A blog for kids (and their parents) who love books, words, and dreaming big...
I'm so glad you stopped by! Welcome.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Books About Boys

Photo courtesy of NYPL Digital Gallery

Last month, in my post Books With Girl Power, I featured some books with interesting, engaging main characters who all just happened to be female. I promised then that I would actively seek out and read books about appealing male characters for a future post.  Well, this is that post, and I am happy to share these books about boys with you today!  I also want to point out that, while these books are about boys, they are not meant solely for boys -- these books will appeal to many girls out there, as well.

As I did in my Girl Power post, I will begin with a picture book that I stumbled across at the library:

Be Boy Buzz,
written by Bell Hooks
and illustrated by Chris Raschka, 2002

With energetic illustrations and bold, poetic text, this book is a celebration of boyhood.  My six-year-old Ben and I read this book through several times, enjoying the beat of the words, as well as their meaning.  What a wonderful book for boys and their parents!


I've read several middle grade books about boys this month. Here are a few of my favorites:

The Invention of Hugo Cabret,
written and illustrated by Brian Selznik, 2007

Twelve-year-old Hugo Cabret is an orphan, living in a Paris train station in 1931.  A thief who secretly keeps the station's clocks running after his uncle -- the official clock keeper -- disappears, Hugo is eventually caught stealing a small wind-up toy.  The shopkeeper who catches him puts Hugo to work, to pay off his debts.  Meanwhile, Hugo and the shopkeeper's young goddaughter, Isabelle, discover clues to a mystery from the past.  The pair begin to piece them together, unraveling long-kept secrets in the process.

My friend Ben (not to be confused with my son Ben) recommended this book to me.  I really didn't know anything about it, except for the fact that a movie based on the book had been out in the theaters last year.  When I found it on the shelf of the library, I was a little surprised by how thick it was.  Being a fast reader, thick books don't intimidate me at all -- but I did think it seemed a bit long for most middle grade readers.  Back at home, when I opened the book for the first time, I discovered that the story isn't nearly as long as it looks -- most of its pages are illustrations, not text.  I read the story through once, then decided it would make a great bedtime book. I read it again, this time aloud to Ben.  (My son, not my friend!)

Both of us were captivated by Selznick's story and illustrations, eager to find out what Hugo would do next.  A week after we'd finished the book, we had a chance to watch the 2011 film, "Hugo".  Though it differs from the book in several ways, the movie is also entertaining and worthwhile. Ben (my son and my friend, actually) and I recommend them both!


City of Orphans,
written by Avi
and illustrated by Greg Ruth, 2011
New York City in 1893 is a dangerous place.  Thirteen-year-old Maks, a Danish immigrant and newsboy,  escapes from the Plug Ugly Gang with the help of Willa, a street urchin.   The two are then drawn into a sinister mystery, becoming amateur detectives when Maks's innocent older sister is thrown in jail for stealing.

Avi immerses his readers into the past, vividly describing 19th century life in the big city.  I enjoyed the historical perspective, the intriguing mystery, and the colorful characters making up this story.


Danny, the Champion of the World,
written by Roald Dahl
and illustrated by Quentin Blake, 1975
Danny has the best father in the world.  The two of them live in an old gypsy caravan next to their gas station, and are content with their simple life together.  Then, when Danny turns 9, he discovers his father's one vice, a love of poaching. Father and son have always done everything together, and soon Danny is helping devise a plan to poach pheasants from the land of crotchety old Victor Hazell, a wealthy man whom no one likes.  If they can pull it off, Danny truly will be the champion of the world!

Dahl is known for his funny, zany stories, and this is one of them.  In addition to humor, this story also features a tender, heart-warming father-son relationship.  Filled with lively writing and Blake's distinctive illustrations, this book will delight kids and adults alike.


Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key,
written by Jack Gantos, 1998
Abandoned by his parents at a young age, Joey Pigza has been raised by his emotionally abusive grandmother.  Now that he's a 5th grader, the mother he doesn't even remember has returned to take care of Joey. As if those weren't enough problems for a child to deal with, Joey also has attention-deficit disorder (ADD)... but not the meds to control it.  He is a good kid, but his days at school tend to be one disaster after another.  Will Joey get the help he so desperately needs?

