My kids and I were in the car and one of our favorite songs came on the radio, Sheryl Crow's "All I Wanna Do." We were smiling at each other and singing very loudly when it hit me: That is what this column is all about. All of these books are fun. That's it. Fun.
CHICKS WITH STICKS: IT'S A PURL THING, by Elizabeth Lenhard, Dutton Books, $15.99; ages 10-13.
My grandmother taught me how to knit when I was in grade school. I haven't picked up any knitting needles since. Now, after reading this book, I want to try again. And I want to be one of the characters in this story. And I want to have cool friends and a cool place to hang out and extremely cool yarn in very cool colors. I want it all. Knitting is cool and I want to be cool, too.
I raced through this book; the characters are totally believable and I so wanted to be a part of their friendship. After the story is over, there are four knitting patterns for you to try. The coolest part of all-the story takes place in Chicago.
FLUSH, by Carl Hiaasen, Knopf Books for Young Readers, $16.95; ages 10-13.
Noah and Abbey have a dad in jail, a mom talking divorce and a mystery to solve in order to bring the family back together. They are forced to trust a guy named Lice, befriend a casino bartender named Shelly and fend off the class bully. In the end (no pun intended), Noah and Abbey solve the mystery with some fuchsia food coloring and a few good flushes.
C'mon, how can you resist a book with a toilet seat on the cover?
LEON AND THE CHAMPION CHIP, by Allen Kurzweil, Greenwillow, $15.99; ages 9-12.
Leon is in fifth grade. He lives in a hotel with his mom. His daily chores include taking care of the animals whose owners stay in the hotel. He has his own taxi driver who takes him to school. He keeps a voodoo doll in his backpack in an effort to ward off the class bully.
He has two best friends, P.W. and Lily-Matisse. And his hobby is collecting potato chips; no boring Fruit of the Month Club for Leon, he's in the Chip of the Month Club. Then, his science teacher decides that the entire science curriculum for the entire school year will revolve around potato chips.
What could be better than that? Wait until you get to the part where Leon takes on Alphonse "The Chippopotamus" Cipollini at the annual Chipapalooza! Chip-Off.
THE SPIDERWICK CHRONICLES, by Holly Black, illustrated by Tony DiTerlizzi, Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing, $9.95; ages 8-11.
Malory, Simon and Jared have moved into a very old home known as the Spiderwick estate. Aunt Lucinda owns the house, but she had to be taken away when she started talking about little men and the fairies who bring her food.
My 8-year-old and I have just finished the third book and the fourth is waiting for us. So far we have met a griffin named Byron, an elf called Thimbletack, some very mean goblins, dwarves, an ogre, a shape shifter, a beautiful green lady who has wings and hair of leaves and so many more.
Oh, and I have to tell you about Uncle Arthur's secret room that you get to through the linen closet, and the swamp monster and the field guide and the …
My favorite part about this series is that all five of the books are already written, so you won't have to wait two years to read the next one. Just walk to the library and read on.
HARRIET THE SPY, DOUBLE AGENT, by Maya Gold, Delacorte Books for Young Readers, $15.95; ages 9-12.
Being a spy has always been a rather lonely occupation, but there is a new girl in town and she shows spy potential. Soon, though, Harriet realizes that spying on her new friend may prove to be more interesting than spying with her. Annie, as Harriet knows her, also goes by Rosarita, Yolanda and even Zoe. Harriet wants to know the truth and yet, is spying on your friend a friendship breaker?
If you have read any of the adventures of Harriet then you will certainly love to continue with this one. If you have never read Harriet before, now is the time.
MAXIMUM RIDE: THE ANGEL EXPERIMENT, by James Patterson, Little, Brown and Co., $16.95; ages 12 and up.
Fourteen-year-old Max and her friends-turned-family-Fang, Iggy, Nudge, Gazzy and Angel-were all part of an experiment. A scary/weird experiment in which they are all made part human and part bird. They have wings; they can fly. They escaped from the lab in which they were created and are trying to make it out in the world on their own. Max has become the leader of the group and she struggles to keep them alive and well and cared for. But then the Erasers (part human, part wolf, created in the same lab) kidnap Angel. Max and her family of misfits learn about their strengths and how their differences make them strong. Most importantly, they learn about love and how as a family they can take care of each other. This book is a can't-put-it-down thriller.
The scientists and lab parts are freaky; the bird parts are exciting. I would love to spread my wings and fly. Just imagine how much fun that would be.
Sandi Pedersen, the mother of four, is online editor for Chicago Parent.
See more of Sandi's stories here.