Adolescence can be a tough time for boys. And no one has thought more deeply about the challenges young men face than writers of young adult books. These authors speak directly to boys, offering new perspectives on their concerns (as well as a chance to escape those worries for a while). Reading about the problems other boys face will let your son know that he's not alone. And reading the same books he does may give you the opportunity to broach difficult topics, as well as the chance to enjoy some wonderful novels.
A word about selection: you may be surprised not to find classics like Huckleberry Finn or popular titles like Harry Potter listed here. Although these are wonderful books, they aren't included because many parents are already familiar with them. If you have a cherished childhood classic, be sure to share it with the boy in your life. He'll feel more connected to you when he knows what you read at his age.
Milo, tired of problems with his sister, parents and classmates, finds a book in the library that promises to make him a perfect person in just three days. (Ages 9-12)
Zack Freeman is ready to tell his story ... the story of a brave young boy and his crazy, runaway butt. (Wisely rated G for gross.) (Ages 9-12)
Sleator’s tales, based on his own childhood, will appeal to guys who like a little gross humor. The author shows how, in a loosely run household presided over by indulgent working parents, he and his three siblings developed confident, independent spirits. (Ages 11-14)
Scieszka has put together a fast-paced anthology of writings about boyhood by some of today’s best young adult authors, from Jerry Spinelli to Chris Van Allsburg. The overarching theme is the simple but important message, "Read what you like, when you like, whatever that happens to be." (Ages 9 and Up)
The award-winning author-illustrator — a former architect and junior high school teacher — is well suited to explain the wonderful world of machines. Heavily visual and humorous but always precise, this guide will appeal to the boy who wants to know what a toilet, a carburetor and a fire extinguisher have in common. (Ages 9 and Up)
Beginning with a warning that "this book is downright disgusting," Masoff presents a delightful compendium of facts about things that are gross, putrid and stomach turning. Covering more than 50 topics from A to Z, she reveals the truth about some unsavory mysteries of the human body, such as acne, body lint, eye gunk, farts, halitosis, snot and vomit. (Ages 9-12)
Inspired by Werner von Braun and his Cape Canaveral team, 14-year-old Homer Hickam decides in 1957 to build his own rockets. They are his ticket out of Coalwood, West Virginia, a mining town that everyone knows is dying — everyone except Sonny's father, the mine superintendent and a company man so dedicated that his family rarely sees him. (Ages 9 and up)
In this powerful story, high school senior Bo Brewster channels part of his anger at his unreasonable father into practicing for a triathlon. Forced to take an anger management class, Bo finds a caring teacher, a possible romance and some strange new friends who help him through hard times. (Ages 12-14)
"Basketball is my thing. I can hoop. Case closed." So begins this outstanding novel about a seventeen-year-old Bronx ballplayer called Slam. (Ages 12 and up)
This is the perfect reference book to help your child find the answers to questions about the insects, birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians that may live in your backyard. The question-and-answer format, accompanied by accurate and appealing black-and-white sketches, will make this a favorite handbook for your curious child. (Ages 8 and up)
This immensely popular children's story is told from the point of view of a dog named Harold. It all starts when Harold's human family, the Monroes, go to see the movie Dracula, and young Toby accidentally sits on a baby rabbit wrapped in a bundle on his seat. (Ages 9-12)
Do you know that right now 16.5 tons of air are pressing on your body? Or that with a simple experiment you can "see" a hole in the middle of your hand? Have you ever tried turning a bucket of water upside down without the water falling out? Full of experiments you can do at home, this guide will hook you on science. (Ages 10 and up)
Twelve-year-old Claudia Kincaid, tired of her routine and tired of not being noticed, decides to run away with her little brother and live in New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art. Little do they know that adventures and mystery await them. Newbery Medal, 1968 (Ages 8-12)
This entertaining story of a brainy kid who cannot keep his shoes tied and uses his smarts to triumph over the worst bully in school will keep even reluctant readers laughing and wanting more. Black-and-white cartoons are a perfect accompaniment to the clever text. (Ages 9–12)
Things are tough enough for twelve-year-old Tyler McAllister before he bumps into a dead body while swimming in the quarry. Tyler is trying to understand why he is allergic to almost everything in the world, how he could have saved his parents' marriage, and why his father had to die in a plane crash. Popular, funny and fast-paced. (Ages 11 and up)
The Golden Compass is a story ostensibly for children but perhaps even better appreciated by adults. The protagonist of this complex fantasy is young Lyra Belacqua, a precocious orphan growing up within the precincts of Oxford University. But it quickly becomes clear that Lyra's Oxford is not precisely like our own — nor is her world. For one thing, people there each have a personal dæmon, the manifestation of their soul in animal form. (Ages 9 and up)
