At our house, our only rule for summer reading is that it has to occupy one regular time slot during the day, no promises of "later, when I get home from ." A few years ago, we established reading time as first thing in the morning. The routine begins, with protest, the day after school gets out in June, half an hour minimum. By July, it's just part of the lazy summer days; 30 minutes has stretched to 45, and 60, and occasionally longer. It helps to keep a small pile of good books on hand. Not an overwhelming number -- two doesn't offer enough choice; 10 is too many. Here are some recommendations for different age groups and types of readers:
FOR SMART GIRLS, AGES 12 AND UP, who aren't above a little romance
Although Josephine Angelini's first novel, "Starcrossed" (HarperTeen, $17.99), will remind readers of both the "Percy Jackson" and "Twilight" series, Angelini quickly establishes her own territory. The world of the Greek gods is alive and well on Angelini's Nantucket, and the secretive Delos clan, newcomers to the island, definitely have Cullen-like powers. But Angelini is an original, and she's confident enough to drop a few sly vampire jokes early on. A blood rivalry that goes back thousands of years has set in conflict five houses descended from the heroes of the Trojan War. The question that will carry the series through its intended three books is this: Will Helen and Luke, as lovers, manage to avoid what seems to be their fate as enemies from rival houses? And isn't it hubris for them to think they are special enough to defy fate?
FOR BOYS, AGES 12 AND UP, who may have outgrown action-adventure (and it's barely 200 pages long?)
What summer reading list is complete without a road-trip novel? Especially one that extols the virtues of reading sad books and contains the sentence: "Parents are such idiots." Nick, hero of "The Pull of Gravity" by first-time Greenlawn author Gae Polisner (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $16.99) is a 100 percent inarticulate 14-year-old boy, madly exercising his talent for avoiding everything embarrassing or unpleasant. His pal Scooter -- though dying from a rare disease -- is looking out for him with the accumulated wisdom of his close study of Yoda, sage of the "Star Wars" saga.
FOR GIRLS, AGES 12 AND UP, who sometimes think about relationships other than romances
Novelist Sarah Dessen's characters always have interesting lives -- or is it that she draws them so vividly that she makes every life (and by extension, her reader's?) seem worth thinking about? In "What Happened to Goodbye" (Viking, $19.99), Maclean is entering her senior year of high school as the new girl, because of her father's crazy travels as a consultant to failing restaurants. One of the pleasures of reading "Goodbye" is going behind the scenes at a cool business.
FOR GIRLS 12 AND UP WHO ARE RELUCTANT READERS
Here's one for music lovers that barely breaks 100 pages! Joyce Raskin based her novel, "My Misadventures as a Teenage Rock Star" (Graphia/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt: $8.99 paperback), on personal experience; it reads like a memoir and means to function as a how-to guide and an inspiration.
FOR READING ALOUD TO CHILDREN AGES 6-12, or for strong middle readers (ages 9-12)
The first volume of a projected trilogy, "The Emerald Atlas" by John Stephens (Knopf, $17.99) introduces the story of a lost race of wizards who, in ancient times, suspected that their power was coming to an end and dangerously committed their magical knowledge to print in three books. Three children discover the power of an atlas that allows them to travel in time.
FOR KIDS who secretly (or not so secretly) dread team sports
What kind of trouble can supersmart kids get into over the summer? Find out in "Nerd Camp" by Merrick native Elissa Brent Weissman (Atheneum, $15.99, ages 8-12).
FOR BOYS 7-10 reading on their own but intimidated by dense novels
In "Archvillain" (Scholastic, $6.99 paperback), Barry Lyga gives superhero powers a twist. Successful prankster Kyle Camden is confident of his superior intelligence and abilities -- until a weird accident and the arrival of a kid who Kyle suspects is an alien.
FOR KIDS AGES 7-10 who've had enough of spunky, sassy elementary-school heroines
Julie Sternberg's novel, "Like Pickle Juice on a Cookie" (Abrams/Amulet, $14.95), a more anxiety-ridden version of the thoughtful "Julia Gillian" books, is perfect for that cautious kid who is anxious about everything. Eleanor's beloved lifelong baby-sitter, Bibi, has moved away, and Eleanor is not taking the change well.
FOR PROJECT-ORIENTED KIDS AGES 6-12
In "Olivia's Birds: Saving the Gulf" (Sterling Publishing, $14.95), 11-year-old Olivia Bouler of Islip tells how she used her own paintings to raise money for the Audubon Society's Gulf oil spill recovery program. A beautiful book and possible inspiration for a summer project.
FOR BOYS AGES 4-8 who want books to make them laugh
Dav Pilkey's fictional authors, George and Harold, have been banned from writing about poo-poo, so in "Super Diaper Baby: The Invasion of the Potty Snatchers" (Scholastic, $9.99, out June 28) they turn their attention to pee-pee. Pilkey's reckless spelling and grammar are intended to encourage kids to write their own comics. A kid could do worse than spend the summer trying to one-up George and Harold in the outrageous-comic-book department.
FOR READERS AGES 4-8 to read on their own or share with a grown-up
In "Hooray for Amanda and Her Alligator" (Balzer + Bray, $17.99), "Knuffle Bunny" author Mo Willems offers six stories that consider the perspective of a child and her stuffed alligator -- and quite an opinionated pair they are.
FOR TODDLERS, families expecting, general lovers of the printed word and the Boys of Summer
The best introduction to reading I've seen for a long time, Doug Keith's set of alphabet flashcards, "B Is for Baseball" (Simply Read Books, $12.95), deserves a place in every family that worships at the shrine of the national sport. The baseball players humorously arranged to form letters in Keith's witty drawings also brilliantly demonstrate subtleties of the game.
SERIES TO CATCH UP WITH OR CONTINUE
John Grisham, author of blockbuster legal thrillers for adults, continues his series of mysteries featuring a 13-year-old aspiring lawyer in "Theodore Boone: The Abduction" (Dutton, $16.99, ages 8-12).
Julia Alvarez's beloved Tia Lola decides to turn summer with the kids into summer camp in "How Tia Lola Saved the Summer" (Knopf, $15.99, ages 8-12). The old-fashioned family of girls who always designate an OAP (Oldest Available Penderwick) spend the summer at a beach house in Maine in their third adventure, "The Penderwicks at Point Mouette" by Jeanne Birdsall (Knopf, $16.99, ages 8-12). "Tiger's Quest" by Colleen Houck (Sterling/Splinter, $17.95, ages 12 and up) goes back to India to pursue the mystery of the enchanted princes begun in "Tiger's Curse." "Throne of Fire," Book 2 of "The Kane Chronicles" (Hyperion, $18.99, ages 9-12), Rick Riordan's Egyptian version of "Percy Jackson," came out a few weeks ago (you'll have to wait until October for the next Heroes of Olympus book). And if you haven't discovered what must be the most imaginative vampire/werewolf /supernatural series going, read Kiersten White's "Paranormalcy" in preparation for the July release of the second volume, "Supernaturally" (both from HarperTeen, $16.99, ages 12 and up).
AND ONE CLASSIC TO KEEP IN MIND
"Mr. Popper's Penguins," by Richard and Florence Atwater (Little, Brown, $6.99 paperback), has been a great family read-aloud for generations since its publication in 1938 (it can be read independently by 9- to 12-year-olds). The movie version, starring Jim Carrey, comes out on June 17; enjoy the delightful book first!