A Monitor Guide to Children's Bestsellers

Rankings from Publishers Weekly, May 2001

1. Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them

By Newt Scamander, Scholastic, $3.99

Full of J.K. Rowling's trademark inventiveness (and marginal scribbles from Ron and Harry), this "textbook" is a useful field guide to magical creatures from Acromantula (the giant spiders from the first "Harry Potter") to Yeti. Especially fun are the footnotes, detailing the exploits of Ulric the Oddball and what it means to "be sent to the Centaur Office." But Harry has been exaggerating the amount of homework he has at Hogwarts, if this slim book is any guide. Ages 9-12. (42 pp.) By Yvonne Zipp

2. Quidditch Through the Ages

By Kennilworthy Whisp,

Scholastic, $3.99

Let's face it, sports manuals - no matter how magical the sport - just don't make the most exciting reading. But there's still plenty of wit buried in the history, rules, fouls, maneuvers, and team synopses of this "Harry Potter" appendix. (Ron's beloved Chudley Cannons haven't won the League since 1892. Motto: Let's just keep our fingers crossed and hope for the best!) And why quibble with a book whose proceeds go to charity? Ages 9-12. (56 pp.) By Yvonne Zipp

3. A Mother's Gift

By Britney and Lynne Spears, Delacorte, $14.95

Laura Croft, watch out: There's a new hero in town. But instead of weapons and "tomb raiding," this one teaches morals and good living. Holly Faye is poor, but rich in family values. When her singing talent gets her into music school, she must rely on those values to maintain her own identity amid the wealth of those around her. Taking up this battle, she shows readers that they too can fight for their own goodness. If the teaming of pop star Britney Spears and her mom means more books like this, it's something to sing about. Ages 12 and up. (240 pp.) By Christy Ellington

4. Holes

By Louis Sachar, Yearling Books, $5.99

Sachar descends into terrors we wish young people didn't have to face, but he floods this muted story with hope that's salvation at any age. The novel opens when overweight, friendless Stanley arrives with an armed guard at Camp Green Lake, a corrections facility where boys must dig enormous holes in the barren desert to build character. A surprisingly witty winner of the National Book Award and the Newbery Medal. Ages 12 and up. (233 pp.) (Full review Dec. 10, 1998.) By Ron Charles

(Available on tape)

5. Artemis Fowl

By Eoin Colfer, Talk Miramax/Hyperion, $16.99

After the disappearance of his father and the emotional collapse of his mother, Artemis Fowl takes it upon himself to restore his family's name. To do so, he plans to hold a fairy ransom - despite the fact that most people are sure that fairies don't exist. Not only are goblins and dwarves real in "Artemis Fowl," but they live in modern style under the earth, hidden away from humans and locked away from moonlight and night air. Ages 9-12 (208 pp.) (Full review March 22.) By Yvonne Zipp

6. Castaways of the Flying Dutchman

By Brian Jacques, Philomel, $22.95

A storm, a shipwreck, a rescue on the high seas - so begins the latest novel by Brian Jacques, author of the acclaimed Redwall series. Granted eternal youth by a guardian angel, Neb and his dog, Den, are sent to wander the earth for eternity, bringing hope and salvation to those in need. While this novel does prove to be an engaging adventure/mystery story, the book's main weakness stems from its three disparate sections that never manage to fully coalesce. Nevertheless, fans of the Redwall series may be excited by this change of pace, as Jacques expands upon the legend of the Flying Dutchman. Ages 9-12. (384 pp.) By Jenny Sawyer

7. Ramona's World

By Beverly Cleary HarperTrophy, $4.95

Ramona knows that 4th grade is going to be "the best year of her life, so far." She's excited to show off her playground calluses and to share the news of her baby sister. But chaos erupts when Mrs. Quimby entrusts the baby to Ramona while she runs an errand. In just 15 minutes, Ramona has to deal with the cat hacking up a hair ball and rescue baby Roberta from the kitty condo. New and old friends of Ramona will love to join in her journey as she approaches "zeroteen." Ages 8-11. (192 pp.) (Full review Aug. 26.) By Enicia Fisher

(Available on tape)

8. Spy Kids Jr. Novel

By Megan Stine, Talk Mirimax, $4.95

For once, the movie is better than the book. Still, the concept behind "Spy Kids" is a fun one. When the parents of Carmen and Juni Cortez are kidnapped, they discover that mom and pop have been leading a secret existence as spies. The children are thrust into battle with Floop, an evil TV host, who's invented deadly robot replicas of children. There's a good moral to the tale (the kids convince the baddie to become a goodie), but you're better off seeing the film. Ages 8-11. (128 pp.) By Stephen Humphries

9. When Zachary Beaver Came to Town

By Kimberly Willis Holt, Dell/Yearling, $5.50

The summer of 1971 isn't much of a summer for Toby, until one-act freak show Zachary Beaver, the fattest boy in the world, comes to town. Toby's mom then leaves to live out her Nashville-recording dream. Heartthrob Scarlett decides she likes Toby (but "not that way"). And Toby's best friend loses his brother in the Vietnam War. This coming-of-age story, a National Book Award winner, is both sad and sweet. Ages 10-14. (227 pp.) By Karen Carden

10. The Amber Spyglass

By Philip Pullman, Knopf, $19.95

The final book in Pullman's "His Dark Materials" trilogy is an exhausting but exhilarating read. Lyra is joined by her friend, Will, and must avoid dangers as they travel to different worlds through windows cut by the supernatural blade. Their journey takes place as a religious war rages, and readers must grapple with their own ideas of God, love, and death. These mature themes may make this book more appropriate for older readers. (Full Review Oct. 24.) Ages 12 and up. (518 pp.) By Karen Carden

(Available on tape)

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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