Monday, February 24, 2014

Books for Boys - Kathryn Knight

As a mom who is passionate about both writing and reading, I think I've done a good job modeling my love of books for my kids.  I can't remember a period in my life when I wasn't reading a book (or two at a time)...and apparently before I could read, I memorized the words to my picture books.  I "caught" more than one babysitter trying to skip lines to shorten a story!  My father would faithfully take me to the library each week, and there was never a shortage of books on subjects that interested me.  It's obvious from my own novels that romance is a particular favorite of mine, but I enjoy reading every genre.  I'm happy with compelling memoirs, entertaining fantasy, creepy horror, spine-tingling suspense, sweeping historical fiction, and unique literary fiction.

However, I have two boys, and sometimes it's hard to find books that really engage them...especially in these days of constant electronic stimulation competing for their attention, not to mention friends and sports.  My older son (a 9th grader) is especially tough--while he will read, it's never his activity of choice.  My younger son (a 6th grader), is a different story--he loves to read, as long as he likes the story.  And he knows what he likes.  At 12 years old, he uses terms like "the author's voice" and "the hook" with confidence.

Of course, there are a number of well-known series which tend to draw in even reluctant readers: Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Harry Potter, The Hunger Games...but I'm going to try to throw out some suggestions that parents may not have heard of.

My 6th grader's favorite series, by far, is Peter and the Starcatchers, by Ridley Pearson and Dave Barry.  While I haven't read these myself, I know from Barry's columns and adult books that he's hilarious.  My son read the first in the series at school, and then absolutely tore through the next four: Peter and the Shadow Thieves, Peter and the Secret of Rundoon, Peter and the Sword of Mercy, and The Bridge to Neverland.  As you may guess, these books provide a backstory for the character of Peter Pan.  My son literally could not put them down.

Both my boys really enjoyed the Book of Ember series by Jeanne DuPrau: The City of Ember, The People of Sparks, The Prophet of Yonwood, and The Diamond of Darkhold.  In this post-apocalyptic setting, Ember is an underground city slowly running out of supplies and power.  The protagonists find clues that could possibly lead them to the outside world--and safety.

It's also probably apparent from my novels that I love ghost stories, and I must have passed that to my kids.  All three of us have truly enjoyed Mary Downing Hahn's spooky ghost stories.  I read Deep and Dark and Dangerous out loud to them when they were a bit younger, and they've gone on to read a bunch of others: Wait till Helen Comes, The Doll in the Garden, Time for Andrew, Promises to the Dead, The Old Willis Place, All the Lovely Bad Ones, and Closed for the Season.  There are a number of other books by Hahn with different themes they've enjoyed as well.

Another series they enjoyed is Shadow Children by Margaret Peterson Haddix.  These seven books are set in a dystopian society that allows only two children per family due to food shortages.  A third child must be kept secret from the government's "Population Police", or risk imprisonment or death.  The first book is Among the Hidden, followed by Among the Imposters, Among the Betrayed, Among the Barons, Among the Brave, Among the Enemy, and Among the Free.

Finally, I've tried to capitalize on my 15-year-old's interest in The Walking Dead television show (which I admit I also love) with some books based on the original graphic comics.  Please note, the graphic comics, in my opinion, are not suitable for kids...I am referring to a trilogy of novels about the character of "The Governor" written by Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga: The Rise of the Governor, The Road to Woodbury, and The Fall of the Governor.  These are books for the upper YA crowd, as they deal with a zombie-infested post-apocalyptic world, and there is sure to be some violence and mature content.  But the subject matter and familiar characters might appeal to older kids who watch the show, and possibly get them reading.

That's all for today!  Please feel free to leave your recommendations, and thanks for stopping by.

Edited to add: Because this was a popular post, I did a new list with more of my boys' favorites: Books for Boys Part 2

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