Sunday, February 1, 2009

Book series for boys

Since I posted my recommended book series for girls, I've had a few requests for recommended book series for boys (no surprises since it appears that more mothers reading my blog have sons than daughters!)

But as I've mentioned, I'm hitting a blank when it comes to classic boy books because they never appealed to me when I was growing up. Kenneth says he enjoyed Enid Blyton's Secret Seven and Famous Five when he was very young, then progressed to the Hardy Boys series. In contrast, I didn't like any of these, I prefered reading about life adventures and character developments than mysteries (except a time when I was teenager and went through an Agatha Christie phase).

So I'm just going to take a stab at the dark, based on intuition and feedback from other mothers. From what I observe, boys tend to like mystery/fantasy/adventure type books. My guess is this stems from their task-oriented tendencies - there must be a quest or "purpose" to the plot, rather than reading about the ramblings of someone stumbling through life.

So here are some of my recommendations:

1) Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer

This one, I know for a fact. Many boys are hooked on the Artemis Fowl series because it's fantasy and adventure rolled into one. Plus the protagonist is a genius 12-year-old boy with criminal tendencies. Fairies, centaurs, trolls, pixies and one very flatulent dwarf - the characters are original and funny. The writing is sparkling and witty and in my opinion, much more compelling than the Harry Potter series.

To date, the series consists of 6 books (I haven't bought the latest one yet) but Eoin Colfer is still adding to the series, which is great news for fans.

2) The Roald Dahl series

Ok, I cheated - the Roald Dahl books are not a series, they're mostly individual books. But how to leave out one of the all-time greats? I believe Roald Dahl single-handedly transformed the way children's fiction is written. His stories are irreverant and outrageously humorous (in one of his books, he said the biggest problem with children's books is they are often not funny). While he does promote children being good, his tone is never moralistic or priggish. And of course, in all his children's books, the hero/heroine is always a child.

I think for boys, the books they'll probably enjoy most include Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (of course!), Danny the Champion of the World, Boy and Witches. By the way, I'm confident these would appeal to girls as well, and even adults - his books have universal appeal.

3) The Geronimo Stilton series

I hesitated to include this because frankly, I don't think the writing is super and the plots are often featherweight, sometimes practically non-existent. I think the writer (who's Geronimo Stilton, he uses his own name for the main character) is just churning them out as fast as he can bank in his money.

But the selling point of his books is that he very cleverly uses graphic elements as part of the writing and his books have loads of colourful and vivid illustrations. So if you have a son who is resistant to reading (like Andre), Geronimo Stilton is a terrific way to introduce reading into his diet.

No need to buy the entire series. At last count, I think Stilton's up to Book No.36 and he's still going strong, so unless you're made of money or related to Stilton, just select a few (my kids received many of them as Christmas/birthday presents). Anyway, I think they're good only up to about age 8, after which your kids should ideally progress to something more challenging.

4) The Great Brain series by John D. Fitzgerald

I left this for last because this is the only series that is truly classic (read: old) like the book series for girls I recommended. First published in 1967, the series is of a Catholic family in a predominantly Mormon community in Utah, set in the late 1800s. The stories are loosely based on Fitzgerald's adventures growing up with his smart-alecky older brother. Tom, nicknamed "The Great Brain", is a scheming and money-loving boy who uses his intellect to swindle his brothers and friends. While some of the schemes and escapades may not seem too "brainy" among today's more savvy kids, boys might still enjoy reading about how this boy often manages to outsmart his friends and even adults in his community.

There are 8 books in the series and Fitzgerald has an easy, timeless style of writing that is engaging and convincing. I thoroughly enjoyed the books as a kid, prompting me to collect the books when I became an adult.

Mothers of boys will tell you there are many other series their sons enjoy reading, like the Redwall series by Brian Jacques and the Inkworld trilogy by Cornelia Funke. The ones I listed are just the ones I own. There's of course the ubiquitous Harry Potter by JK Rowling (which is ok, but completely over-hyped), the Henry Huggins series by Beverly Cleary (terrific writing) and the Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis, which I own as well but some books are more interesting than others and the writing style is rather antiquated by today's standards, making the books a little dry in parts. Again, just my opinion.

At the end of the day, whatever gets your son interested in reading, go with it.


max said...

Author James Patterson has a ten year-old son who doesn’t like to read. So Patterson has established to help other reluctant readers.

I, too, grew up as a reluctant reader. And my father was the author of over 70 books. Now I write action-adventure and mystery books especially for tween boys. My blog, Books for boys, is # 4 on Google today.

Max Elliot Anderson

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post! Such great recommendations. In terms of grade-reading levels, how would you rank them, from lowest to highest? I'm wondering which to try my boy on. He's about grade 3 reading level. He's reading the Magic Tree House & Junie B. series currently.


monlim said...

YY: Geronimo Stilton is definitely the easiest, about Grade 1 level. Then Roald Dahl, Great Brain and Artemis Fowl, which I estimate is about Grade 4 level. Based on the average reader, of course. Roald Dahl offers a range of difficulty though, for younger readers, James and the Giant Peach and Fantastic Mr Fox are great fun, books like Danny and Boy are for slightly older kids.

Glad you liked the recs, hope they work for you!

monlim said...

Max: Thanks for the awesome recommendation!

Alcovelet said...

Whoa Mon! Love it that your blog has some awesome reach! Am logging on to booksandboys now ...

tjmummy said...

Thanks for the list! I enjoyed reading your list for the girls too, cos it brings back memories of how much I loved some of them too. Will definitely bookmark your blog and return often!

Huiling said...

There's a series that I enjoyed reading called Maximum Ride. I think it falls under the adventure genre. I'm a girl, so I'm not sure if it's suitable for boys. I think it's more suitable for teens. :)
Thx for the list I'd try to read some of the books. :D

monlim said...

Huiling: What a coincidence, I'm just about to post more book recs and Maximum Ride is one of them :) Thanks for the rec!

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