I am putting together a list of 42 excellent children’s books (one for each student) for my Child Studies course next semester.
I am looking for books suitable for children between the ages of 8 and 12 – “chapter books” rather than picture books. I’d also like them to be less contemporary books, books that my students are not likely to have encountered on their own – so no Harry Potter or Diary of a Wimpy Kid.
I’m particularly interested in books that will appeal to boys. Most books that spontaneously come to my mind are ones that I enjoyed, and my interests were not boyish. (Don’t get all up in my grill about gender stereotypes, please; anyone who teaches teenagers knows that these things matter.)
Here’s my list so far:
- Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (possible candidate for the whole-class reading)
- Anne of Green Gables
- Little House on the Prairie
- A Wrinkle in Time
- The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe
- Bridge to Terebithia
- Tales of a Fourth-Grade Nothing
- Harriet the Spy
- From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
- Swallows and Amazons
- The Railway Children
- The Secret Garden
Do you have suggestions for great kids’ books, especially books that my (mostly non-reading) students are unlikely to have encountered by themselves or through elementary-school reading assignments? What books did/do you feel kids really must read?
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119 thoughts on “42 Books for Kids”
The Secret World of Og, by Pierre Burton; Owls in the Family, by Farley Mowatt; and anything by E. B. White, but especially Charlotte’s Web.
I love the Secret World of Og! Had forgotten all about it.
Your list made me realise how ‘girly’ my own childhood reading was. Having said that, books like the Redwall series, by Brian Jaques, The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper and The Owl Service by Alan Garner might appeal to boys. Is A Wizard of Earthsea too old for this age group? How about The Hobbit? Michael Morpurgo is also an author that appeals to boys. Perhaps something like ‘Billy the Kid’ about a football-mad boy might work. I can’t now remember the author of A Kestrel for a Knave, which was made into the film Kes, but that would be about right for the older end of this age group. I’ve also taught Skellig, by David Almond, to 11-12 year olds and both girls and boys really enjoyed that.
I would probably have chosen one of the later Laura Ingalls Wilder books rather than Little House on the Prairie. My favourite of all was The Long Winter.
I remember reading Marianne Dreams, by Catherine Storr, at the age of about 9, and that made a huge impression on me at the time.
I’m surprised not to see any school stories on the list. I notice that Enid Blyton is undergoing a revival here in the UK and her Naughtiest Girl series raise some interesting questions about school and schooling. My favourite school stories as a child were the Chalet School books by Elinor Brent-Dyer.
Wow…. that’s a lot of books! Thank you for giving me the opportunity to revisit my childhood bookworm days!
Amira: I loved Enid Blyton but have vague memories of her books being full of terrible snobbery. However, the Naughtiest Girl and Mallory Towers books have been on my “to reread” list for some time, so maybe it’s time.
Enid Blyton was definitely ‘of her time’ although that’s more seen in her racial views and her portrayal of, for example, French and American characters in the school stories. She can be very critical of snobbery in the Malory Towers books.
The House With a Clock in its Walls
Huck Finn, Tom Sawyer?
The Phantom Tollbooth
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Enid Blyton books
Sarah: I have never read the Phantom Tollbooth, and have been meaning to. And yes, The Hobbit should definitely be on there.
The Lensman series by Doc E E Smith (particularly for boys)
The Life of Pi
The Edge Chronicles by Paul Stewart
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
Charlie: I can’t imagine a 12-year-old getting a lot out of Life of Pi – even my college students find it difficult. Do you know kids who have liked it?
I remember that I loved it! But then all the books I’ve read tend to blur into one, I can’t remember when I encountered it. Maybe I was older than I thought!
I was thinking about suggesting Ender’s Game. I thought 8-12 might be a bit young for it – I read it at 13 and it was my favourite book for years afterwards. I doubt I’d have got much out of it if I’d been much younger.
My Side of the Mountain – Jean Craighead George
Island of the Blue Dolphins – Scott O’Dell
The Invention of Hugo Cabret – Brian Selznick
The Box of Delights – John Masefield
And I heartily endorse Swallows and Amazons. The whole series! Always my favourites!
Samantha: ooh, Island of the Blue Dolphins! Another favourite that I would love to read again.
