Anyone, boy, girl, or adult, can read any book, but some books appeal more to boys than to girls, and more to girls than boys. Since boys are more likely than girls to be reluctant readers, it’s a good idea to survey the field of children’s books and determine how best to catch their interest. I’ll talk about books for girls next time.
As the father of two boys and two girls, I read books aloud nearly every evening — making the appropriate voices. My children are mostly grown, but I still read children’s books from time to time. Here are my recommendations for books best suited for boys that encourage camaraderie, bravery, honesty, and kindness — and most of these books have little to no profanity!
The Three Investigators
The Three Investigators romped through 43 mysteries under the auspices of the famous Alfred Hitchcock. (After his death, Robert Arthur carried on in his stead.) The cerebral Jupiter Jones, athletic Pete Crenshaw, and bookish Bob Andrews were frequently introduced by other children to mysteries that Jupiter unfailing solved. Far better written than the Hardy boys, these stories will appeal to preteen boys. These three investigators aren’t yet old enough to drive, but they bring home the goods each time! Sadly, many of these books are out of print, but they are still available 2nd hand through Amazon.com or AbeBooks — and they aren’t paying me to say that.
The MacDonald Hall series
Canadian author Gordon Korman never failed to make my family laugh until the tears came. He’s written many books featuring mostly (but not always) boys as protagonists. This series features the antics of Bruno and “Boots”, his long-suffering friend, and their entourage, as they attempt to solve problems in the MacDonald Hall boarding school for boys. (Across the road is Miss Scrimmage’s Finishing School for girls.) Never have boys meant so well and gotten into so many hilarious antics as these boys. I have never read a dull Gordon Korman book, who still grounds his characters in morality even when they are misbehaving. Oh, and pay attention to the first book. Astonishily, he wrote it when he was 12-years-old!
The Tripods Trilogy
The White Mountains, The City of Gold and Lead, and The Pool of Fire were written in the 1960’s by John Christopher. (He also wrote a fourth “prequel”, When the Tripods came.) The entire earth, except (as rumor has it) in mountainous Switzerland, has been conquered by aliens in giant, three-legged machines. The human population is kept docile by cybernetic caps that are fitted for children as they reach adulthood. Three boys escape from their homes before their “capping” to join a resistance that may or may not exist. This is a serious, captivating story that even manages to treat the conquering aliens (met in the second book) with compassion.
The Ranger’s Apprentice and Brotherband series
John Flanagan wrote his first book to entice his son to read. He succeeded admirably, creating a boys club of books. While these 18 books (13 in the Ranger’s Apprentice series and 5 in the Brotherband series) also feature female characters, it is the male characters who carry the story. At times, it feels like Mr. Flanagan added the ladies rather as an afterthought so no one would accuse him of sexism. These books (in particular The Ranger’s Apprentice series in which the characters age and marry) would be for older boys.
Of course, there are many good books out there for boys, but these are the best I have found. Next time, we’ll talk about books for girls. (By the way, my girls enjoyed these books, too!)