Life After Potter -- and More Great Summer Reading
The summer's not just bringing the fifth Harry Potter film adaptation, "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," but the last book in the beloved series, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows." When "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" was published 10 years ago, J.K. Rowling probably didn't realize the kind of stomach-butterfly anticipation she'd stir up for its subsequent installments. To carry on the joy of reading about magical discoveries, new worlds, and fantastic journeys, kids (and parents, too) should try the following tomes:
The Alchemyst, by Michael Scott; Delacourte Press
Chapter Book, Ages 12 and up (Read aloud to child, 6 and up)
Okay, so Sophie and Josh Newman aren't wizards. But this set of modern-day American twins accidentally becomes involved in one of the greatest legends of all time -- the empty tomb of alchemist Nicholas Flamel, who's said to have discovered the secret to eternal life before he "died" in 1418. Author Michael Scott fuses real historical fact (the characters of Flamel, Doctor John Dee and other heroes and villains of history) with the tale of everyday twins on a quest to protect the fate of the world. (And, kids can cross-reference "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" where Nicholas Flamel plays a role as a 660-year-old friend of Professor Albus Dumbledore.)
His Dark Materials Trilogy, by Phillip Pullman; Knopf Books for Young Readers
Chapter Books, Ages 9 and up (Read aloud to child, 6 and up)
Pullman's trilogy reimagines Earth as one of five planets in the solar system. Every human travels with a daemon (the soul embodied as an animal companion) and, in a time modeled after the late 19th century, authority figures race to find means to cross the bridge to a parallel universe. Unaware of her history, 11-year-old Lyra goes on a journey to the top of the world in search of her kidnapped friend Roger and her imprisoned uncle, Lord Asriel. Though the first book of this series -- "The Golden Compass" -- was released in 1996, children who haven't yet read it may find a new adventure to treasure. A film version of "The Golden Compass" will hit theaters in winter 2007.
The Kingdom Keepers, by Ridley Pearson; Disney Editions
Chapter Books, Ages 9 to 12 (Read aloud to child, 6 and up)
Okay, Finn and his friends don't attend Hogwarts. They still get to go where every kid dreams of being: Walt Disney World after dark. When Finn and his crew get jobs at Disney World for the summer, they get after-hours access into what makes the theme park tick. While exploring Tom Sawyer's Island, It's a Small World, Big Thunder Mountain, and other rides both tame and wild, they discover Maleficent, an evil witch whose servants want to destroy the Disney way. Like Harry and friends, Finn and Company brave everything on their own -- and discover the Disney magic in a whole new way.
The Mysterious Benedict Society, by Trenton Lee Stewart; Little, Brown
Chapter Book, 485 pages, Ages 9-12 (Read aloud to child, 6 and up)
Reynie Muldoon responds to an ad seeking gifted children looking for "special opportunities." Tested and selected by the strange Mr. Benedict, he becomes one of four children enlisted to infiltrate the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened -- a school run by one Mr. Curtain, who is using his students in a plan to control all of society's thoughts. Reynie and his newfound friends each possess a special talent to help unravel Mr. Curtain's secrets and thwart his plans. Harry Potter fans may notice that author Stewart goes beyond the quests and adventure to touch on real emotional themes, like finding friends, facing fears, and conquering self-doubt.
Book Club Activity Ideas:
- Chocolate Witches Hats -- So tasty, they're worth breaking out the old cauldron.
- Ghost Prints — A spooky companion is part of any good magical gathering.
- Magic Wands — Make these and practice your spell work.
- Monster Cupcakes— Yummy meets scary.
- Wizard Hat — Consider these a "thinking cap" for your book discussions.