Hey there, love the blog 🙂
Island of the Blue Dolphins was a favourite of mine at that age as well! As was The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden. These two definitely had a hand in shaping my imagination 🙂
“My Side of the Mountain – Jean Craighead George”
oooh! Good one! Made me want to go live in a tree for a year 😉
The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo and Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse. Out of the Dust is probably one of the most powerful books I have taught, even to high-schoolers.
Erin: I don’t know either of those; thanks!
Out the Dust by Karen Hesse is a powerful retelling of the Dust Bowl era in Oklahoma of 1930s. It is a long poem, and most students enjoy reading it especially if they are acquainted with the history.
You might like The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame. One of my favorites is The Education of Little Tree by Forrest Carter.
Michael: I loved TWitW, and have been meaning to read Little Tree – thank you!
“The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame”
All of my male students loved reading Hatchet by Gary Paulson in Elementary/Middle School.
Sarah: Another one I don’t know – thank you!
Here are some by British authors:-
Hiding Out – also by Elizabeth Laird – contemporary with a 9 year old male protagonist
Gaffer Samson’s Luck – Jill Paton Walsh
Secrets of the Fearless – Elizabeth Laird – historical with a 12 year old male protagonist
AK – Peter Dickinson – has a dual ending intriguingly
The last two may be a bit scary for the younger ones in the age range
MCS: Awesome – I don’t know any of these! I’m getting an education here.
There is a book that I read my two boys last year. It was a pleasure to read at night with them and the author (Brian Patten) did very well with it. It is called: “The Story Giant”
I also read my boys “The Magic of Reality”, by Richard Dawkins. A well written book for youngsters, with fabulous art by illustrator Dave McKean.
I like your blog, Merci à tous le chemin du Canada!
GB: I will definitely check out the Patten. I listened to some of TMoR – wouldn’t have thought of it as a kids’ book!
Marcelo In The Real World – Francisco X. Stork
The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume I: The Pox Party – MT Anderson
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian – Sherman Alexie
Kiffe Kiffe Tomorrow – Faïza Guène
After Tupac & D Foster – Jacqueline Woodson
Break On Through – Jill Murray (I’ve taught this with great success)
I could go on…
There’s also all the old Gordon Kormans…but they’re a bit culturally specific.
Erin: the Alexie is on my to-read list as well. The Jill Murray seems more YA than kid lit to me – do you think a 12-year-old would get something out of it? And Gordon Korman is someone I’ve been meaning to go back to…
I think Jill’s book is YA, yes, but it’s a YA in the same way that Anne of Green Gables and A Wrinkle in Time are YA 🙂
Really? I read AoGG and AWiT when I was 9 or 10… Perhaps I need to go give them a closer look.
Korman is still writing – there’s a whole series (On the Run, I think) that Colin read. The Macdonald Hall series would, I suspect, be dated, but the newer books might fit the bill.
The Great Brain Series by John D. Fitzgerald. I adored these when I was 11 or 12. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Great_Brain
The Lord of the Rings (many bright children read these starting at 9, although the language can be challenging for some. By 12 I think it is do-able, and if not, at the very least the Hobbit is.
Little House in the Woods and Little House on the Prairie. While usually associated with girls, Ingalls’ first two books are filled with all the wonderful things “Pa” builds and does and could appeal to many boys.
The Castle in the Attic by Elizabeth Winthrop (a newer book however) http://www.amazon.com/Castle-Attic-Elizabeth-Winthrop/dp/0440409411
I am David by Anne Holm.: For years I thought this was about a boy growing up in medieval England who escapes his lord and manages to stay hidden for a year and a day (thus earning his freedom from serfdom) as he makes his way to London. I believed this because that’s how my Grade 7 English teacher read it to my class. I was enthralled by it. Then recently, I looked it up so I could read it to my son, only to discover my teacher had made up the setting, perhaps so as to make it less frightening for us. At least, that’s my hypothesis, since I knew the title of the book, and remembered the general plot, yet no such book exists, and Anne Holm’s does….
The Swan and the Trumpet by E.B. White (and of course Stuart Little)
The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood of Great Renown in Nottinghamshire by Howard Pyle
The Sword in the Stone by T. H. White,
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain
Pippi Longstockings (yes, it’s about a girl, but she’s quite the wild adventurer)
I’ve yet to read them, but a friend recently recommended The Borrowers
Finally, I wouldn’t limit reading the Chronicles to LWW. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is even better than LWW, Prince Caspian is great, The Magician’s Nephew is as well, and The Last Battle is fun for those who have read the others.
