Sorry to totally monopolize the blog lately! I read two more kids' books (I love reading below my grade level--it goes so fast) that I can heartily recommend.
Flush by Carl Hiaasen: I really enjoyed Hiaasen's first YA novel, Hoot, and I suggest that if you enjoyed Hoot (and if you haven't read it, go find a used copy), you will also enjoy Flush. Hiaasen brings his trademark zany humor and Florida settings to YA novels quite well, so if you've enjoyed his adult novels, give his YA ones a try. I felt the environmental message was handled well, not too preachy. What the bad guys are doing is so heinous that even people who wouldn't describe themselves as "green" will cheer when they get what's coming to them. Noah and his younger sister Abbey (a former biter, which comes in handy) become drawn into their father's passion for protecting nature. Their father is in jail for destroying a casino boat--Dad insists that the owner is dumping his sewage into the water instead of paying for it to be properly contained and treated (ew), but there's no proof. Noah overhears his mother discussing divorce and he and Abbey set out to prove Dad right. A number of encounters with an entertaining cast of adult and junior bad guys (the casino owner's son is a bully) lead to Noah's hilarious idea for proving the illegal (and very gross) dumping. An unlikely alliance with Shelly, the scary ex-girlfriend of a worker on the casino boat, makes the kids' success more believable. A funny, fast-paced juvenile novel with a message.
The Secret of Platform 13 by Eva Ibbotson: I've been on an Ibbotson kick lately. I really enjoy her fantasy novels, which are funny and warm. I summed up the book for Matt--there's a secret entrance to a magical world through a platform in King's Cross station--and he laughed and thought it was a Harry Potter rip-off. But this book was written in 1994. Anyway, the King and Queen of the magical world have an infant son. His nurses take him through the gump (the gateway between worlds that opens every nine years) and he is kidnapped by the horrible Mrs. Trottle who has no child of her own. She decides to go away and return with the baby, pretending he is her own. The gump closes before a rescue can be mounted. For nine years, the King and Queen mourn and plan a rescue at the next opening. A motley crew of magical folk go through the gump to recover the lost prince. They find a charming, wonderful boy at the Trottle home, but he turns out to be a servant. The prince is a spoiled, horrid boy, but they have to bring him back, anyway, as he is the prince. His mother learns of the plan and whisks him away. The rescuers have to track him down (with Ben's help). The plot twist is glaringly obvious, but I think the story is a lot of fun, anyway, and it ends very happily. Ibbotson's books are easily found used on amazon or bn.com for basically the price of shipping, and are usually in the amazon 4-for-3 promotion, in case you want to start collecting them.
I've bounced around between books, trying to find the right one, and I've settled on Once a Thief by Suzann Ledbetter for now. It's not grabbing me the way her Hannah Garvey series did (the one that starts with East of Peculiar), but it's mildly entertaining. I've read so much YA lately, but that may just be what I feel like right now. I've been working down the stack of books in my room. I have stacks of books everywhere. I have a shelf of books I haven't read yet up in the guest room, then I have another in the closet. And I have the books I think I'll read soon stacked in our bedroom by my nightstand. Matt's really nice about all this, and every once in a while will request that maybe I could relocate some books when they begin to take over the floor :) After this book, I may hit the literature shelf upstairs for something more substantial.