Friday, February 13, 2015

Our Family's List of Best Books for Boys

Finding books that boys can really love these days seems like a momentous task, what with video games and media distractions. Teaching a young man that reading is something to be valued is a delicate skill, it seems, but it can be done. Spending time together reading, both parents modeling a love of reading and books, limiting screen time, and allowing for boredom are all critical in developing a love of reading in a boy.

A friend posted this link of 40+ books for boys on Facebook today. I found the list interesting, and it causes me to worry that I've missed some great reads, but we also have a sizable list of our own that I would add. That said, it must not be that difficult to find books that boys love, after all! My 13-year old son has become a bibliophile. Both his dad and I have shared with him our favorite books, and these have become some of his as well. He has also forged a selection of his own favorites, mostly those that were not available when we were kids. I have asked his input on what he would include in a list of books that he couldn't put down, and he listed many of these. Others I have chosen based on my own observation, but he didn't think of them when he was naming books. A few would seem atypical for boys, but we listened to them together and there was no prejudice of them being books "for girls," namely books in the Little House series or The Secret Garden (which he added, not I). Because I have both a son and a daughter, if one wants to participate in a book being read aloud, they must accept the fact that it might not be their first choice. There have been some surprising likes along the way as a result. 

*I'm not providing you the links. You know how to use the internet and your local library. I will be here all day making links and you'll never get to read the list.

That said, here is the list of books my son has loved.

The Chronicles of Narnia (series): My "share" with my son. He has loved every volume except for The Magician's Nephew, which gave him nightmares. He has never wanted to go back and read it again. 

Alice in Wonderland: This is the book that launched my son into reading. Seems a strange choice to me, but I handed him a leather-bound volume that I said had belonged to my grandfather, and his eyes grew wide at the thought that I would let him hold such a thing. He read it cover-to-cover over the next week or so, and took very good care of the book.

Ralph S. Mouse (series): Another of my childhood favorites which has become a favorite of both of my kids. 

Henry Huggins (series): We love Henry. And Ribsy. And his bike. And his paper route. And his guppies. Ramona...ugh!

Ramona (series): Wait...we LOVE Ramona! All of our family loves Ramona. Even when she's pestering Henry.

The Wizard of Oz (series): Son read all of 14 books in this series front to back. Completely enjoyed them.

Frindle: A boy decides to change the name of a pen from "pen" to "frindle" and it catches on. Sounds innocent enough until the school is in an uproar and this new word spreads across the country...

Half-Magic: Laugh-out-loud funny (I know because my kids were cracking up) story about some children who find a magic coin that turns out only to be half-magic. The results of their adventures with this particular magical device are hilarious.

Little Britches (series): Another family read-aloud favorite. Especially good for boys to see what it means to be a young man in a time of need. 

Misty of Chincoteague: Local and true, another favorite for both son and daughter. "The only horse story I ever liked," he added.

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane: Lands in the category of very different, thought provoking, and good material for discussion. A toy rabbit is separated from his owner and goes on a lifetime of adventures. Watch out, Mom, you may cry at the end.

The Tale of Despereaux: Like Edward Tulane in that it is thought provoking and very different. A mouse falls in love with a princess?? Yes, something like that...

The Secret Garden: Magical. Listened to this together and enjoyed it completely. You will feel a great need to plant things in the spring, and the beautiful story will remind you to never give up hope.

Around the World in 80 Days: Couldn't stop. Fantastic book. Leaves you with a book hangover. A man takes up the challenge to use all the modern means of travel at his disposal to circumnavigate the globe in 80 days or less. Wonderful character development.

Carry On, Mr. Bowditch: Another family favorite read-aloud that leaves you feeling more able to take on the world. The story of colonial-era navigator Nathaniel Bowditch who, despite being indentured and severely disadvantaged proves himself a math genius, educates himself by learning several languages and re-writes the books on navigation. His work set the standard for accuracy in navigation and is still used and studied today in modern times.

Johnny Tremaine: The story of the American revolution from a handicapped boy's perspective. A great way to experience the founding of our nation.

