Good books for boys

(Note:  the winner of the book “Praying for Your Future Husband” is commenter #35,  Whitney.  Congrats, Whitney!)

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A reader recently asked me for recommendations of good books for young boys who are just getting good at reading on their own:  engaging interesting books, free of ‘teen’  themes. I thought this was a great question.  Here are some of the books that my boys and I came up with:

 

  • Childhood of Famous Americans (excellent series of interesting biographies)
  • The Narnia series
  • Johnny Tremain
  • The Hobbit  (the least intense of the Lord of the Ring series)
  • Farmer Boy (the one Little House book featuring a boy)
  • Homer Price (series)
  • The Bronze Bow
  • Babe and Me (baseball book)
  • The Mysterious Benedict Society
  • Eager (a book about a robot)
  • Henry Reed Inc
  • Hank the Cowdog (series)
  • From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
  • Outstanding in My Field (a baseball book)
  • King of the Wind (a horse book)
  • The Phantom Tollbooth
  • Swiss Family Robinson (more challenging reading level)
  • Rascal
  • Tree Castle Island
  • Bluefingers (ninja book, some fighting/injury/violence)
  • Sea Legs (kids, pirates and a cruise ship)
  • Fast Green Car
  • Holes

I got some of these books from  Sonlight curriculum booklists  —(here’s one)— a favorite source of mine for book ideas. Also, here’s a post I wrote awhile back about good books for little kids.  I’d love to hear other wholesome book ideas specifically for young boys.  Please feel free to chime in!

{ 55 Comments }

  1. As a kid, I loved the Indian in the Cupboard!

    Also, the Percy Jackson series is pretty good and you learn some my mythology along the way!

  2. Thank you for the post. I was just talking to my husband about our 10 year old son who needs some better yet challenging books to read. It seems harder to find him books than my older girls. Why is that? I am not too impress with some of the more popular series we find at the library.

  3. Another great idea is the Redwall series. It’s got action and adventure, good guys vs bad and lots of battle scenes…all by animals. My older 2 boys love those books.

  4. My son loved the “My Life As…” books from Bill Myers. He read them from about grades 1-3.
    http://www.billmyers.com/BillMyersKids/index.html

  5. Karen r says:

    My son hates to read, but will read anything by Gary Paulson, such as hatchet about a teen boy who gets stranded in the wilderness and learns to survive and then is rescued……he also has some historical novels about how it was to be a boy during the civil war etc.

    • FWIW I was turned off by the divorce/unfaithfulness sub-story in Hatchet– that seemed like an unnecessary ‘adult’ issue in a kids book. But I am a finicky book-picker….

      • Karen r says:

        I do not think you are picky, I have many Christian friends who would not allow their kids to read the books on your list due to the content such as fantasy, violence, magic and theme. In fact my sons fifth grade teacher tried to incorporate one of the books on your list into this years curriculum and so many parents complained, she dropped it.

        For me, getting something my son enjoys reading is priceless and I welcome the teaching lessons that sub plots, like what you stated, allow us.

  6. My almost-8 yo boy has suddenly fallen in love with reading (YAY!) and in the last few days has read 3 of the Magic Tree House books (he insists on reading all series books in order! And since we buy most books at thrift stores, yikes!). Those and A-Z Mysteries by Ron Roy (and I think he has another series called “Capitol Mysteries”?) are some of our favorites right now. I also love C.W. Anderson’s “Billy and Blaze” Series but those are a kids who are probably just getting into reading (no chapters). Sarah Clarkson has a great book about books that I’m working my way through.

    • That’s funny because I picked up Farmer Boy at the library from the list above and my 10 year old wouldn’t read it until he read the first 2 ‘little house’ books! It’s not even technically a series, but Farmer Boy had ‘3’ on it.

  7. these aren’t just good books for boys, they are great books for girls too. personally, i can attest to the phantom tollbooth, and the narnia series. the phantom tollbooth is just good for every body to read, and the narnia series is just beautiful and a must read for everyone as well. other books i don’t know.

    • I agree, Brooke! The only reason I made a ‘boy’ list is that I’ve found reluctant boy-readers are more easily sucked into books with a lot of action/adventure.

      • *nod* I understand. I have nieces and nephews who are reluctant readers. My niece J barely read at all and then picked up harry potter and suddenly became a fantastic reader.

  8. I remember a dinner our sophomore or junior year of college where the conversation got turned to books- and all these 21 year old guys would NOT stop talking about Redwall and how much they loved it- they also raved about the My Side of the Mountain books? Actiony by by Jean Craighead George.

