This boy's life is a little gory

This latest edition in the adventures of Brian is an exhilarating story about a boy in the backcountry. If you like partly gory wilderness books, you'll love this one.

If you don't already know from Paulsen's other books, such as "Hatchet" and "Brian's Winter," Brian is a wilderness boy. He loves animals and nature. After Brian kills an animal to eat, he thanks it and says he's sorry to the animal. When he meets an injured dog in this book's story, he doesn't hurt it. He comforts it, helps it and feeds it.

Does the dog help Brian? Will Brian solve the mystery of what happened to it? Will it have a happy ending? I'm not going to tell you. I'll give you a clue about the end — don't be surprised!

— Emily Taylor Boone,
Fourth grade,
Fremont Elementary, Glendale

All talk, not nearly enough action

Another generically named action sports site that teases visitors with a wide offering of services and features, fails to land the trick as advertised. Developed in New Zealand, and exhorting visitors to "think local, ride global," the site covers new gear and Kiwi snowboarding well enough but lumps the rest of the ridable world into two categories: ski resorts in Colorado and Canada. And, gee, the site is sponsored by … resorts in Colorado and Canada.

It gets better, but worse. Snowboarder commingling with the camcorder mob is several years on now, and any fool can post a cool image or video clip of the latest trick, which will host for free. You can also ask any question you want on the site's message board, and you might get a thoughtful answer. It all sounds egalitarian, but there's nothing stopping someone from posting a fake image or taunting as girlie a questioner on the message board — a common theme, judging from a quick perusal of postings.

— Emmett Berg

Let the humpbacks, and the camera, roll
Crittercam National Geographic Channel Saturday, 8 p.m.

"Coming up! Lunge!" shouts host Dr. Mike Heithaus, as we watch a pod of 40,000-pound humpback whales breach in a feeding frenzy in the fiords of southern Alaska. Via the Crittercam, a camera suctioned onto a whale's back, we dive beneath the roiling waters to discover the giants teaming up to drive their mackerel prey into a sparkling "bubble net," making dining a snap for the endangered leviathans.

The Crittercam, a powerful research tool that includes a video camera and microphone, is the undisputed star of this highly entertaining, informative new series. Affixed — at considerable peril — onto a whale, lion or other wild creature, it allows us to go where they go and see what they see.

Unlike other hyped-up wild animal shows, "Crittercam's" visionary missions are meaningful, the technology is dazzling and the participants are fired up about biology and conservation. It's an eye inside the life of beasts and a riveting must-see.

— Susan Dworski

Dead man and woman walking -- in Africa
To the Heart of the Nile Pat Shipman William Morrow, $25.95

It was a long, very strange trip. British big-game hunter and adventurer Samuel Baker teamed up with fellow traveler Florence Von Sass, a young Bulgarian, when he bought her at a local slave auction. They quickly married and became one of the great exploration teams of the 19th century.

They joined the great quest of European explorers of the day, setting out from Cairo in search of the source of the Nile. In their wanderings the Bakers would survive plague, starvation and mutiny, and also make significant discoveries, including Lake Albert and Murchison Falls. Given up for dead by their associates, they finally surfaced at Khartoum after four years deep in central Africa.

This absorbing narrative conveys the danger in confronting Africa's vast uncharted territory. It also reveals the life of a very tough woman, who journeyed alongside some of the bravest men of her time and who didn't forget her roots. The woman who was once auctioned off would go on to lead a campaign to end the slave trade along the Nile.

— Michael Koehn