Maia: I loved the Great Brain! I’d forgotten about those…
I’m really looking forward to reading them to my son. I’ve waited a bit since there’s quite a bit of dealing with conflict through fisticuffs and I wanted him to be old enough to understand this isn’t okay, and also old enough to understand Tom should be lifted up as a role model, fun as it is to read about his adventures.
Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea series e.g. The Wizard of Earthsea. Good for both girls and boys, I think.
I think Sherman Alexie’s great. Perhaps I’m out of touch, but I think The Absolutely True Diary… is more for teens (or adults). Okay, perhaps 12 year olds.
Also, I remember loving “The Incredible Journey”, a story by a Scottish author of three pets lost in the Canadian wilderness — and my nephew loved it as well, 30 years later. Can’t remember how literary it was, but it’s stuck with me.
And what about Pamela Porter’s GG award-winning, The Crazy Man, set in Saskatchewan?
Doc: I am sorry to say that I took several runs at Earthsea when I was a kid and never got into them, but I have been meaning to try again, and I had friends who were OBSESSED w/ them…
One of my English teacher friends reblogged this and sent me running to my bookcase looking for favorites. “Carry On, Mr. Bowditch” is a fictionalized biography for young readers about the seafaring mathematician Nathaniel Bowditch; it’s great for boys and quite wonderful. “True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle” is another seafaring swashbuckler, but with a female protagonist. “Hatchet” by Gary Paulsen is another great book for boys about surviving in the wild. Pretty much any YA book by Jean Craighead George will be fantastic; I particularly liked her “Julie of the Wolves” series. I think some or all of those books are Newbery medalists. Before I read Lord of the Rings, a teacher turned me on to Lloyd Alexander’s “The Black Cauldron” series and I LOVED them; they were published around the same time as Lord of the Rings and contain some similar themes, but more accessible to young readers (boys love them too). Good luck! It was fun to think about my favorites from back then.
Sara: The Black Cauldron is another series I’d forgotten about, and another one that I wasn’t that taken by but that friends of mine couldn’t get enough of!
Ah, that’s The Chronicles of Prydain! I loved those!
If you’re looking for books that might appeal to boys I second the suggestion to choose, by Wilder, The Long Winter over Little House on the Prairie, and perhaps add Farmer Boy? I also second My Side of the Mountain! The author Louis Sachar is pretty popular among 10-12 year old (boys), as is Gary Paulsen.
Skewing perhaps a bit older, perhaps young adult books by Walter Dean Myers (a bit more gritty)? The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian or really any recent books by Sherman Alexie? Have you thought about graphic novels, especially for “struggling” readers? American Born Chinese, Stitches, Blankets (definitely for “older” kids), Epileptic, Perspeolis (less for “boys”), Black Hole by Charles Burns (for fans of Stephen King’s earlier works, perhaps). But these are probably for 12 and up…
I really like the “Dear America” series (aimed more at girls) and “My Name is America” (aimed more at boys) for “historical” fiction.
You might want to check the “Best of” lists from the American Library Association (ALA) or definitely the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA)!
One thing to consider is that there is quite a range of “readability” for the books suggested so far…I mean, Tales of a Fourth-Grade Nothing is miles apart from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe or Anne of Green Gables, just as The Hobbit is on a different planet from Little House on the Prairie (I mean, as far as being accessible to struggling readers). Are you aiming for a kind of sweeping overall look at “classic” children’s literature, or are you specifically looking for children’s literature that will appeal to contemporary children, or, books for future teachers to think about using, or struggling older readers..? Hmm.
Oh and I second Out of the Dust by Hesse. AH MAY ZING! I also wonder if From the Mixed-Up Files of… is very of its time/culture. I don’t really know that kids (or even young adults) today would get into it. I mean even Judy Blume has had to edit some of her books to account for cell phones etc. Hmph.
Terry: The course is loosely focused around the question of whether children can develop important character traits through reading. For this assignment, each student will choose one children’s book to present to the class, and part of the student’s task is to discuss the character traits the book models, the lessons it might impart to a particular age group, and whether these things are important. The overall goal is to answer the question, “Should children read this book? Why or why not?” I’m hoping we will get past simple moral considerations; we will be reading Paul Tough’s How Children Succeed as a companion text: https://siobhancurious.com/2012/09/03/whats-a-teacher-to-do-paul-toughs-how-children-succeed/
Oh I *just* finished reading that book! What a great idea to put that book with children’s literature. That would alter what I would suggest…definitely look at Gary Paulsen and Louis Sachar and Scott O’Dell for sure (I really liked Sarah Bishop, which is one of his lesser-known, I think); I might add Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick and Blubber or Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume, and keep Out of the Dust by Hesse for sure!
