Can I add a couple of recent reads?

"David and the Phoenix" by Edward Ormondroyd (Purple House Press, reprint of 1957 original): 175 pages, fantasy, about David, a boy of about 7 or 8, I'd say, and his adventures with the Phoenix, who lives up the mountain behind his house. The Phoenix is being stalked by an evil Scientist, who wants it for a specimen. David and the Phoenix conjure up various plots, some of which involve travel to the abodes of mythical creatures (Gryffins, Sea Monster, Banshee, Leprechaun, etc.), for foiling the Scientist's scheme. Sadness warning for the sensitive: the Phoenix dies on a pyre, but of course, a new Phoenix (who seems to retain some glimmerings of the memories of the original bird) arises from the ashes.

Reading level is hard to pin down on this one, though my older two haven't had any trouble with it, and the youngest is enjoying it as a read-aloud; the narrative itself is quite easy reading, but the Phoenix has amusingly elevated speech, so the dialogue is a good deal more difficult than the rest. Try it around 6, maybe?

Tove Jansson's "Finn Family Moomintroll" (originally published 1948, in print in Puffin, 150 pages) is the first of a series about funny little critters (the Moomintrolls, the Hemulen, the Snork Maiden, the Muskrat, Snufkin, Thingumy and Bob, usw) who live in the Valley of the Moomins, eat lots of pancakes, and have various adventures together; in this volume, the action is mostly motivated by the discovery of a magic hat, the results of the use of which are sometimes funny, sometimes useful, and sometimes unexpected and rather unpleasant. These books are pretty odd, but we like them--quirky drawings, funny little footnotes on several pages, stories that turn out all right in the end, characters who are (mostly) kind to one another....About a grade 3 or 4 reading level, maybe? (I'm sorry, I just don't know how to gauge these things very well.)

An adult book I recently reread which I think kids from about 12 would enjoy is "English Creek" by the wonderful Ivan Doig. It's the first-person narrative of an almost 15-year-old boy growing up along the eastern front of the Rockies in Montana in 1939. The summer of that year changed his life and the lives of his family, and it's a skilfully done, sensitive, and funny evocation of that betwixt-and-between age of no longer a child, not yet a man. It's also a wonderful snapshot of a particular place and time (Doig has a PhD in history, and it shows in most of his books, though he wears it lightly). The author is a brilliant stylist, and I think teens would really enjoy his use of language. (There is some not-very-serious profanity and the occasional mildly rude joke, if those sorts of things worry you any.)

Anyway, I hear some books to read!