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Originally published Sunday, June 16, 2013 at 5:01 AM

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Summer kids books

Local authors have a fresh bunch of imaginative children’s books and suspenseful teen novels just right for summer reading.

Special to The Seattle Times

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Whether it’s in front of a pool, on a towel at the beach or just tucked into bed, summer reading benefits from the luxury of time. Toddlers to teens will find these great reads from Washington state authors and illustrators a fun way to spend a few hours during the warm, lazy days of summer.

Families out enjoying the beach this summer should carry along “Sea Star Wishes: Poems from the Coast” by Eric Ode and illustrated by Erik Brooks (Sasquatch, 32 pp., $16.99, ages 4-8). The local author-illustrator duo (Ode lives in Bonney Lake, and Brooks in Winthrop, Okanogan County) offers odes to what one might find at the beach, from limpets and lighthouses to grandfathers fishing at the pier. Brooks’ illustrations range from realistic, with kites searching “for an escape/from the anchor/of the beach,” to more fanciful, with a hermit crab who “never worries/what to pack” riding a motorcycle.

The titular creatures in “Giant Dance Party” by Betsy Bird (Greenwillow, 32 pp., $17.99, ages 5-8) look like puffs of blue cotton candy with pig noses and antennae. Illustrator Brandon Dorman, who lives in Puyallup, makes his digital artwork downright huggable as the oversized novices learn disco, Irish step dancing and the Twist from little Lexy, an enthusiastic dancer who freezes on stage and so turns to teaching instead. But when her students turn into “furry blue ice pops” at their own recital, Lexy has to step in to warm them up.

No one wants to think about it, but August will roll around soon enough. Here’s the book for those reluctant preschool/kindergartners.

Oliver isn’t sure about starting school, so he picks up a swamp creature “just in case things got rough” in “Oliver and his Alligator” by Paul Schmid (Disney Hyperion, 40 pp., $15.99, ages 3-6). At any provocation, the friendly-looking reptile responds to Oliver’s “munch munch” command and gobbles down his teacher, classmates and even the classroom decorations. Seattle author/illustrator Schmid’s charming pastel illustrations capture the increasingly chunky alligator — and his owner’s realization that fun is going on inside without him. The book will be available June 25.

Tips for catching a Bigfoot, according to “The Sasquatch Escape: The Imaginary Veterinary: Book 1” by Bainbridge Island author Suzanne Selfors and illustrated by Dan Santat (Little, Brown, 216 pp., $15.99, ages 9-12): The Sasquatch loves chocolate and will follow pieces of candy. Ben learns this when he accidentally lets an Imaginary creature enter the Known World and must capture the large beast with the help of his new friend, Pearl. The ketchup-eating, grocery-cart-riding, garbage-sorting Sasquatch makes sure Ben’s summer with his quirky grandfather is livelier than expected.

Books for teens take on ever more complicated premises. Lizzie, Ella and Betsey take turns being Elizabeth by sharing classes, a job and cheerleading; otherwise, their “mom” will go to jail for creating the three clones in Cat Patrick’s “The Originals” (Little, Brown, 296 pp., $18, for ages 13-17). Lizzie can’t handle splitting a boyfriend, though, when she meets cute boy Sean and discovers some of her mom’s other secrets in the Snoqualmie author’s third young-adult novel. Teen readers will identify with Lizzie’s love-hate relationship with her sisters/fellow clones and her desire to stake out her own identity, despite her unusual sci-fi home life.

From the first pages, tension seeps and then pours over the three teenage narrators of “A Moment Comes” by Jennifer Bradbury (Atheneum, 288 pp., $16.99, ages 14-17). Set in 1947 India, it highlights the ethnic clashes surrounding the India-Pakistan partition with alternating first-person narratives by Margaret, the wealthy daughter of a British cartographer; Anupreet, a Sikh girl whose relatives are injured and killed in the strife; and Tariq, a Muslim boy who wants to attend Oxford and struggles to avoid adding to the violence. An author’s note explains how Bradbury, who lives in Burlington, spent time in India on a teacher-exchange program. The book will be available June 25.

“The Dark Shore” by Kevin Emerson (Katherine Tegen, 480 pp., $17.99, ages 14-17) is aptly titled; this second book in The Atlanteans series turns even more violent as Owen, Lilly and Leech run from the bad guys and try to get help from the good guys ... until it’s increasingly evident that no good guys exist anymore. The sci-fi action and plot twists will keep readers up late — but, hey, there’s no school in the morning anyway.

Stephanie Dunnewind, a former Seattle Times features reporter, is a school librarian in Bothell.

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