You might even want to combine Paul Tough’s book with frequently banned books..? The students can evaluate the banned books according to your same criteria–the character traits in Tough’s book. The ALA has a lot of resources regarding commonly banned books, and they are frequently young adult books or children’s books aimed right around 10-12 years old. Hmmm!!!
I loved Ender’s Game, but I’m afraid 12 may be just a tad young?
* The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder
* The Fourth Stall by Chris Rylander
* Maybe the Golden Compass series? (Phillip Pullman)
* A Ring of Endless Light by Madeleine L’Engle
And I’m so excited to see From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler on your list. It was one of my favorites as a kid, but I feel like it gets overlooked a lot.
CrysHouse: I forgot about The Golden Compass; I didn’t love it, but I know lots of kids who do…
I think what you’re saying is: Books worth reading, with characters worth imitating.”
So here we go
Where the Red Fern Grows
Bearstone and Beardance
Indian in the Cupboard
Sort of. Books worth reading, with complex characters. These are good suggestions!
“I loved Ender’s Game, but I’m afraid 12 may be just a tad young?”
They may be a little on the older-side of your age range, but I read Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men and Crane’s Red Badge of Courage around 11 or 12 and really enjoyed them both.
Hmm. A number of them read OMaM in high school, but Red Badge of Courage…I will think about that one.
Harry Potter??? The whole class can read this one and those that enjoy can continue the series on their own? Promote future reading…
James and the Giant Peach
Holes (Louis Sachler I think)
Bud, not Buddy (christopher Curtis)
Nikilee: We do sometimes read HP in this course, but I’m aiming for things that they are less likely to encounter on their own this time. Holes has come up a couple of times – I have sometimes shown the movie, but I think the book would work well…
I am typing on my phone while trying not be nauseous from my husband’s driving so forgive book repetition and grammar.
Red wall series for sure
Rangers apprentice series by John Flanagan
Keys to the kingdom series – first one is mister Monday
Series of unfortunate events – lemony snicket also has a new series starting I believe.
For older kids with more action and horror there is malice by Chris wooding (my favorite horror novel even as an adult)
That’s all for now for we are here at the tractor supply store
Erin: A Series of Unfortunate Events is definitely one I will keep in mind – I will check out the others.
One more… Peter and the Starcatchers series by Dave Barry. Such great fun those are!
Bernard Ashley (Running Scared/Dodgem/Terry on the Fence) is a fabulous author as is Robert Cormier (The Chocolate War/The Bumblebee Flies Anyway) for children at the upper end of your age range. I don’t think they’re girly at all.
For younger readers, Roald Dahl’s Danny the Champion of the World is unbeatable.
Cat: I would teach every single Roald Dahl book if I could, but I’m going to try to limit to one book per author. Many of them know Charlie & the Choc Factory, so Danny or James might be a good next step…
Each of my kids have enjoyed and are enjoying the Silverwing Series (Silverwing, Sunwing and Firewing…I have yet to read Darkwing to my youngest so I can’t say for sure the quality). They were 8years old and 9 years old when they read them and I am also reading out loud.)
I have heard good things about these – must check them out.
Have you heard about The Phantom Tollbooth? I haven’t read it, but I heard a story about it on NPR, and it sounded fascinating for kids. Growing up, I was also a big reader of the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys mysteries.
I don’t know if it would be too mature for the age group, but what about The Adventures of Tom Sawyer or Call of the Wild? I read Call of the Wild in 8th grade, and it still ranks among my favorites.
Also, The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley. Female protag, but she kicks all kinds of butt.
April: all good suggestions; thank you!
Oh, and have you thought about the Goosebumps series by R. L. Stein? The Haunted Mask was one of my faves.
True Grit by Charles Portis
Sioban–Sounds like you are searching for “Books worth reading, with characters worth imitating.”
Here’s my list: starred titles have boys as protagonists
Bearstone* and Beardance*
Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry*
On My Honor*
Where the Red Fern Grows*
James and the Giant Peach*
Best Christmas Pageant Ever (fabulously written characters!)
