specified, but the flashbacks suggest Nazi-occupied France. As a little boy, Michel was hidden for many months in a hole under a barn floor. Years later, he has become a successful architect in America, but he can't stop the memories. Worse, he can't tell which of the characters populating the stories he tells Sara -- Eugene, Rudi, Lili and the rest -- are real and which are not. For Sara, who has always loved his tales, the realization that her father is profoundly damaged is a shock and a challenge. An uneven work in some ways -- Sara's conversations with her friend Willie are particularly unconvincing -- Waiting for Eugene nevertheless stays with you longer than most.
Autobiography of My Dead Brother, by Walter Dean Myers (HarperCollins, $15.99; ages 12-up). This sad and powerful novel, already nominated for a National Book Award, opens with the funeral of one Harlem teenager and closes with another. In between, the narrator, Jesse, struggles to comprehend the carnage and the options. The second death hits him especially hard, in part because he has seen it coming. The dead boy, Rise, was his blood brother but had "crossed over into a different landscape," a realm Jesse and his friend C.J. refer to simply as "gangs and stuff." In a way, Jesse muses, "the Rise I had grown up with . . . had died" already. Myers doesn't preach. The cartoon bird Jesse draws asks where the answers are hidden but gets no response: "Keep on looking," the bird decides. But a clue lurks in a sentence given to Rise: "It's like the Man said, if you ain't in the book, you come and you go and you ain't never been." In this book, a lot of kids get to be.
Sienna's Scrapbook: Our African American Heritage Trip, by Toni Trent Parker (Chronicle, $15.95; ages 7-11). Sienna fears summer vacation has been ruined before it even starts. Instead of going straight to Winston-Salem, N.C., and hanging out before the annual family reunion, her family will drive down from Hartford, Conn., and stop off at black historical sites en route. "Ugh! Summer is supposed to be about fun, not about learning!" But what sounded like a drag turns out to be a blast -- and eye-opening, to boot. Highlights include the Amistad in New Haven, Sylvia's soul food restaurant in Harlem, Baltimore's Great Blacks in Wax Museum, Mount Vernon and Greensboro. Sienna's bubbly commentary is paired with scrapbook-style photos, souvenirs, marginalia and Janell Genovese's bright, folk-arty illustrations.
-- Elizabeth Ward