The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares (Delacorte, 294 pages, $15.95). Four teenage girls, separated for the first summer ever, agree to share between them one pair of jeans, purchased at a thrift shop, which seem to magically beautify the wearer. This poignant, funny coming-of-age novel explores the journeys of four girls whose different experiences all lead them to challenge their old ways of looking at life. There's lovely Lena, taking the jeans to Greece for a visit with her grandparents; there's Tibby, who befriends a young leukemia patient while stuck at home working at a discount store; there's Bridget, falling in love at a soccer camp in Baja; there's Carmen, whose summer alone with her dad turns into a disaster as he springs the surprise of a new stepmother and teen stepsiblings on her. This is a spectacular first novel by a talented writer and a perfect gift for any girl 12 and up.
Goin' Someplace Special by Patricia C. McKissack, illustrations by Jerry Pinkney, (Atheneum, $16). The inspiring story of the Nashville, Tenn., Library Board's decision to quietly integrate all library facilities in the late 1950s makes for a poignant picture book in this autobiographical tale by Nashville-born McKissack. The story follows a young African-American girl as she makes the frightening journey, by bus and on foot, through the land of Jim Crow to "someplace special," the public library. For ages 4 to 8.
-- Jean Westmoore