Indian in the Cupboard*
Number the Stars
and my all time favorite for discussion of morals/values or lack thereof :
(Best classroom discussion EVER!!!!!)
A former 7th grade English teacher In upstate (near the Syracuse area) New York, I have chosen books that would appeal to boys, as well as girls, closer to the 11-12 yr old level. IMHO, The Giver should not be read till 7th grade.
I so enjoyed reading the other suggestions! Good luck with your project–great concept!
What a fantastic list – thank you! I have been debating The Giver; I think some of them read it in elementary/high school, but I’ve been wanting to read it myself, so I might give it a go.
Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry*
Where the Red Fern Grows*
Number the Stars
[Just adding my enthusiastic “Ditto!!!!!”]
The Dark Is Rising: Over Sea, Under Stone; Running Out of Time; Shades of Gray (the one about the Civil War, not the mommy porn); The Giver; Alanna: The First Adventure; Number The Stars; Shiloh; and A Home For Jessie were some of my and my friends’ favorites.
More suggestions: Hatchet; The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian; The Golden Compass; The Black Cauldron; The Crystal Cave; Child of the Owl; My Side of the Mountain; Julie of the Wolves; If You Come Softly; Island of the Blue Dolphins; A Bone from a Dry Sea; The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle; Goosebumps; Animorphs; and The Pigman. Or there’s always Wishbone. The Wishbone Robin Hood book was a favorite of mine.
They have female protagonists, but Zlata’s Diary and Persepolis might be good ways to introduce kids to political conflicts and human rights issues.
B&G: Thank you! I teach Persepolis in another course, and I try to avoid cross-reading, but I love it so much that I just might anyway add it anyway.
I *love* Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry… but I don’t know I’d say that a boy is the protagonist. Which boy would you consider the protagonist–Cassie’s brother? Would you say the same about A Wrinkle in Time? Huh.
Well, Terry–I might just have gotten a little too carried away with the starred titles!
Roll of Thunder is really the family’s story, but Cassie is the protagonist.
But…I do think that Charles Wallace, in particular, is a strong force in A Wrinkle in Time. So, glad you brought that up.
No props for the list and the stars??? All typed into that little reply window.
Just sayin’ 🙂
I am TOTALLY impressed by the list (LOVE the books!!!) and the stars! 🙂 My little organizer heart was warmed. (And for sure Charles Wallace is such a force throughout the series! I really love A Swiftly Tilting Planet too.)
I get so frustrated with that little “reply” window. Things just go “POOF”. Eric Sloane wrote and illustrated The Diary of an Early American Boy. There are several great “growing up” stories, like parts of Beryl Markham’s West With the Night that aren’t specifically children’s books. JML
Michael: WP has changed their comments function and it really is a pain. If you try to post and it disappears, it could be because you already have a WordPress acct and try to comment without logging in. More info here: https://siobhancurious.com/2012/09/26/comment-problems-update/
I think it’s the hypersensitive touchpad on my Mac. Text gets all fouled up sometimes, just because I’ve let a thumb drag below the spacebar. Comments, though, are in this tiny window. Ahhh, technology….
I would add Ballet Shoes (and the others in the series) by Noel Streatfeild and There’s A Boy in the Girls’ Bathroom by Louis Sacher. I love this list though! I’m going to bookmark it for the next time I go book shopping for my daughter (she’s 2 but I’m building her library up already!)
Kate: Oh, I loved Ballet Shoes! I have no idea how I’m going to stock up on everything I want to read/reread here; I guess some trips to libraries are in order…
My son (11 years old) has just finish third book of Warriors (Erin Hunter), and he loves this series.
Erin Hunter, Warriors (Into the Wild; Fire and Ice; Forest of Secrets).
I haven’t heard of these: thanks!
5 Children and It
Ah yes – I might prefer this to The Railway Children.
The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper is my favourite children’s book, and, like HP, the main character is a boy. Also, Archer’s Goon by Diana Wynne Jones.
Will add them to the list!
I have read the Phantom Tollbooth to my classes on the elementary level and the high school level.They all have loved it!
I think this might be the first “new” reading of all of these that I might take on, as there have been so many plugs for it, and it really is shameful that I haven’t read it before.
