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Adventures to Read All Through the Summer

The next Harry Potter book takes flight on July 16, when eager fingers finally get the chance to turn the pages of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. But librarian Nancy Pearl has options other than Harry Potter for parents, kids, and fans of the series.

Pearl's choices range from new releases of proven classics to new, irreverent and witty fantasy books that cross boundaries of genre and age. While they lack the marketing extravaganza of the Potter series, these books should keep fans of interesting fantasy writing occupied -- and happy -- throughout the summer:

Whales on Stilts, by M.T. Anderson, illustrated by Kurt Cyrus

Lily Gefelty and her two friends, Jasper Dash, and Katie Mulligan, are all that stands in the way of an evil plot by a devious whale-human hybrid. Together, they confront and confound an admittedly senseless conspiracy. But the fun lies in Anderson's lively writing, full of outlandish digressions.

Five Children and It, by E. Nesbit, illustrated by H.R. Millar

A hole in the ground a few children find an old, hideous and short-tempered sand fairy, which awards them a wish for the day that would only last until sunset? Soon enough they might learn that magic is not just a wonderful adventure – it can sometimes be tricky, and can even get them into troubles.

Half Magic, by Edward Eager, illustrated by N. M. Bodecker

Jane and her sister are having a very boring summer. Yet, everything changes after Jane finds a coin on the street, which grants wishes. The only problem is that only half of the wish comes true. She realizes that her wish will only be granted if she asks for twice as much as she wanted. Jane is then bewildered in the calculations for her desires…

Gregor the Overlander, by Suzanne Collins

From the laundry room of his building, Gregor falls into the dark Underland, where humans live side by side with spiders, rats and cockroaches. But the species are on the brink of war -- and a prophecy predicts that Gregor is part of the key to Underland's unsure future. Only the possibility of solving the mystery around his father's death pushes Gregor to take part in this dangerous adventure.

The Wizard of Earthsea, by Ursula K. Le Guin

Before Ged was the noblest sorcerer in Earthsea, he was known to all as a rowdy young man who sought absolute control -- and used secrets that brought about a dark, dreadful world. This is the story of the adventures of Ged and the difficult tests he must face before he can attempt to re-establish the balance of power in his world.

The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster, Jules Feiffer (Illustrator)

Milo is always troubled by boredom. So when a tollbooth appears out of the blue -- in his own room -- he decides to pay the toll and pass through the booth. Driving his toy car, Milo discovers a whole new world, visiting the Island of Conclusions and learning about time from Tock, his ticking watchdog friend. The 35th anniversary printing includes an appreciation by Maurice Sendak.

David and the Phoenix, by Edward Ormondroyd, illustrated by Joan Raysor

A surprise awaits David as he climbs a mountain one morning: a face-to-face confrontation with a huge bird possessing a head like an eagle, a neck like a swan and a scarlet crest. And it can read. The phoenix leads David an adventurous journey.

The Ear, the Eye and the Arm, by Nancy Farmer

One day in the year 2194 in Zimbabwe, Tendai, Rita, and Kuda -- the children of the very strict General Matsika -- decide to sneak out of the house for a forbidden journey. However, they are immediately kidnapped, and interesting problems, and explorations, ensue. Their parents hire the Ear, the Eye, and the Arm: detectives with unusual powers, to find the children.

Sabriel, by Garth Nix, illustrated by Leo Dillon and Diane Dillon

Garth Nix’s first young adult novel is about a teenager who confronts evil to find her missing father, Abhorson. Sabriel has spent her childhood living outside the walls of the Old Kingdom and away from the Dead, who seek to cross back into the world of the living. After receiving a mysterious message from her father, Sabriel must head out on an adventure of her own.

Sorcery Cecelia, or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot, by Patricia C. Wrede, Caroline Stevermer

Two cousins, one living in the country and the other in London, begin writing letters to each other in 1817. Soon, their letters become more urgent as they face threats from evil wizards. The two girls face attempted poisonings, magical spells, and other threats. In the process, they can’t believe all the fun they’re having.

The Sherwood Ring by Elizabeth Marie Pope, illustrated by Evaline Ness

In this book originally published in the 1950s, young Peggy Grahame meets ghosts and gets involved in a mystery as she explores her family’s ancestral estate. Time shifts to the period of the American Revolution, giving extra texture to the book, in which battles, romance and history intersect.

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Nancy Pearl
Nancy Pearl is a regular commentator about books on NPR's Morning Edition and NPR affiliate stations KUOW in Seattle and KWGS in Tulsa.