    I’d also recommend Barbara Parks PRE Junie B. Jones- Skinnybones,My Mother Got Married and Other Disasters.

    Thank You, Jackie Robinson by Barbara Cohen has great themes about friendship, family, race, and history, in a baseball-young boy story.

    I also loved Andrew Clements books (Frindle, etc), but I’m a girl, so who knows.

  9. Excellent! I have been wishing for a list like this – I actually have girls; but my nine year old reads and reads and reads!

  10. We can’t leave Carry on Mr. Bowditch off the list! My boys and my girls loved it!

  11. I’d include many of those on your list! Here are a few of the others that boys have enjoyed (also Sonlight books): The Sign of the Beaver, The Twenty-One Balloons, By the Great Horn Spoon, The Great Turkey Walk, Toliver’s Secret, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry (racism theme…heavier book) and Moccasin Trail (read aloud).

    I have to mention the Who was…? series of biographies. Now, we’ve only read 3 of them, so I can’t vouch for the whole series… : )… but they really were engaging for an extremely reluctant reader in our family, when all other biographies (like Childhood of Famous Americans) were not. The first review of this Daniel Boone one was mine, but if you look at other reviews for this and other books in the series, you’ll find that many other reluctant readers are also enjoying these. With slightly larger, “friendly” font, casual illustrations and caricatured covers, I think they show the power of just a little extra effort in the visual department. http://www.amazon.com/Who-Daniel-Boone-Sydelle-Kramer/dp/0448439026/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top

    For fun, we just ordered 2 from the Adventures in Odyssey “Imagination Station” series books for the summer. We’ll see how those go over.

  12. The Matchlock Gun by Walter D. Edmonds
    Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson
    Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
    Cheaper By the Dozen by Gilbreth and Carey
    Rifles for Watie by Harold Keith
    Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt
    The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood by Howard Pyle
    Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder
    The Bridge Over the River Kwai by Pierre Boulle
    The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan
    Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
    Two Years Before the Mast by Richard Henry Dana
    Tintin Comic Books by Herge

    These are some of our sons’ favorites. We have happy memories of Bruce reading aloud in the evenings and then finding the kiddos reading ahead later or the next day. N.C. Wyeth is a favorite illustrator. I teach a reading class at our homeschool enrichment center based on the Tintin books. Boys love these!

    God’s Peace to you and yours!

    • My Tintin fan was excited to see a preview for the TIntin movie, which will be hitting theaters in December!

    • We will check out the TinTin books! Haven’t heard of them!

      • We have enjoyed some of TinTin but please preview some of the titles as I’ve found them to be somewhat racist. The depiction of tribal people is one that as a family with an adopted child from Africa, we avoid.

  13. Don’t forget “The Boxcar Children” books/series.

    My son is only 6…a couple of years ago I read the first book in the series to him and he loved it (it took a couple days lol). Can’t wait for him to get older and can read them for school (we will be homeschooling).

  14. my VERY VERY reluctant reader just begged me to get him “The Castle in the Attic” and there is at least one additional book in the series. It was a read aloud book during school but he really loved it and wants to re-read it on his own.

    He enjoys Magic Treehouse in small doses. He gravitates towards non fiction so he also has read a bunch of different Titanic books – he seems more willing to read if its a subject he’s interested in. I’m going to write down the suggestions above though – I keep hoping his reading will take off (his older sister and I are both voracious readers!)

  15. Krystal says:

    My boys have enjoyed many of the booked mentioned here. But the one series that no one has mentioned is the Sugar Creek Gang series. My boys both love it! My oldest reads them on his own and it has been a good challenge for him. The phrases they use and the sentence structure have bumped his reading level up a bit. My second has enjoyed them read outloud. And there is no “bad stuff” in them.

    • Krystal, I had Sugar Creek Gang on my list initially. My boys told me they weren’t so thrilled with them, but I know that at least one of them enjoyed the series for awhile very early in his reading career. I also used them as ‘read-to-mom’ books for awhile.

  16. Ah!!!, great list going here! During our time in ND we discovered “The Happy Hollisters” series of books. Our boys loved them! They aren’t easy to find, but some libraries have them. Our boys also greatly enjoyed all of the YWAM biographies, both missionary and historical series.

    Books were such a gift to our kids during our 8 years as church-planting missionaries. We didn’t do much TV and had very little money to go and do anything. We also were quite isolated. I think all of these factors really helped in cultivating a great love for reading. Between a vast list of activities, entertainment and various media I think so often that reading gets “choked out” of young lives.