Hey, I forgot: also check out The Bucks of Goober Holler by Gilbert Morris. It’s about three young brothers who try to live on their own after their parent’s death. They have to fool the adults in town to pull it off. Great story for younger readers.
My favorite books as a child were:
– Treasure Island
– The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
– From the Stars by Enrique Barrios
– basically everything by Roald Dahl
– the Animorphs series
– (orig. title) Die Dinos leben! by Klaus-Peter Wolf (my absolute favorite – dinosaurs and time travel! – but I’m not sure if it has been translated into English too)
From Italian writers, to a young boy I would also recommend:
– The Diary of Hurricane Johnny, by Vamba
– the Tigers of Malaysia series by Emilio Salgari
I know that “The once and future king” is supposed to be a book for children, but I tried reading it this year and I couldn’t finish it, even though I love the Arthurian cycle. I need some complementary reading to be able to understand between the lines, I’m afraid… any ideas?
I have never read Treasure Island – it’s probably time! I haven’t read TOaFK, although I think I took a stab at it when I was a kid and it didn’t do a thing for me.
A Canadian author with some interesting children’s ficiton is Barbara Smucker. Three of her novels I read and enjoyed are: Amish Adventure, Underground to Canada, and Days of Terror. I think Days of Terror was the one I liked the most, but that may have been due to the fact that it was a fictionalized account of the real experiences of many of my childhood friends’ grandparents.
I’ve seen Barbara Smucker’s books around but have never read her – thanks for the incentive!
Shadow of a Bull (Paperback)
By Maia Wojciechowska is a story about a boy named Manolo, the son of a great bullfighter dreams of pursuing his own destiny–not bullfighting. I read this in college in child literature class.
Will go on the list!
I’d recommend these books: Weetzie Bat by Francesca Lia Block, Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan, The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents by Terry Pratchett, My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannet, The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin, and Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor. I second the recommendation of Robin McKinley’s Blue Sword and Hero and the Crown (not all of her books are YA, so if you go outside those two, look them over).
I haven’t heard of a single one of these. I’ve been especially interested in checking out Terry Pratchett.
Terry Pratchett, of course! I knew I was missing an obvious one. He’s got load of books all based in the same world, some of them specifically aimed at children.
These are all books with very strong, complex characters. I hope you’ll come back and post your finished list.
Roald Dahl (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Witches, BFG)
The Phantom Tollbooth
Swallows and Amazons
5 children and It On Nov 20, 2012 4:49 PM, “Classroom as Microcosm” wrote:
> ** > Jessica Little commented: “Roald Dahl (Charlie and the Chocolate > Factory, The Witches, BFG) The Phantom Tollbooth Narnia Swallows and > Amazons”
These might have already been mentioned, but the two most impactful books I read between the ages of 8 and 12 were The Giver (Lowry) and Matilda (Dahl.)
Also, I teach a Children’s Literature course to 17 and 18 year-olds, and I might steal your idea for this project, which I saw you share in the comments above. I’m always searching for more project-based, independent and worthwhile work for them. So, thank you!
Ooh, and have you considered The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton? So many of my male students cite it as their favorite book of all time.
Jerry Spinelli has a number of wonderful boys books (aimed more towards the upper end of the age range you’re looking for): Maniac Magee, Wringer, and others. Richard Scrimger is great, too, and very funny. (The Nose From Jupiter series, for instance.) My favorite boys books growing up, somewhat less “literary,” perhaps, but still terrific, and also very funny, were by Gordon Korman. (The Bruno and Boots series, the Bugs Potter series, I Want to Go Home, No Coins Please. I dare anyone to can read those last two without bursting out laughing.) Many students will likely have read Holes, by Louis Sachar, or at least seen the movie, but it’s a very good boys book, too.
There is also Neil Gaiman, who is quite popular these days. (He wrote Coraline, for instance, if you saw the movie.) I taught The Graveyard Book, which is aimed at about that age range, though the students found the plot a little meandering and slow, and I kind of agreed with them.
I’ve also taught Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt–not a boy’s book, but gorgeous and a classic–and The Higher Power of Lucky, by Susan Patron, which is more recent but has a great, gritty protagonist. (It was also banned in the States because it has the word “scrotum” in it.) The Breadwinner Trilogy, by Deborah Ellis, set in Afghanistan, has a very strong female protagonist as well, and is likely a different kind of children’s literature than students might be used to, which might be a good thing.