Milo is bored with his life until a magic tollbooth appears in his bedroom. When he decides to go through the tollbooth, he discovers a humorous world of adventure. (Ages 8-12)
"If you are interested in stories with happy endings, you would be better off reading some other book." So cautions Snickett, the exceedingly well-mannered narrator of these two witty mock-gothic novels featuring the misadventures of 14-year-old Violet, 12-year-old Klaus, and infant Sunny Baudelaire. (Ages 9-12)
At the outset Percy Jackson seems to be another New York kid diagnosed with ADHD. But it soon becomes apparent that he has some special powers passed down from his Greek godfather. Tales from Mount Olympus (which has migrated to the Empire State Building in modern times) will captivate mere mortals. (Ages 9-13)
Nicholas decides to toy with his fifth-grade English teacher by adding a new word to the dictionary. Your child will enjoy finding out what happens when the entire nation adopts his catchy new word. (Ages 8-12)
This bookhas happily repulsed children since its original publication in 1973. Ten-year-old Billy has a problem. He has agreed to eat 15 worms in 15 days in exchange for $50 to buy a new minibike. He and his friends must come up with recipes for making the worms edible. This is a hilarious book full of humorous rhymes and chants. (Ages 8-12)
This humorous story, told in free verse, tells the tale of Jack, a young boy who does not like poetry. When his teacher introduces Jack's class to poetry, Jack discovers that he likes it, much to his surprise. (Ages 9–12)
This collection of poems will challenge children's ideas about what poetry can be. Complemented by simple illustrations, the poems celebrate ordinary experiences, such as eating sweet corn in the summertime, going on a family trip and having a lemonade stand. If your child likes this collection, try others by the same author, including Popcorn, Corn Chowder, and Candy Corn. (Ages 9-12)
Twelve-year-old Moose moves to Alcatraz in 1935 so his father can work as a prison guard and his autistic younger sister, Natalie, can attend a special school in San Francisco. It is a time when the federal prison is home to notorious criminals like gangster Al Capone. (Ages 9 and Up)
Jess Aarons is determined to become the fastest runner at school. All seems to be on track until the new girl in class, Leslie Burke, leaves all the boys in the dust, including Jess. Despite this frustrating introduction, Jess and Leslie soon become inseparable. Together they create an imaginary secret kingdom in the woods called Terabithia that can be reached only by swinging across a creek bed on a rope. But one morning a tragic accident changes everything. (Ages 9-12)
Your child will enjoy the comical and heartwarming adventures of Bud as he sets out on a quest to find his father. With only a flier advertising his dad's famous band and his suitcase, 10-year-old Bud leaves his foster home and embarks on an incredible journey, meeting many colorful characters along the way. Coretta Scott King Award, 2000; Newbery Medal, 2000 (Ages 8-12)
Ten-year-old Leigh Botts is coping with many challenges in his life. His parents divorced recently, and now he must adjust to a new school and different living arrangements. Fortunately, he finds solace and advice in his pen pal, Mr. Henshaw, who also happens to be one of his favorite authors. Children will enjoy how this story unfolds through their letters. Newbery Medal, 1984 (Ages 8-12)
As further evidence of his family's bad fortune (which started with a curse on a distant relative), Stanley Yelnats is sent to a hellish correctional camp in the Texas desert, where he finds his first real friend, a treasure and a new sense of himself. (Ages 9-12)
A young boy's life dramatically changes when his father, an African-American sharecropper, is jailed for stealing food. To make matters worse, the boy's dog, Sounder, is shot and disappears during his father's arrest. The young boy relentlessly works to feed his family, free his father, and find his beloved dog in this incredible story. Newbery Medal, 1970 (Ages 8-12)
It is really hard being the youngest in the family. To make matters worse, John's brother, Tom, also known as The Great Brain, is a cross between a con man and a genius. John is on a mission to get the upper hand over his brother, and children will love reading on to find out how he does it. Kids will also love other books from The Great Brain series, including The Great Brain Reforms and The Great Brain Does It Again. (Ages 8-12)
Seventh grader John "Crash" Coogan has always been comfortable with his tough, aggressive behavior, until his grandfather's stroke and his relationship with an unusual Quaker boy make him consider the meaning of friendship and the importance of family. (Ages 10-14)
Julian Calendar is trying really hard to fit in at his new junior high school. Things take off when he finds two brainiac allies and forms The Secret Science Alliance. The lively tale and wildly creative illustrations show readers that science can be really cool. (Ages 8-12)
This wildly popular series, which began as an online comic, chronicles the adventures of Greg Heffley as he navigates the hazards of middle school. Greg's deadpan narration and the black-and-white illustrations will keep readers in stitches (and keep them reading). (Ages 8-12)
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