Back to the kids: Igraine the Brave, by Cornelia Funke
The only other book by Cornelia Funke that I have read is The Thief Lord, so I really wasn't expecting such a light-hearted romp as Igraine provides. A somewhat tongue-in-cheek version of a knights-in-shining-armor tale, the book opens as Igraine is turning 12. Though her parents and brothers are magicians, all Igraine wants is to be a knight, and for something exciting to happen. By the end of the book, she certainly has gotten the second wish, and appears to be well on the way to getting the first.
The castle is threatened by a nefarious knight, the neighbor's nephew wants to steal their magic books, and her parents render themselves unable to protect the castle through a small magical accident. Only Igraine can save the day, with a little help from her friends, old and new.
A quick, fun read, Igraine should appeal to readers from 8 or 9 up (occasional big words might give pause, but the writing is essentially simple and the story clean and not terribly tense). Girls will appreciate the heroine who isn't willing to let her gender dictate her choices (nor her family--everyone else may be a magician, but she is going to be a knight, thank you very much). And before she has finished, she has proven her courage, saved the castle, and become squire to the knight who has helped her. And her parents have been disenchanted so that all can live happily ever after.
The intricate pen-and-ink drawings that illustrate the book add a final delightful touch.