So many books to choose from, and so little space in one best-of column.
MAXIMUM RIDE: SCHOOL'S OUT FOREVER and MAXIMUM RIDE: THE ANGEL EXPERIMENT, by James Patterson, Little Brown and Co., $16.99; 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 made part human and part bird. They have wings, and 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 becomes the leader of the group. She struggles to keep them alive, well and cared for. The scientists and lab parts are freaky; the bird parts are exciting. I would love to spread my wings and fly.
In the sequel, Max finds love, Iggy finds his parents and Angel's pet dog learns to speak. Really. Both of these books are page-turning thrillers and the ending is left wide open for more.
CHICKS WITH STICKS: IT'S A PURL THING, by Elizabeth Lenhard, Dutton Children's Books, $15.99; ages 10-13.
My grandmother taught me how to knit when I was in gradeschool. 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. Best of all-the story takes place in Chicago.
THE SPIDERWICK CHRONICLES, by Holly Black and 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.
There are five books in this series, and my 8-year-old and I read them all. We met a griffin named Byron, an elf called Thimbletack, some goblins, dwarves, an ogre, a shape shifter, a beautiful green lady 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 to read the next one. Walk to the library and read on.
DAIRY QUEEN, by Catherine Gilbert Murdock, Houghton Mifflin, $16; ages 12-14.
D.J. is 15, and it is summer vacation, but there is no vacation in D.J.'s summer. D.J.'s family owns a dairy farm. Her dad hurt his hip moving the manure spreader. (Insert your own manure joke here; D.J. says everyone does.) She is left to run the farm.
In D.J.'s small Wisconsin town everything revolves around football. So the girl who milks cows, bales hay, spreads manure and paints barns also plays football. Oh, and one more thing-she has a huge crush on the guy who is the quarterback on the other team.
Dairy Queen is so Midwestern and very delightful. I'm surprised you don't hear a cow moo every time you open the book.
THE BOOK THIEF, by Markus Zusak, Random House Children's, $16.95; ages 12 and up.
This book is about Liesel, a 9-year-old German girl during World War II. It's a story about books and words, about struggle and perseverance. It's a story about life for a poor German family during a horribly difficult time in history.
The narrator is Death, and the book is told through his voice. Death meets Liesel when he comes for her little brother. Death is portrayed with emotions and shows more feelings than doom and gloom. He is portrayed as insightful, hopeful, caring and even loving.
This book is sad and hard to get through. I cried many times. And yet, it is thought provoking, memorable, extremely well written and impossible to put down.
HIT THE ROAD, Caroline B. Cooney, Delacorte Books for Young Readers, $15.95; ages 11-14.
I can't stop thinking about this book. On the surface, it's a simple story of a teenager and her grandmother on a terrific adventure together. Brittney, who has only had her driver's license for 11 days, gets roped into driving her 86-year-old grandmother and two of her grandmother's friends to their 65th class reunion. As if driving on the highway with old-lady-back-seat-drivers isn't adventurous enough, the craziness is just beginning.
This story is not really about driving three old ladies, it is about being old and saying goodbye.
Sandi Pedersen is the mom of four and the Web mistress for Chicago Parent.