When I was a child, I loved that summer let me indulge in my great passion -- reading. I could spend hours at the library picking out novels and then hours in my room reading them. Summer is the best time to read because you can devote a long stretch to a single book -- or if you're lucky, a series of books. In addition to mysteries (read some of my recommendations for young readers here), I've always enjoyed science fiction and fantasy books.
While the Harry Potter books and "The Hunger Games" trilogy are both great reading, an awful lot has been written about them. That also goes for the classics by J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. So if you like those books or just want to try something new, here are my recommendations for other fantasy/sci-fi series that kids can tackle this summer.
Ender's Saga: I'm pretty excited about seeing "Ender's Game" on the big screen in November. In anticipation, I've started re-reading the book. Orson Scott Card's story centers on Ender Wiggin, a boy genius who is recruited and trained to lead an army against alien invaders. Other books in the series include "Ender's Shadow" and "Speaker for the Dead."
Brainship and Dragonriders of Pern: Author Anne McCaffrey is known for two very different sets of books. But both "The Ship Who Sang" and "Dragonflight" start their respective series with strong female characters set in vivid new worlds. As a teenager, I loved both fiercely.
Earthsea Cycle: Ursula K. Le Guin writes about magic, dragons and knowing yourself in these books. Originally a trilogy, she has continued to expand it through the years. A master storyteller, Le Guin is also known for classic science fiction novels such as "The Left Hand of Darkness," "The Lathe of Heaven" and "The Dispossessed."
Foundation: The Old Empire is crumbling, and Hari Sheldon has developed psychohistory, which can predict the future with mathematical equations. Isaac Asimov's intergalactic space opera is a challenging read, full of big ideas. In 1966, it won the Hugo Award for "Best All-Time Series."
Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy: I hesitated to put this set on the list because there is nothing in these books that says "teen." Except the rollicking humor. And the absurd characters. And the "answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything." Douglas Adams followed up with "The Restaurant at the End of the Universe" and "So Long and Thanks for All the Fish."
For mid-grade readers:
A Wrinkle in Time: Madeline L'Engle's series begins with "A Wrinkle in Time," in which Meg Murry travels through space and time to rescue her scientist father. As an essay on the Atlantic website last year put it, Meg Murry made Katniss Everdeen possible. “A Wind in the Door,” “A Swiftly Tilting Planet” and “Many Waters” are companion books.
The Dark Is Rising: Will Stanton is the last-born of the Old Ones, in this five-novel series set in England and Wales. "Over Sea, Under Stone" leads off the intense series by Susan Cooper. Her evocative writing is haunting.
The Prydain Chronicles: I have a special place in my heart for quest books, and this series by Lloyd Alexander is one of my favorites. This five-book set is based on Welsh mythology and centers around the adventures of Taran the Assistant Pig-Keeper.
Tales of Magic: Starting with "Half-Magic," this set is pure fun for imaginative kids. Each of Edward Eager's books has smart, perceptive children stumbling onto magic -- with a coin, at the lake, through a wishing well, in a thyme garden, etc.
Terry Pratchett: I know this is cheating by choosing an author, but Pratchett is an incredibly prolific author who has written several great series for young readers. He never takes his books or himself too seriously, which results in a fun ride. Try the Johnny Maxwell trilogy: "Only You Can Save Mankind," "Johnny and the Dead" and "Johnny and the Bomb"; the Tiffany Aching novels in the Discworld series: "The Wee Free Men," "A Hatful of Sky" and "Wintersmith"; or the Bromeliad trilogy, "Truckers," "Diggers" and "Wings."
And because I can't get enough lists, here are five more series that young readers might be interested in. I have heard great things about all of them but have not read them -- yet.