I second the “Treasure Island” idea–was a book I enjoyed as a boy (and you are looking for “boy” books, right?). Some others I recall liking in my 8- to 12-year-old range: They might be a bit hard to find, but there was a charming series of books for children written in the late 1950s by Edward Eager–such as “Half Magic” and “Magic by the Lake.” And, maybe it’s too “available,” but one of the first books I read was “To Kill a Mockingbird.” There is some old Issac Asimov science fiction that might appeal to kids–at least they appealed to me–such as “The Caves of Steel.” Or even “I Robot,” a much better book than the movie of the same name would suggest. Of the Chronicles of Narnia books, the most boy-friendly, I think, was “A Horse and His Boy.”
Howl’s Moving Castle
The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo
I think too many people are familiar with Alice in Wonderland, and I would go with Through the Looking Glass.
The Mysterious Benedict Society
Fudge by Judy Blume
The City of Ember
All classics like Heidi, The Jungle Book, A Little Princess
The Little Princess
The Secret Garden =)
Judy Blume’s books were some of my favourites. Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret, Tiger Eyes, Deenie. I read all of the Nancy Drew books (the original yellow hardcovers) and all of the Anne of Green Gables books. Anne Frank’s diary. Little Women.
Fascinating reading through all the replies…especially the conversation around Enid Blyton. I have to admit loving ‘The Magic Faraway Tree’ as a child…but was amused (or rather horrified) when I re-read it recently! The Narnia series were a favourite as a child, along with Peter Pan.
Some of the favourites now that we have read with classes:
The Wind Singer (trilogy) – William Nicholson
The Daydreamer – Ian McEwan
The Hobbit – ex-students keep in contact and reference reading this book all the time!
The Wolves in the Wall – complex picture book that can be read at many levels
The Invention of Hugo Cabret
Recently read Divergent and Insurgent – interesting books for older students.
And for even older students/adults – The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern – just finished reading this. A great book for those who like something a bit different – fantasy, imaginative, out of sequence.
No “Where the sidewalk ends” by Shel Silverstein?
This sounds like it might fit your project very well!: http://nerdybookclub.wordpress.com/2012/11/22/the-cybil-war-by-betsy-byars-reviewed-by-teresa-mapson-reddish/
How about some of Heinlein’s juveniles, like “Starman Jones” or “Have Spacesuit, Will Travel”. Also, the Danny Dunn series, or the Alvin Fernald books. I loved those growing up.
The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, at least the first one (if you’re looking for just one, that is)
The Wheel on the School by Meindert DeJong
Wild Geese Flying by Cornelia Meigs (that one is so good with characters! and it’s a relatively “tame” story, but really keeps them reading . . . or listening)
Swift Rivers by Meigs
Winnie the Pooh (also works well for older readers, but have to draw their attention to the things that they wouldn’t have gotten when they were younger; works for teaching students to make inferences)
The Rescuers by Margery Sharp
The Hundred and One Dalmations by Dodie Smith
The Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt (though this one is more of a read-aloud for kids that age because they need the teacher or parent’s background to supplement their own)
Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt
Here’s a choice that is contemporary but unknown for the most part. “A Whole Nother Story” by Dr. Cuthbart Soup. It’s a book that would appeal to boys, but girls would like it too. It’s chock full of great kids friendly jokes (the kids I’ve given it to will take me aside and start telling me the funny parts). And it’s the first in a three part series so if a reluctant reader enjoys it there’s plenty more for them to enjoy.
It’s a wildcard that’s worth looking into.
*happy sigh* to a number of these, especially A Wrinkle in Time, My Side of the Mountain, Chronicles of Narnia, The Hobbit, and Have Spacesuit Will Travel. I would like to add a couple of series: Stevie Diamond Mysteries (especially How Come the Best Clues are Always in the Garbage) by Linda Bailey; Winds of Light series and Lightning on Ice series by Sigmund Brouwer.
In case no one has said it yet, The City of Ember (first book in a series of three) is a post-apocalyptic science fiction novel by Jeanne DuPrau in 2003. I am a middle school English teacher, and it’s one of my favorite plots for this reading level.
Esperanza Rising, Stuart Little, and Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH are all terrific. The Giver is wonderful, but 12 is barely old enough to really grasp it. The Giver is also much more powerful if you read the whole trilogy. It is one of my favorites. The Phantom Tollbooth holds the top spot on my list.