Left: Cover of the first book in the Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud.
Summer reading—I read all year long, but I still notice a difference in what I read during the summer. I think this is a hold over from grade school when suddenly there was no more homework and the only limit on my reading was how many books I could carry home on my bicycle.
Several years ago I fell in love with Jonathan Stroud's Bartimaeus Trilogy. I'd like to recommend it to you for summer reading if you haven't made selections yet. I found the series to be much better written than the Harry Potter series (which I enjoyed, but I found the writing clunky).
The three books in The Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud are:
Vol. One The Amulet of Samarkind
Vol. Two The Golem's Eye
Vol. Three Ptolemy's Gate
The books revolve around a 5-thousand year old djinni named Bartimaeus who is summoned by a young magician, Nathaniel. The setting is present time, but an alternate world, where England has a magical empire and the great foe is Czechoslovakia. America is still a British colony and mostly wilderness.
The writing is full of humor, great descriptions, fast-paced story, and interesting characters. One of his characters uses a lot of footnotes which I thoroughly enjoy. (If you are interested in other writers who use footnotes to great effect check out Flann O'Brien; good for any season of the year.) I felt bereft when I closed the third volume!
I hope someone has snapped up the movie rights. In fact, during the time I first read the series I caught Errol Flynn stealing the show in "Kim" playing Mahbub Ali on Turner Classic Movies. I wished he was still around to play the djinni. Of course we'd need a child actor as talented as Dean Stockwell. I'm sure whoever bought the rights will find someone interesting for both parts, and do all the djinni's physical changes in CG.
At the same time I was reading the Bartimaeus Trilogy I was reading some other children and young adult books. I'm a huge fan of Gregory Maguire's Wicked, so it was natural that I would pick up What-the-Dickens. It's the story of a rogue tooth fairy and has a lot to say about heart and has a lot of heart.
Two other young adult books in a more serious vein stand out in my mind:
How I Live Now, by Meg Rosoff—the story of a young girl from NYC sent to the English countryside where she is caught in an invasion.
Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson—the story of a young girl who busts up a party and is ostracized.
Both books range in subtlety beyond the single sentence reduction. Both books are written with clear, crisp prose, each in a unique style. Both books are winners of the Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature from the American Library Association.
This summer I hope to reread some Dickens (I haven't decided which yet) and some more William Kent Krueger mysteries (set in Minnesota's northwoods). I also have an autobiography of Julia Child that looks intersting. And carrying on with the food theme I have Michel Suas' Advanced Bread and Pastry: A Professional Approach. The Peter Reinhart books on bread baking will have to wait until the fall!