HAPPY BIRTHDAY! When Cousin Curtis called last month to thank you for the lovely book you sent him, he mentioned that he was throwing a surprise party this month for his wife Wanda. Ah, yes, Wanda the Wife if Curtis is the guy who has it all, it's probably because Wanda has been the one juggling it. Wanda's birthday gift needs to remind her that she's special and appreciated. What birthday gift is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and doesn't require a sitter when left at home? Why, books, of course! A good story about friendship is always appreciated. Richard Ezra Probert, music teacher and wood/metal craftsman, has chronicled his friendship with Archie Raasch in Archie's Way (The Lyons Press, $19.95, 1558217045). Amid the tools and planks, Archie and Richard forged a friendship that spanned 15 years. The lessons Richard learned (and subsequently shares with readers), however, will last a lifetime. Makes a wonderful gift for someone who has had or has been a mentor. Wanda remembers the mid-1950s (though she's reluctant to admit it); every child was taught to fear polio, and the summers just seemed hotter back then. She would love Pat Cunningham Devoto's first novel, My Last Days as Roy Rogers. Heroine Tab Rutland's prologue foreshadows that the summer of 1954 was a messenger of great changes to come. Readers, prepare to discover a world where it does, in fact, matter from which side of the Mason-Dixon you come; proprietors are assisted by double-barrel shotguns, and creative accounting wasn't created during the 1980s. A great novel for those who like to remember, or for those who are visiting post-World War II America for the first time.

You still laugh when Curtis recounts Wanda's attempts to train that mutt she adopted; housebreaking remains a sore subject for poor Wanda, and a mystery to her canine. To show your support for her efforts, Why We Love Dogs: A Bark and Smile Book (Andrews McMeel, $12.95, 0836269713) makes a wonderful gift. Black-and-white photographs capture the essence of dogs; brief, large text descriptions remind humans of the joys of dog ownership (lest they forget the next time they discover that their potted plants have been mutilated!).

On the brink of a new millennium, teenagers everywhere have opinions about the world that they are inheriting. From Johannesburg to Kiev, Belfast to San Francisco, teens worldwide offer an honest portrayal of the state of things in Hear These Voices: Youth at the Edge of the Millennium (Dutton's Children's Books, $22.99, 0525453539). Author Anthony Allison is a photographer and youth counselor who has traveled to various points on the map, talking to at risk children about their experiences and their hopes for the future. Complete with striking black-and-white photographs, Hear These Voices presents gripping stories in a forthright and respectable manner. Perfect for educators, counselors, or anyone else who is concerned about today's youth. A time management queen like Wanda probably feels like her reign is always in jeopardy. Life Balance, Inc. president Mary LoVerde has written Stop Screaming at the Microwave: How to Connect Your Disconnected Life (Fireside, $12, 0684853973) for seasoned veterans or novices at the keeping up with life game. LoVerde presents a step-by-step approach, taking small steps to the big finish. She identifies plans of action with regard to family, career, social life, and beyond. Readers, beware: after reading about how to keep up, you might find yourselves actually (gasp!) getting ahead!

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