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Readers Weigh In on Good Summer Reading for Kids

A few weeks ago, we asked for your suggestions on books that will prompt kids to bury the remote control. Many thanks to all who wrote in with wonderful suggestions, a wide range of which we've included here. One note: Since we haven't read each book suggested, please take a moment to look selections over carefully.

By the way, a suggestion from me: My kids and I have become charmed by the whimsical and often sophisticated stories of author and illustrator William Pne du Bois. Some works, written in the 1940s, '50s, and '60s, are out of print, but they're worth a trip to the library. Some favorites that should be available: "Lion," "The Twenty-One Balloons," and "The Three Policemen." The target audience ranges from ages 5 to 12.

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- Amelia Newcomb, Learning editor

For those wanting time travel and mystery, consider "The Children of Green Knowe" books, by L.M. Boston. I loved them as a child, and so do my sons. A lesser-known author is Barbara Smucker, who wrote "Runaway to Freedom." All of her books have been exciting and are thoughtful historical fictions. And then there is my favorite contemporary author for middle-school readers, Ellen Howard. I read her book "Sister" repeatedly for inspiration and instruction on how to write well. She writes with sensitivity, yet creates strong female characters who are intelligent and compassionate.

Joan Donaldson,

Fennville, Mich.

I'm 15 years old and have loved to read for as long as I can remember. My favorite author, even now, is Tamora Pierce. She has completed two quartets of books, "The Song of the Lioness" and "The Immortals." My favorite, "The Song of the Lioness," I would recommend to people around the ages of 12 to 14. The first book in the quartet is "Alanna: the First Adventure." It's about a girl who, instead of becoming a lady, wants to become a knight. She is a strong, inspirational female character. The plot keeps your attention, the characters are memorable, and Alanna is a very real person.

Maia Krause,

Edmonds, Wash.

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I liked "Stranded," by Ben Mikaelsen, because it showed that even a person with a disability can do something incredible. I also liked "A Kind of Thief," by Vivien Alcock and "The Face on the Milk Carton" series, by Caroline B. Cooney, because they are mysteries and kept me interested.

Christine and Margaret Bull

Will Hobbs's "Down River," "Bearstone," and "Changes in Latitude" are superb, award-winning teenage fiction.

Sandra Mapel,

Durango, Colo.

My favorite book for kids is "The Phantom Tollbooth," by Norton Juster. I read it aloud to my three children about 10 years ago, and they still quote from it and refer to it with fondest memories. And here are some strategies to "survive kids' reading choices." Ignore what choices they make unless the books are dangerous. Children need experience of choosing their own reading material. Have only the best in books in your own private library. Leave some lying around your living room, and let your children know why you love them.

Tarah Nellis,

Evergreen, Colo.

Here's my suggestion: Joseph Altsheler. He's written a long shelf of adventure/historic books that boys, in particular, from about 10 to 14 would like.

Hope A. Jeter,

Los Angeles

It may be one of the usual suspects ... but "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" (C.S. Lewis) raised reading to a new level for our eight-year-old daughter. When we decided to buy the seven-book series, our daughter not only got adventure, mystery, and discovery, but she also caught a glimpse of the art and joy of deep reading. We are now reading the series for the second time.

Suzanne Liebenrood,


I would like to recommend a series based on my son's reading enjoyment. The first is Lloyd Alexander's "Pyradin Chronicles," which include "The Book of Three," "The Black Cauldron," "The Castle of Llyr," "Taran Wanderer," and "The High King." This series is a well-written "hero's journey" for pre-adolescents.

Pamela Linn,


I remember being delightfully entertained by "Ringworld," by Larry Niven. I would highly recommend it. I wouldn't be so concerned about whether summer reading is challenging enough for kids. They'll read where their interests are, and their natural curiosity will lead them to a variety of topics.

David Heim

"Alice in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking Glass" are books that I think should be tried by every kid out there. The tongue-in-cheek approach that Lewis Carroll takes to reality actually helps encourage critical thinking.

Mike Bevan

My first suggestion is a bookseller named Chinaberry (800-776-2242). They have selected great books of real value. One of the first books I got from them was "The Grey Lady and the Strawberry Snatcher," by Molly Bang. It has no words and can be used a thousand ways. Another book is of fairy tales called "Tatterhood and Other Tales" (Ethel Johnston Phelps), featuring girls and women in roles other than the "poor me" type (ages 7 to 9).

Helen Watts

Here are a few more suggestions: "The Golden Compass," by Philip Pullman; "The Callender Papers," by Cynthia Voigt; "Fire Mate," by Olga Cossi; anything by Ray Bradbury; "The Sense of Wonder," by Rachel Carson; "The Man Who Planted Trees," by Jean Giono; "Pirate's Promise," by Clyde Robert Bulla; "The Midnight Fox," by Betsy Byars; and "On the Day You Were Born," by Debra Frasier.

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