Tuesday, August 28, 2007

I know what boys like

The other day I helped a lady who was doing a book club for middle-grade boys. She was looking for "boy books". Now, many people turn up their noses at the idea that books can be "boy books" or "girl books" and indeed, I wouldn't tell a boy not to read Black Beauty or Anne of Green Gables.

BUT... I'm not going to spend my valuable (and hard-won: have I mentioned the pink hair?) credibility suggesting Little Women as a historical fiction choice for a boy. And I have given up on recommending The Woman Who Rides Like a Man by Tamora Pierce to my fantasy-loving boy readers - I just couldn't take the rejection anymore!

So eventually you conclude: girl on the cover? that boy is not going to read it. Horse on the cover? iffy. Bird on the cover? probably not. Crazy, huh? What's so girly about birds? But he's not going to read it, and he may think that you're clueless for suggesting it to him.

So here are some books in a variety of genres and age ranges that are go-to choices for boys (and also great for girls too - as with names and clothes, girls get to pick from both sides of the aisle). I have read almost all of these. Anything I have previously reviewed has a link. Anything without a link, read the School Library Journal review on Amazon.

First readers (I Can Read):
Nate the Great series by Sharmat. Detective stories.
Elephant & Piggie series by Mo Willems. Friendship. Super-funny!

First chapter books (Beyond I Can Read):
Time Warp Trio series by Jon Scieszka. Funny adventure stories.
Ricky Ricotta's Mighty Robot series by Dav Pilkey.

Up a level:
Ziggy and the Black Dinosaurs series by Sharon Draper
Melvin Beederman, Superhero series by Greg Trine
Secrets of Dripping Fang series by D Greenburg
Mr Chickee series by Christopher Paul Curtis
Encyclopedia Brown
series by Sobol
The Great Brain
series by John D. Fitzgerald
Captain Underpants series by Dav Pilkey

Longer books:
Benny and Omar by Eoin Colfer (UK boy moves to northern Africa, gets into trouble and learns about responsibility. Also, fun. Benny's voyage of discovery continues with the forthcoming Benny and the Babe I think it's called)
Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney (heavily illustrated, lots of funny: for the reluctant reader)
Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis (African-American hero, historical fiction)
Brainboy and the Deathmaster by Tor Seidel (great for gamers, science fiction but not futuristic)
Cryptid Hunters by Roland Smith (science fiction, hunting for a mythical creature, brother and sister, super adventure)
Alex Ryder series by Anthony Horowitz (first book is Stormbreaker. Teenage secret agent, very actiony!)

Young Adult:
Airborn and Skybreaker by Kenneth Oppel (adventure books set in an alternate past. SO good, read them before the movie comes out)
The Guild of Specialists series by Joshua Mowll (Operation Red Jericho and its sequel, Operation Typhoon Shore (reluctant reader, adventure, alternate past. Awesome presentation, with fold-out maps and an elastic band, but kind of pedestrian writing)
Red Kayak by Priscilla Cummings (wrenching YA novel about a dead toddler and responsibility. local author)
Hoot and Flush by Carl Hiaasen (super-funny, environmental theme, adventure)
Bucking the Sarge by Christopher Paul Curtis (coming of age, African American hero, funny, terrible mother)
Greg Korman in general (funny, real-life-like)
Walter Dean Myers in general (African American writer, mature themes)
Gary Soto (Latino writer, mature themes)
M.T. Anderson in general
Markus Zusak's two books: The Book Thief and I am the Messenger

3-6 grade: Matt Christopher, Dan Gutman, Rick Wallace
YA: John Feinstein, Chris Crutcher, Hoops by Walter Dean Myers

Fantasy (I define fantasy as anything with any nonhuman sentient characters):
City of Ember series by Jeanne DuPrau (very popular young adult fantasy books)
His Dark Materials series by Philip Pullman (first book is The Golden Compass. It's a stunning alternate-world fantasy trilogy that works in some very sophisticated ideas. Movie coming out this fall.) Young Adult
Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer (elves, thievery, funny and engaging. Shelved as Young Adult, but I don't know why)
The Supernaturalist by Eoin Colfer (excellent sci-fi novel, spectacularly plotted. Young Adult)
Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan (first book is Lightning Thief. Teenage demigod, great adventure and funny too)
Gregor series by Suzanne Collins. (first book is Gregor the Overlander. Underground world populated by giant rats, bats, spiders, roaches, etc. Really cool.)
The Dark is rising series by Susan Cooper (first book is The Dark is Rising. Wonderful Arthurian fantasy, good relationships, coming of age - very important to read this before the movie comes out!)
How to Train your Dragon series by Cressida Cowell (Vikings, humor, friendship, for younger readers)
Sisters Grimm series by Michael Buckley (first book is The Fairy Tale Detectives - mysteries starring fairy tale characters, for younger and reluctant readers)
Clan Apis by Jay Hosler (graphic novel about bees, written and drawn by a biologist, funny and real, this is a great book!)

NOTE: Cryptid Hunters and Airborn are very nearly fantasy too.

Historical Fiction:

Gary Paulsen (Tucket's Ride etc)
Montmorency: Thief Liar Gentleman (the first book only) by Eleanor Updale (very clever hero, espionage, crime, Victorian London)
Stowaway by Karen Hesse (historical fiction, Captain Cook's voyage, first-person narrative)
Victory by Susan Cooper (historical fiction, British navy, first-person)
Sally Lockhart trilogy by Philip Pullman (first book The Ruby in the Smoke, Victorian detective novels that you can sell a boy on - tell them the books are rather dark) Young Adult.
Harlem Summer by Walter Dean Myers
47 by Walter Mosley

USS Constellation : pride of the American navy by Walter Dean Myers
Secrets of a civil war submarine by Sally M. Walker
Onward: a photobiography of African-American polar explorer Matthew Henson by Dolores Johnson
Whatcha mean what's a zine? by Mark Todd and Esther Pearl Watson
The history of pirates: from privateers to outlaws by Allison Lassieur.
Tracking trash: flotsam, jetsam, and the science of ocean motion Loree Griffin Burns.
Freedom walkers : the story of the Montgomery bus boycott by Russell Freedman.
John Lewis in the lead : a story of the civil rights movement by Jim Haskins and Kathleen Benson
Russell Freeman