A Monitor guide to Children's Bestsellers

1. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

By J.K Rowling

Scholastic, $29.99

Rowling's latest includes plenty for fans to cheer: Almost every beloved character puts in an appearance, with the Weasley twins swiping the book's most triumphant scene. As war with Voldemort approaches, adults take a more active role: Mrs. Weasley isn't just the scolding-but-loving mum of earlier books, and readers get a better understanding of Snape's loathing of young Potter. That said, the emotional layering isn't as rich as in previous books, and the ending only confirms what readers have long suspected. Ages 9-12. (870 pp.) (Full review June 26.) By Yvonne Zipp

2. Holes

By Louis Sachar

Yearling, $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 9-12. (240 pp.) (Full review Dec. 10, 1998.) By Ron Charles

3. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants

By Ann Brashares

Delacorte, $14.95

Leaving your best friends for the summer can seem earth-shattering in high school. So when this foursome parts ways for the first time in their 15 years, they make an effort to stay connected by sharing a pair of pants. The blue jeans - a bit like perfect friends - hug each girl just the right way. The novel, a Ya Ya Sisterhood for young readers, does emotional somersaults as the girls walk the delicate tightrope of self-discovery amid their summer adventures. While their coming-of-age revelations are more sentimental than mind-blowing, the characters are captivating and complex. Brashares's writing is imaginative, her descriptions vivid, and her grasp of the adolescent perspective is impressive. Young Adult. (320 pp.) By Marie Ewald

4. Artemis Fowl: The Eternity Code

By Eoin Colfer

Miramax/Hyperion, $16.95

Confident, well-spoken, and meticulously dressed, Artemis Fowl has developed the C-Cube, a computer which will wreak economic havoc by making today's computers obsolete. Things go awry when the unthinkable happens, and shady businessman Jon Spiro steals the Cube from Artemis. Artemis must recover the Cube - the fates of the Fairy People and his bodyguard Butler hang in the balance. Harry Potter has magic, but Artemis has intelligence and high-tech Irish fairies, and we are spared the hundreds of pages of red herrings and self-doubt which is Potter's stock in trade. The ending will leave Fowl fans eager for more. Ages 9-12. (336 pp.) By J. Johnson

5. The Second Summer of the Sisterhood

By Ann Brashares

Delacorte, $14.95

It's one year later for Tibby, Bee, Lena, and Carmen - and the magical pair of pants they share - but all is not well. Tibby works so hard for acceptance at her summer film program that she sacrifices some people she loves; Bee takes off for Alabama to look for clues to her past and her mother's death; Lena struggles with a broken heart; and Carmen can't stand her mother's giddy new romance. Even the pants have problems: Bee finds they don't fit her and Carmen's mother (gasp!) steals them for a date. Brashares jumps right in without a lot of back story, delivering a competent, only occasionally trite sequel to fans of the Sisterhood. She's adept at capturing the small agonies and triumphs that go with being a teenage girl, and infuses her characters with individuality and a sense of self. Young Adult. (384 pp.) By Amanda Paulson

6. Artemis Fowl: The Arctic Incident

By Eoin Colfer

Miramax/Hyperion, $7.99

Artemis Fowl, would-be master criminal, is back - along with his sidekick Butler and their nemesis, Holly Short. But without the inventiveness and narrative layers of the original, this sequel is just a kind of Junior James Bond with fairy-crafted gadgets. The reimagining of fairyland as a high-tech underground city was a high-concept hoot in the series' first book, as was the rescuing of a leprechaun from blarney and breakfast cereal. But there are few new twists this time around, and though clever lines abound, so does a greater reliance on violence - much of which may be too intense for readers under 10. Ages Young Adult. (288 pp.) (Full review Aug. 1, 2002.) By Yvonne Zipp

7. Artemis Fowl

By Eoin Colfer

Miramax/Hyperion, $6.99

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 for 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. Young Adult. (277 pp.) (Full review March 22.) By Yvonne Zipp

8. The Day My Butt Went Psycho

By Andy Griffiths

Scholastic, $4.99

Imagine waking up in the middle of the night to find that your posterior has detached itself and is fomenting revolution at a midnight rally of rears - which is what happens to Zach Freeman. As his adventures begin, Zach bumbles and makes mistakes as he falls in with the B-team, a group of butt-fighters, and tries to quell the insurrection. Aimed squarely at the 12-year-old-boy crowd, the adventure doesn't skimp on bathroom humor or comic book violence. The references to the Odyssey are a nice touch, if surrounded by smelly gags. Rated G for Gross. Glossary included. Ages 9-12. (240 pp.) By J. Johnson

9. All I Want Is Everything

By Cecily von Ziegesar

Little, Brown, $8.99

What's most off-putting about this novel - the third in a soap opera-esqe series about Manhattan socialites - is not its designer-clothes-obsessed teens who like to drink, have sex, and swear a lot. It's that the publisher underestimates the capacity of young adults to appreciate more than stereotypes and titillation. Fortunately, "All I Want" is so lacking in substance that it's a fast read - although little is resolved in the end. Will snooty, bulimic Blair get into Yale? Will filmmaker Vanessa and poet Dan ever have sex? Will Nate stop smoking pot long enough to keep a girlfriend? Who cares? Young Adult. (224 pp.) By Kim Campbell

10. The Thief Lord

By Cornelia Funke

Scholastic/Chicken House, $16.95

Adults who call Venice a magical place don't always know what they're saying. When 12-year-old Prosper and 5-year-old Bo are orphaned and run away to keep from being separated by their Aunt Esther, they fall in with a group of street kids who discover the city's true magic. Led by the mysterious Thief Lord, the orphans make their home in an abandoned movie theater until a bumbling detective, a wealthy photographer, and an old wooden carousel change their lives forever. With sensitively drawn and complex characters, the book never condescends to its subjects or readers. Its central lesson - that "Being related is not a guarantee of love, even though we would all like it to be that way" - may be a sad one, but the book is buoyed by the message that the families we choose can sometimes be the greatest gift of all. Either way, it clamors for a sequel! Ages 9-12. (352 pp.) By Mary Wiltenburg

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