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BEST READS FOR THE LAST MONTH OF SUMMER

There's no new Harry Potter book to take to the beach this summer, but many popular authors have great new books out and some terrific titles from last year are out in paperback.

Here are some great reads for the family vacation:

Ages 12 and up

Meg Cabot, the bestselling author who specializes in the funniest teen voices around, has a terrific high school romance coming out Aug. 3. "Teen Idol" (HarperCollins, $15.99) is the story of a girl who writes an anonymous advice column for her school paper and is recruited to escort a 19-year-old screen star incognito around her high school in smalltown Indiana. This, plus the best-selling "Princess in Pink," will give Cabot two huge hits in one year.

An advice column is also center stage in Daniel Ehrenhaft's "Tell it to Naomi" (Delacorte paperback, $7.95). Everyone thinks his older sister is writing the high school advice column, but it's really the work of 15-year-old Dave Rosen in this hilarious and insightful story of high school life.

"Blood on His Hands" by three-time Edgar Award winner Willo Davis Roberts (Atheneum, $16.95) offers page-turning suspense, along with a less-than-realistic scenario, of a teenage boy who finds himself at a work camp for juvenile delinquents after his mother's new boyfriend takes a dislike to him.

For ages 10 to 14:

"The Supernaturalist" by "Artemis Fowl" creator Eoin Colfer (Hyperion, $16.95) is a thrilling sci-fi adventure of kids with psychic abilities battling killer parasites in a futuristic Satellite City.

From popular and prolific author Avi comes "What do fish have to do with anything?" ( (Candlewick Press, $5.99), a marvelous collection of seven surprising short stories dealing with everything from divorce to a grumpy teacher to a bad boy reluctantly turned good. Just out in paperback is Avi's Newbery Medal-winning "Crispin: The Cross of Lead," a thrilling work of historical fiction about a young boy fleeing an evil feudal lord around the time of the John Ball peasant revolt in England.

"Hoot" by Carl Hiaasen (Knopf, $8.95) is a riproaring adventure pitting a pancake house developer against hoot owls and young "eco-avengers" in Florida.

Ages 8 to 12:

"Mickey and Me" by Dan Gutman (HarperTrophy, $5.99) features Joe going back in time to save Mickey Mantle from a career-altering injury, the latest in Gutman's entertaining Baseball Card Adventure series.

Some other great titles from the past year include:

"Snakes Don't Miss Their Mothers" by M.E. Kerr (HarperCollins, $15.99) is a hugely entertaining story of the critters at an animal shelter in the Hamptons, including a snake, a dog and a one-eyed Siamese named Placido.

"Al Capone Does My Shirts" by Gennifer Choldenko (Putnam, $15.99), a 12-year-old boy moves to Alcatraz Island in 1935 and schemes to get his autistic sister into a special school.

"Lion Boy" by Zizou Corder (Dial, $15.99), a riproaring fantasy adventure involving a top-secret asthma cure and a young boy with a magical ability to communicate with cats. The second book, "Lion Boy: The Chase" comes out in September.

Looking for more ideas? New York State's public libraries this summer are encouraging kids to pick their own books in a summer reading program titled "New York is Read, White and Blue." The Web site, www.summerreadingnys.org, has separate sections for kids and teens with book lists, craft activities and an Explore New York section with vacation travel tips. Here are a few books from the libraries' 2004 Summer Reading pamphlet:

School age:

"Alice in Blunderland" by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

"The Tale of Despereaux" by Kate DiCamillo

Teens and Young Adults

Jonathan Stroud, "Amulet of Samarkand"

Neil Gaiman, "Coraline"

Christopher Paolini, "Eragon"

Nancy Farmer, "House of the Scorpion."

e-mail: jwestmoore@buffnews.com

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