07/18/03
Of Fowls and Pants
    by John Cech

It's the middle of summer, and the new movies are out and your children and teenagers have already seen them -- at least once; they've already read the new Harry Potter book -- at least once; and you still have another month and a half of vacation ahead. Now's just the time for another series or two of cool books to fill those long, hot days.

A good way to move young attentions away from action movies and video games, might be through Eoin Colfer's Artemis Fowl books that have been generating quite a bit of buzz for the past three years. The first book, Artemis Fowl, sets up the basic premise and central characters of the series: Artemis Fowl, a brilliant 12-year-old who happens to be a super-hi-tech criminal from a long line of shady characters, decides to regenerate the family's vanished fortunes by capturing and holding for ransom -- a fairy. But the fairy he kidnaps is not any ordinary sprite; she's Captain Holly Short of the elite Lower Elements Police Reconnaisance Unit that protects the highly advanced, subterranean fairy world from a host of intruders, including adolescent humans who believe that every fairy possesses a cache of gold. In the latest chapter of the saga, "The Eternity Code," Artemis' long-lost father has reappeared, completely reformed, and Artemis promises to mend his ways, too -- after one last score -- the fairies' revolutionary C-Cube computer. All three of the books are smart, complex, and dazzling -- in the kinetic drive of their adventures and the skill of Colfer's storytelling.

No less magical, but made out of much more familiar material, are two books by Anne Brashares that have been garnering high praise from young and old readers alike: The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and The Second Summer of the Sisterhood. Both books are about four teenagers who first met in utero, when their mothers took the same aerobics class. The girls -- Lena, Carmen, Tibby, and Bridget -- have since become friends, and these connections grow even deeper when they discover that while they are each very different, in almost every respect, they all look and feel terrific in the same pair of thrift-store bluejeans, which they then resolve to share over the summer. The magic of this situation isn't just in the denim, though, but rather in the interwoven journeys (in each book) that they are taken on by these four bright, fresh, wonderful heroines. Ah, and all of these books are available in audio formats, so the whole car can listen to them, wherever you all may be going this summer.

Copyright 2003 John Cech

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