Summer reading list: kids' books and YA

Being a compendium of some of my most popular kids' book reviews from the past year, from Glorkian Warrior to Alan Mendelsohn

The Return of Zita the Spacegirl

In The Return of Zita, Hatke wraps up the three-book story arc so neatly and beautifully that I could have been happy if he'd left it off there, but (without giving away spoilers), it's clear by the last page that there's more to come.

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Young Adults

A hilarious, bawdy romp through the conventions of young adult literature. When got my first paperback copy, I walked around for days, annoying my roommates by reading long passages from this at them until they forgave me because they were convulsed with laughter. Dadaism was never so funny.

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Lockstep

Lockstep's central premise is a fiendishly clever answer to the problem of creating galactic-scale civilizations in a universe where the speed of light is absolute. The "Lockstep" worlds all enter into a contract to go into suspended animation on a synchronized schedule -- in lockstep, in other words.

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A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel

L'Engle's charm and gift was in her ability to marry the abstract with the numinous -- to infuse stories about math and physics with so much heart, heartbreak, bravery, sorrow and joy that they changed everyone who read them. Larson does a brilliant job of capturing this crucial element of L'Engle's style.

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This One Summer

Rose and Windy are a pair of adolescent girls who are "summer friends," meeting every year in a lakeside cottage-town where their families rent adjacent summer places. This year, Rose and Windy's lives are in the liminal state between girlhood and adolescence, something they're both painfully aware of, but unable to readily admit.

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The Glorkian Warrior Delivers a Pizza

My six year old literally howled with laughter as I read this to her at bedtime, and kicked her legs in the air, and thumped the pillow -- tears of laughter rolled down her cheeks. After reading this to her twice at bedtime, I had to declare a moratorium on further bedtime reads because it wound her up too much to sleep.

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Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant

Set in 1908, this volume opens with the hapless Lieutenant Erdemoglu Selim reporting to the sultan about the new prisoner he's just gotten through questioning: a woman adventurer who claims to be the daughter of a British diplomat, skilled in many of the world's swordfighting techniques, fearsome fighter and adventurer, and expert escapologist. The Sultan is contemptuous when the Lieutenant reports that she's allowed herself to be imprisoned for the express purpose of breaking out and stealing some of his valuable scrolls, but he's alarmed when she does break out

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The Princess Bride: An Illustrated Edition of S. Morgenstern's Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure

It's the 40th anniversary of William Goldman's wonderful, brilliant, amazing novel The Princess Bride, and there's a gorgeous hardcover commemorative illustrated edition to celebrate.

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The Cats of Tanglewood Forest

A story set on an American prairie farm sometime in the 20th century, about Lillian, a kind-hearted girl who sets out saucers of milk for the wild cats, scatters grain for the songbirds, and leaves a biscuit by the oldest, most gnarled apple tree in the orchard for the Apple Tree Man. And it's because of her good heart and her wild spirit that the cats of Tanglewood Forest defy the king of cats, and work cat-magic to rescue her when she is bitten by a snake and brought near to death. Now she has been reborn as a kitten, and she must find out how she can once again become a girl.

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Alan Mendelsohn, The Boy from Mars

It literally changed my life. It's your basic nerd-discovers-he-has-special-powers book, except it's not: it's got saucer cults, green death chili, mystic bikers, and a sweet and inclusive message about following your weird without looking down on others.

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Fortunately, the Milk

A magnificent tribute to the fatherly art of trolling kids with straightfaced, outlandish tales. It's narrated by a boy whose mother is away on a business trip, and whose father had to go out to the corner store for a pint of milk for the cereal and his tea. Dad takes an unconscionably long time getting the milk, and when he returns, the narrator and his little sister accuse Dad of having stopped to gossip at the store. Not so, insists Dad, who proceeds to explain exactly what happened while he was out getting the milk.

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Wild

The story of a nameless feral girl who is reared by the creatures of the woods. The bird teaches her to talk, the bear teaches her to eat, the fox teaches her to play. She is perfectly happy. But then she is discovered by the family of an eminent psychologist, who brings her home to tame and civilize her. This is a lost cause, and makes everyone -- especially the girl -- miserable.

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The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdos

The creators really worked to weave numbers and mathematics through the text, with lively, fun illustrations of a young Erdős learning about negative numbers, becoming obsessed with prime numbers and leading his high-school chums on a mathematical tour of Budapest. They also go to great lengths to capture the upside and downside of Erdős's legendary eccentricity -- his inability to fend for himself and his helplessness when it came to everyday tasks like cooking and doing laundry; his amazing generosity and brilliance and empathy in his working and personal life.

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Not Your Ordinary Wolf Girl

Absolutely fabulous new young adult novel about a painfully shy rock-star who gets bitten by a werewolf. Sam Lee is 18 years old and not entirely comfortable with the stellar trajectory of the Cream Puffs, the power-trio she founded in art school, only to be "discovered" by a manager who turned them into an overnight sensation. Although Sam writes the songs, she's happy to leave the spotlight to her two bandmates, and retreat to the shadows and nurse her crippling shyness.

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