By the Great Horn Spoon: I can't say too much about this book, but my son gave it an excellent review. Takes place during the California gold rush.

The Sign of the Beaver: Another of my son's favorites. Asked for more like this when he finished reading it. It's the story of a solitary boy who befriends an Indian boy and his grandfather. He has to make a difficult choice when it appears that his family may not return to him and the Indian boy offers his family and friendship.

Farmer Boy (and other Little House Books, but especially this): Another family favorite read-aloud. We love the Little House books, but Farmer Boy had some especially funny moments that endeared it to all of us.

Swallows and Amazons: The story of some children's adventures sailing during their summer holiday. Kid-power all the way. This story was the kind that leaves kids wishing they could have a boat and an island of their own, and will inspire them to build forts and seek adventures, real or imagined. This is the first in a series, but we have only read the first one together.

The Great Brain (series): Dad's share. This was my husband's favorite book series when he was young, and he read them to my son. As a result, these are some of his most cherished books, and he reads them over and over.

Moccasin Trail: One of our family's all-time favorite read-alouds. I sat one day and read for three hours, pausing only to use the rest room. We could not put it down. It is the story of a boy who is separated from his family and is rescued by Indians, and that is all I will say because I refuse to spoil it. A great book for brothers to experience together.

Harry Potter (series): Harry, of course. No introduction necessary. Four Harry Potter fans live here. Yes, I cried at the end. I don't know if my son did or not.

Percy Jackson (series): Percy is a demigod but doesn't know it. He must save the world. How it happens in modern times is quite fun. Both kids have loved Percy.

Heroes of Olympus (series): More Percy

The Wanderings of Odysseus: The Odyssey told to young people with beautiful illustrations. 

Black Ships Before Troy: The Iliad told to young people with beautiful illustrations.

Stories from Shakespeare (various authors) and real Shakespeare productions: My son loves Shakespeare, especially Hamlet and Henry V, which is is favorite. We have never shied away from it, have approached the stories like any other, and have ventured into watching the actual productions together. Anything done by Kenneth Branagh is amazing, but I highly recommend Much Ado About Nothing and Henry V. Attention span required. 

The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings: Bilbo, Frodo and all the gang. We are huge LOTR fans from the youngest to the oldest. If reading LOTR is a little too heavy for your kids, I highly recommend the unabridged audio version available on Audible. Even my daughter listened at the tiny age of 8, and amazingly she loved it. Both of my kids have gone through the series more than once, not to mention seen all the movies.

Mysterious Benedict Society (series): A somewhat dystopian series that challenges the mind of anyone, let alone a kid. Invokes the question of what it means to be intelligent, what it means to be human, and how do we prevent tyranny? A savant is solicited for his intelligence but finds himself up against another great mind that seeks unjust power.

Eregon (series): Dragons and fantasy. Son loves it. I have not read it, but can attest to his enthusiasm for this book and this genre.

Animal Farm: A story of barnyard animals. But not. Wicked political satire that had my son and some of his friends saying, "Wait, that's just like what is happening today with (insert political situation x)!" Read as a history assignment two years ago, but still discussed over dinner even now.

Joyful Noise, Poems for Two Voices: Poems written from the point of view of insects that are read together. We have had so much fun reading these together, and it conveys the notion that poetry is neither boring nor inaccessible. Even bugs can write it! Some are funny, some are beautiful, some are sad. My daughter and I began reading these together the other day, and she's hooked, too.

Where the Sidewalk Ends, Runny Babbit and anything by Shel Silverstein

Comics: Garfield, Calvin and Hobbes, Peanuts, The Far Side

Off with their Heads! and Remember, Remember the Fifth of November: British history in engaging  story forms, not unlike Horrible Histories. I purchased these in England but a quick search shows me that you can get them here.

Horrible Histories: "History with the nasty bits left in." This is a British series that is very engaging and quite funny with disgusting historical truths and amusing illustrations left right where they belong--on the pages of a boy's history books. 

The Dangerous Book for Boys: A handbook on how to do boy stuff, be a gentleman, an adventurer, and a friend.

The Guinness Book of World Records: Every guy needs this book so he can one-up his pals with weird information. 

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