HELPING a young person find books to read over the summer often can be a perplexing task. Library shelves are overflowing and bookstores abound with titles for all ages. But it's often difficult to predict which books will grab a child's attention and hold it when summer freedom beckons.

The following list of recommended summer reading includes award-winning books as well as books that kids themselves have voted as favorites. Most of these titles are available in bookstores, as well as libraries. AGE 4-8

BRAVE IRENE

by William Steig. Young Irene, a dressmaker's daughter, leaves her sick mother during a raging snowstorm to deliver a ball gown to the duchess. She is rewarded for her efforts and returns home laden with goodies. The illustrations of the snow will make for good conversation on a hot summer's day.

AMELIA BEDELIA GOES CAMPING

by Peggy Parish. The delightful character of Amelia Bedelia is at it again, totally confusing all of her instructions and making the camping expedition an adventure not soon to be forgotten. FLOSSIE AND THE FOX

by Patricia C. McKissack. This story is reminiscent of one of Aesop's fables. Florrie, a young girl, must carry a basket of eggs through the forest to a friend. She meets up with a cunning fox, who of course intends to take her eggs. Through her clever wit, Flossie is able to outfox him. THE STRANGER

by Chris Van Allsburg. As with all of Van Allsburg's stories, The Stranger necessitates reading between the lines. Farmer Bailey discovers a man lying in the road who apparently has lost his memory. Farmer Bailey takes the stranger home and calls a doctor, who examines the man but can find nothing medically wrong. The stranger stays at the farm for a week, helping out with the chores. The weather stays unseasonably warm and none of the leaves start to change color. By the end of the story, the stranger gets his memory back and the reader will have guessed just who the stranger is. CHERRIES AND CHERRY PITS

by Arthur Yorinks. This book won this year's Caldecott Medal. The story centers on Al and his dog Eddie, who are bored with their situation in life. One day a fantastic bird lands in their window and carries them off to an island of exotic birds where life is always easy and carefree. Before long, however, Al and Eddie slowly start changing into birds. They manage to escape the island just in time, and once back home they decide their life is fine just the way it is. THE JOLLY POSTMAN AND OTHER PEOPLE'S LETTERS

by Janet and Allen Ahlberg. What child wouldn't be delighted to open a book and discover the letters the postman is delivering are from favorite storybook characters such as Cinderella, Goldilocks and The Three Bears? Each letter comes in its own envelope and can be used to motivate children to write some summer letters. PECOS BILL

by Steven Kellogg. A retelling of the tall tale of the bigger-than-life American folk hero is superbly illustrated here. The text is as colorful as the pictures that depict what life as a cowboy was all about -- even if you were a cowboy whose feats were unbelievable. RIDE A PURPLE PELICAN

by Jack Prelutsky. This collection of 28 poems is guaranteed to bring on the giggles as the lively characters in the poems take the reader all across the United States. Prelutsky makes poetry fun for children of all ages. THE VILLAGE OF ROUND AND SQUARE HOUSES

by Ann Grifalconi. Can you explain why women live in round houses and men live in square ones? This book is a charming folktale from West Africa, but one not well known in this country. The illustrations are done in chalk drawings and truly enhance the legend.

AGE 9-12

RETURN OF THE INDIAN

by Lynne Reid Banks. Young Ormi once again meets his friend, Little Bear, in this sequel to Banks' popular book, The Indian in the Cupboard. Although Ormi has made a promise to himself that he will not bring the toy Indian back to life, he changes his mind. This time Little Bear and Ormi enter an adventure filled with danger, and Ormi learns to respect Little Bear anew. THE WHIPPING BOY

by Sid Fleischman. This fantasy won the coveted Newbery Medal for this year. It's packed with humor as Prince Brat and his whipping boy, Jemmy-of-the-Streets, venture out into the world and meet with many unsavory characters whom they must outwit. This book makes a good read-aloud. SHH! WE'RE WRITING THE CONSTITUTION

by Jean Fritz. Jean Fritz is well-known for her biographies of famous Americans and her portrayal of historic facts. Since this year marks the 200th anniversary of the signing of the Constitution, Fritz's book will not just entertain readers but provide good background knowledge of American history as well. THE INSIDE-OUTSIDE BOOK OF WASHINGTON D.C.

by Roxie Munro. Award-winning artist Roxie Munro has created an ingenious picture book for children and adults that takes readers to familiar Washington sights and then gives the reader a unique perspective of what the landmarks look like from both the outside-in and the inside-out. Her book is meant to be shared by the entire family. A FINE WHITE DUST

by Cynthia Rylant. This book touches upon a topic rarely explored in juvenile fiction. It is the story of a young boy who trusts an adult who turns out to be unworthy of that trust. The fact that the adult is a preacher makes the story more poignant and no less believable. COME A STRANGER

by Cynthia Voigt. In this story Voigt takes a character from her previous novels, Mina, and has the young black girl grow up from the pre-teen years to young womanhood. This book is powerfully written and the reader comes to respect Mina as she learns more about herself and the world around her. PRISONER OF VAMPIRES

by Nancy Garden. This spooky spoof has been quite popular. Young Alex is doing a research paper and has chosen vampires as his subject. The trouble starts when Alex realizes that he is required to have first-hand sources for his paper. Alex meets a strange man who will help him with the research -- and there the adventure truly begins. UP FROM JERICHO TEL

by E. L. Konigsburg. Eleven-year-old Jeanmarie and her friend Malcolm establish a special place out behind their trailer park that they name Jericho Tel. One day as they are digging a grave for a dead animal, they fall down a shaft and discover Tallulah, the ghost of an eccentric movie star. Together Jeanmarie and Malcolm set out on some character-building adventures that are both funny and serious. TO SPACE AND BACK

by Sally Ride. Anybody fascinated by space or the desire to become an astronaut will enjoy this book by the first American female astronaut. It tells the story of what a space shuttle flight is like from the inside of the space craft. Color photographs from NASA enhance the text. BOY

by Roald Dahl. This is Roald Dahl's autobiography written for older children. Almost all children have heard of Dahl's classics, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach. But few children know of Dahl's difficult childhood, and how his childhood affected the books he wrote as an adult. His memories are both painful and hilarious -- but his story is quite popular.

Linda Sittig is a reading specialist and writer.