(Click each thumbnail to see this photo assemble.)
Adult Swim at our pool is fifteen minutes, and I swear, that can be the longest fifteen minutes ever in the history of time. Longer than the fifteen minutes it took you to figure out the new remote. Longer than the fifteen minutes it took Jane Austen to describe who rode in which carriage on that crucial twenty-minute journey to the ha-ha. Way longer than the fifteen minutes you had to stand in line at the DMV, because at least then you could fantasize different options for blowing the building up.
NO you can't have more money for the snack bar.
NO you can't go to the baby pool.
NO you can't play Angry Birds on my phone with your wet hands.
Who likes saying no all the time? Not me. Far better to give the kid a seat in the shade, a cold water bottle, and a just-for-fun book to read. I asked all the kids who had assembled for my younger son's birthday party to grab a book and cram onto the couch for this month's Pink Me banner. Here, amid a long list of entertaining summertime reads, are the books that caught their eye:
Dino Boy from across the street was handed a sure-fire winner by the 8-year-old birthday boy himself. Axe Cop, Vol. 1. No, I'm not kidding. You might have to go and look for it, because it might be shelved in the adult graphic novel section, because it sounds like it would be all violent and bloody and, you know... axe-y... but it is not.
A collaborative work by five-year-old Malachai Nicolle and his 29-year-old brother Ethan, the little kid pumps out nonstop imaginative action and the big kid draws it. The style hits the exact edge between MAD Magazine and Marvel Comics, and Ethan must know his parents will kill him if he draws anything that'll give Malachai nightmares, so it is remarkably un-gory. My seven-year-old read it out loud to us in the car on the way to southwestern Pennsylvania last month and kept us giggling all through mining country.
While we're on the subject of graphic novels, here are a few more to look for:
Sidekicks by Dan Santat comes out July 1. Dan Santat has a background in game design and a very cinematic visual sense (you should see his book trailers), which gives every page of this, his first graphic novel per se, a controlled pace and visual variety. Some of the humor and suspense here actually comes from the way he works in pauses in the form of wordless frames: look at this page, for example. First you see the eyes, then the newspaper, then the speech bubble coming in from outside the frame. NICE.
Bad Island by Doug TenNapel. August 1. A family's camping trip takes a turn for the bizarre. Suspenseful and funny, with great natural family dialog, our advance copy has been passed from hand to hand so frequently that Friend the Girl up there on the left had to hold it carefully to keep the pages from falling out.
Zita the Spacegirl is a four-color hardcover comic adventure by Ben Hatke. You can spot Spawn, deep in the center of the couch, totally immersed in it as all the other kids mill around him finding their seats. His sister Chica found a Magic Tree House.
Older kids can read Locke & Key. Also I can if I'm all caught up on everything else.
Readers of imaginative fiction have a lot of books to try this summer:
Eerily Similar Paula's daughter Eerily Similar Offspring is reading The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making over on the end of the couch.
Marjorie Ingall, in her review of this book for the NY Times Book Review, introduced me to a new Yiddish word, ungapatchka, to describe author Catherynne Valente's why-use-one-adjective-when-seven-will-suffice style, and so I have been a little bit surprised to see many kids absolutely lapping it up. Valente counterbalances all that verbal folderol with a dryly modern tone, and I think certain kids very much enjoy that contrast.
(Actually, now that I'm examining these photos closely, I can see that Eerily Similar Offspring was actually reading Small Persons With Wings, reviewed earlier. But someone was reading The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of her own Making, so I'm not changing this bit.)
Little blonde Dinosaur Junior is maybe too young to read The Emerald Atlas by John Stephens, but he's paging through it with interest. This book appeals to readers of imaginative, fairy-tale-ish adventure. The book trailer, above, is stunning.
Also give those kids The Rise and Fall of Mount Majesticby Jennifer Trafton, highly recommended by our 9-year-old Milo Man, with great illustrations by Brett Helquist, and Between Two Ends by David Ward, in which a brave boy must enter the world of One Thousand and One Arabian Nights to rescue a real-life Scheherazade.
Dinosaur Senior has his hands on Savvy by Ingrid Law, always an excellent choice; the birthday boy is reading Guys Read: Thriller, reviewed earlier; and Fastison, up top, is reminding himself to read Artemis Fowl. Most of the rest of them are reading LEGO books or Star Wars books or LEGO Star Wars books.
Except Baby A, down front. She's paging through a book on avant garde contemporary art in northern India. What, you thought all we read in our house were children's books and crime fiction?
There were apparently not enough 39 Clues books, so there's a new series starting August 30. We (we meaning my sons - I personally needed to quit Amy and Dan Cahill after 6 books) and Amy's Twin Daughter, above, have previewed The 39 Clues: Cahills vs. Vespers Book 1: The Medusa Plot and pronounced it good.
And more mysteries! Shy Miss Ever Upward is tucked in at the end of the couch, perusing Missing on Superstition Mountain, the first of a trilogy by Elise Broach. A spooky mystery set in the southwest, starring two boys and a girl, it moves right along, with short chapters and plenty of suspense.
There are new entries in a number of popular series:
Scandinavian murder mystery writer and ridiculously hot guy Jo Nesbø has finished his second book for kids, a follow-up to Doctor Proctor's Fart Powder called Bubble in the Bathtub. What do you think? Maybe if Steig Larssen had taken a break from sadistic murderers to write books about farting he might have kept his health.
Gratuitous Jo Nesbø picture. No, that's not Jason Statham, and name me one other author of children's literature that you have to say that about when you post his picture. Ok besides Jon Scieszka.
I never have ever understood why Ranger's Apprentice is shelved as Young Adult in my library. Book 10 is now out, The Emperor of Nihon-Ja. Bows and arrows, spies and conspiracy - it's like Game of Thrones without all the doggie style. Just toss it at any fan of Garth Nix or Tamora Pierce and stand back.
We're up to six in the Angie Sage Septimus Heap series (Darke), four in the Roderick Gordon / Brian Williams Tunnels series (Closer), and book eight of the scary-ass medieval supernatural series The Last Apprentice (The Last Apprentice: Rage of the Fallen).
Beach blanket read-alouds:
It's not crazy to try sharing books at the pool or beach - there is nothing more relaxing than watching the clouds roll by while someone reads to you. If you have younger kids, try one of the Tumtum & Nutmeg books. Christianna Brand's Nurse Matilda stories are excellently funny. And I always put my hands on Tashi when I meet a first- or second-grader who is just about ready to take a turn reading aloud.
You know your local librarian has more excellent exciting choices for you and yours - come in where it's cool and stock up.