No one in my family has ADD, but many years ago I worked with several ADD kids, so I feel I have at least a little bit of first-hand knowledge about the disorder.   While reading this book, it seemed like I had crawled right into the head of a boy with ADD.  I thought that Gantos's depiction of Joey was true-to-life.  When he is wound up and "wired", Joey's thoughts race and bounce all over the place.  When some medication starts working, Joey is able to slow down and think things through.  Gantos's narration reflects that.

Though the book deals with some serious topics, there is also plenty of humor -- and compassion -- included.  I was impressed with this story and am eager to read the rest of the books in the series: Joey Pigza Loses Control, What Would Joey Pigza Do?, and I Am Not Joey Pigza.


Seriously, Norman!,
written by Chris Raschka, 2011
When Norman Normann does not score very high on an important entrance exam, his worried parents decide to get him a tutor.  Balthazar Birdsong turns out to be a very unusual tutor indeed.  Studying the dictionary as instructed, Norman keeps running across words that connect oddly to events in his life.  As Balthazar urges Norman and his friends (Leonard, Anna, and Emma) to observe and explore the world around them, the Quadrumvirate find themselves on a wild quest to save Norman's father and his karma.

Despite the title, this book is anything but serious!  I spotted it on a shelf at the library; the author's name caught my eye.  Raschka is an accomplished artist, and I've enjoyed many of the books he's illustrated, including Be Boy Buzz (shown at the top of this post) and some wonderful poetry collections.  Reading the inside cover, I learned that this was Raschka's first novel.  I decided to check it out, and I am so glad that I did!  Filled with word play, laugh out loud moments, and a crazy adventure, this book surprised and enchanted me.


Over the last few weeks, I've also read a few good young adult/adult books featuring boys:

Then Again, Maybe I Won't,
written by Judy Blume, 1971
When his inventor father finally sells an invention for a lot of money, everything changes for 13-year-old Tony Miglione. His family moves to a wealthy neighborhood on Long Island. Now Tony has to go to a new school and make new friends. On top of that, Tony is going through puberty, which means his body is growing and changing and doing strange things.

I first read this book when I was in 5th grade.  (In fact, the book in the photo above is the same copy that I read back then -- I received a whole set of Judy Blume books for Christmas that year, and I still have them.)  This was the first book I ever read that described a few of the things that happen to boys during puberty, and I learned some things I didn't know before.  I still remembered those parts of the story after all these years, but had forgotten the actual plot! Reading it again as an adult, I was more interested in how Tony deals with all the changes and the stress in his life.  I was reminded once again how good Blume is at portraying life from an adolescent's perspective.


written by Stephen Davies, 2011
Set in modern-day West Africa, this book tells the story of 15-year-old Jake and his younger sister Kas.  Children of a British ambassador, the two are kidnapped one evening -- supposedly by Yakuuba Sor, an outlaw and leader of a terrorist group.  But is their abductor really Yakuuba Sor? And is Sor really the dangerous criminal everyone thinks he is?  When the corrupt local government and British Intelligence get involved in the search for Jake, Kas, and Sor, the three decide to take matters into their own hands.

This thriller, filled with mystery and adventure, is fast-paced and action-packed.  I wasn't sure how well I would like the book when I first started it, but I was quickly drawn into the story.  I liked it (and the characters) more and more as it went on.  The author, Davies, is actually a missionary in West Africa.  I appreciated how vividly he described life and the culture in that part of the world, an area I know little about.


The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,
written by Mark Haddon, 2003
When an autistic 15-year-old, Christopher John Francis Boone, discovers his neighbor's dog impaled on a garden fork, he cradles the dog in his arms.  The dog's owner finds them this way and has Christopher arrested.  When his father arrives at the police station to explain the situation, Christopher is given a "caution" and is released from jail. Ignoring his father's advice to "stay out of other people's business", the boy is determined to find out who really killed the dog and launches his own investigation.

After hearing many adults recommending this novel, I read it for a book club I was in several years ago.  Everyone in the club, including me, loved it!  At the time, I thought of it as a story for adults, even though the main character is a teenager.  Then, recently, I was looking through a list of good books for young adults, and I came across this title.  I decided to reread it.  It was shelved in the adult section of our library, but I do think that it is appropriate for young adults, as well.  (I should note that it does contain many swear words.)  The story itself is moving, insightful, and often amusing.


Have you read any of the books that I shared today?  If so, what did you think?  What are some of your favorite books about boys?  I'd love to hear about them!

No comments:

Post a Comment