    LOVE this list and I am excited to check out a few of these that our youngest son hasn’t read yet! Thanks, Mary!

    • Krystal says:

      Shelly, my son was gifted a few of these(HH) and LOVED them! You are right, though – hard to find=(

  17. Jennifer says:

    My two boys have enjoyed many of the books on your list. We also love the Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons series of books.

    • Rebekah says:

      I agree – Swallows and Amazons and the rest of the series are some of my favorite books for boys and family read alouds!

  18. Mary, you are right finding books that will appeal to boys does seem more difficult but in all honesty some girls can be just as hard to find the ‘right’ type of books for.
    Here are a few of our all-time favorites:
    Alex Rider series by Anthony Horowitz (a huge hit in England)
    Cooper Kids Adventure Series, Hangman’s Curse, No More Bullying, No More Victims, The Wounded Spirit, all by Frank Peretti
    Elephant Run and 39 Clue Books by Roland Smith
    The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne
    Stargirl and Love Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli–should be read by all
    The Giver by Lois Lowry
    Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
    Zucchini Warriors by Gordon Korman
    Three Cups of Tea and Stones for Schools by Greg Mortenson
    The Spies of Mississippi by Rick Bowers
    Kaffir Boy by Mark Mathabane
    A Child Called ‘It’, The Lost Child, A Man Named Dave all by Dave Pelzer
    and finally Three Little Words by Ashley Rhodes-Courter

    I prefer to read non-fiction books myself so have encouraged my children to read a good mix so as to read about the real world. Some have mature content but my 12 year old has read these books and gained insight into how fortunate she is to be raised in the household she is in.
    If looking for books that will be read by a large majority of school children this year check out the website for Battle of the Books and you will find hundreds of books that are appropriate for any household. When my daughter received her list of books to read, I was surprised to find that most of them were books I would have chosen to read if that age myself. Loved them.

    • Thanks, Laura. I will have to check out the Battle of the Books website.
      For people searching books for their young kids, ‘The Giver’ and ‘A Child Called It’ definitely have adult content. I found the Giver especially disturbing. The writing is excellent, but the story is creepy, even for teens, and the sexual content is just plain unnecessary. Read amazon reviews for more specifics. Kids will happen across enough questionable stuff on their own. I try hard to guide kids towards positive stuff.

      • The Giver is required reading in high school and when you have a child who is reading at an accelerated reading level, middle schools will pull from the high school lists to get them started on those lists.
        We read A Child Called It because it was one of the recommended titles for ninth graders at our school district and wanted to read it with my daughter.
        I also try to guide towards positive reading, but when a teacher recommends a book that I know is mature and wierd, we try to read together and talk about it; if it is also listed as required reading before entering college. And when I say read together, we sit on the bed or couch and each read a page and discuss it for a minute before continuing. Once they hit high school, I ask them to talk with me about the book, which I have always read at the same time.
        While Amazon reviews are okay in their content, they are not always the best place for the whole story. One such review is Stones for Water, one of my least favorite young adult books of all times. This is one of the titles on the fifth grade reading list which I vetoed strongly, prompting the teacher to read because she had not, just another book of several she could choose from to read to students. They all read Stargirl instead. So the jist is, read the books your children are assigned from school because the teacher may not have and is not aware of the content of the book.

  19. Jennifer says:

    Another older series that was fun was The Saturdays etc. by E. Enright. When the boys read this or the Homer Price books they got into extended discussions about some freedoms and responsibilities that kids of an earlier generation had, and how it compares to most American kids’ lives today. Oh, and the Mad Scientists Club short stories were popular at our home.

  20. Kristina says:

    OH WOW – I will be writing these all down!!! My kids are in a Summer reading program and sometimes I struggle to find ones that are good for the boys! Everyone thank you for the list!!

    • Kristina says:

      I just have to tell you – I typed up the list of books and one stood out to me. Rascal by Sterling North – my mother has this book, because he was a cousin to my Grandma! I just love that one of his books made your list! Thank you!

  21. Did anyone mention the G.A. Henty books? Great historical fiction with a lot of action for boys. They are on the more difficult side to read because they were written in the late 19th century, but my son and nephew loved them.

    • We own a bunch of these and I think they are very worthwhile. However the reading level is so challenging that I have resorted to paying my kids a buck a book to read them. 🙂

  22. We just loved the Saturdays and the rest of the Melendy Quartet as mentioned above. I posed the question to my 8 year old and My side of the Mountain was his first response. He has also been enjoying the Ralph books by Cleary. I am going to hand him the book Crash by Jerry Spinelli. I think he will enjoy that one too. “My Fathers Dragon” is also a good choice.

    Thanks for this topic, it is always good to get ideas from others.

  23. Jennifer says:

    I’ve been reorganizing bookshelves for summer reading and looking at booklists off and on all day to see if I’m forgetting anything I want to have for read-alouds or independent reading. I occasionally buy used books from abebooks.com, have been happy with results, just noticed the homepage lists 50 books for 11 yr olds, not all are appropriate choices for my kids but I did add a few to my list and found a few I’ll get from library on audio for road trips. Happy Hollister series is available at that site also.

  24. I would recommend
    Gone Away Lake
    Tom’s Midnight Garden
    Peak
    The Wednesday Wars
    The James Herriot books
    Nation
    Mrs frisby and the rats of NIMH
    the I.Q. series
    Anything by E Nesbit or Diana Wynne Jones, if you are OK with magic

    I read a lot of books for my kids – just because they can read at a high school level (my oldest is 10) doesn’t mean you turn them loose on the content of high school/YA books. That said, I find a lot of the Newberry winners (supposedly for kids) to be totally inappropriate for my children, so the targeted age range is not always accurate. It is a challange to find good books for them. I like the reviews on Read Kiddo Read – they are very helpful for some of the newer books.

  25. There are a lot that I have read, but here are a few at least that I think are pretty good.

    Secret Beyond The Mountains and The Golden Hawks of Genghis Khan by Rita Ritchie are two that are excellent and also a bit off the beaten track.

    The Wolf King and Wilderness Champion are linear books, but not a series by Joseph Wharton Lippincott. He has some other books also that I enjoyed.

    Any book by Jim Kjelgaard, although some were more fun than others. They are almost all animal books/dog books. I think Snow Dog and Wild Trek were two I particularly liked.

    Lastly (although there are many more) the series by Ralph Moody starting with Little Britches. That one, Man of the Family, and The Fields of Home I have read and enjoyed several times.

    • Ben, Thanks so much for weighing in with your favorites!

      (Folks, Ben is my son-in-law and has excellent taste in books. My other sons have gotten many good recommendations from Ben– I couldn’t value his opinion any more highly!)

  26. Natalie says:

    Thank you for posting this. I have an 8 year old who is reading on a high school level and it is a huge challenge to find books for him. I’ve been appalled several times with some of the content in the “Junior” section. I truly appreciate this!

  27. soccermom says:

    Matt Christopher and Mike Lupica write sports-related fiction. The Hank Zipzer series is also good for middle elementary – the main character has a learning difference (dyslexia, I think), so it’s great for anyone dealing with that challenge or trying to be understanding of a friend’s challenge.

  28. I forgot about the tripod trilogy by John Christopher. There is also a prequel. Science Fiction, aliens take over the earth, but stories of standing with courage, fighting for what is right, sacrifice for others, and freedom. Interesting books.

  29. Several of my husband’s favorites from childhood are already on your list, but here are a few more:
    -A Wrinkle in Time series (for older readers)
    -Mr. Bass series
    -Howling Acres series
    -The Whipping Boy
    -The Westing Game
    -Dear Mr. Henshaw (again, probably for slightly older readers)

    And I loved the Three Investigators series, which was Alfred Hitchcock’s mystery series for kids and centered on a group of boys.

  30. I love/collect “good book lists”! Thanks for posting! My soon to be ten year old son is an avid reader, but we are picky about choosing good wholesome books to read. Upon your recommendation, we have already checked out a few of these I had not heard of…my son just finished reading “Eager” and declared it a five star book! Thanks for sharing your suggestions!

  31. Thank you, Mary! And thank you everyone for adding to the list in these comments!
    I have been looking for some solid reading, that will challenge my kids & promote the positive.

    I have an 11-year old girl that loves to read…I’d love to hear a list compiled by your girls too 🙂
    I could always use some ideas for some wholesome books for her.

  32. Christine says:

    May I add a modern-day series that my 12 yo is eating up: The Ranger’s Apprentice series.
    And an old series: The Great Brain.

  33. “The lost Prince” by Francis Burnett (the same person who wrote Secret Garden, etc.) You can download it for free at the free book site called the Gutenberg Project (books out of copyright) at http://www.gutenberg.org. Some kids might find the older style of writing a bit hard to get into, so I have read it out loud a few times, skipping some of the longer descriptions, but this is a great adventure book that I loved as a kid.

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