What Do Little Boys Read?

When a good friend asked me for recommendations for summer reading for her eight year old grandson, who likes baseball and drums, I thought about those “I” and “R” labels that publishers sometimes tag onto books – Interest Level (I) and Reading Level (R) – a magic formula to find the right book.  Of course, labels and grade level lists can be deceiving; what a well-meaning librarian or parent thinks a third grader should read doesn’t always connect to the boy inside the head.

So what do active little boys read?  Could you scatter a pile of likely books on a table and hope one would catch his eye?  Here are some suggestions that I still enjoy reading – from easy reads to books that you can read aloud together.

What can you add to the list?

Miss Nelson Is Missing by Harry Allard

Clever Miss Nelson finds a way to tame her rowdy class – lots of pictures.

The Adventures of Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey- laugh out loud funny adventures and pictures.

How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell – what a boy will do to save face – and win a bet – funny

How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Crowell – the Disney movie was based on this book.  Horrendous Haddock III must pass a Viking initiation test – first of a series.

Encyclopedia Brown: Boy Detective by Donal Sobel – Leroy Brown helps the local police solve crimes; the reader gets clues to help as he reads.

The Whipping Boy by Sid Fleischman – A Newbery Medal award winner – a bratty prince and his poor whipping boy find adventure and learn about themselves.

Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor – a Newbery Medal winner – a poor boy finds a dog that’s been mistreated and is determined to keep him despite his parents who cannot afford the dog and the owner who wants him back.

The High King by Lloyd Alexander – a Newbery winner – good vs evil in the fantasy land of Prydain.

Any of Roald Dahl’s books – my favorite is The BFG - the big, friendly giant

And, finally, one of my all-time favorites that can be enjoyed reading aloud or quietly alone, especially for someone whose grandmother has an affinity for New York City…

The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden

Summer Reading List

Journalist Nicholas D. Kristof offers his summer reading list with “great novels relating to social justice.”  He asks, why read fluff when you can read “mindful page-turners” on the beach?

Have you read any of these?  since high school?

  • Germinal by Emile Zola
  • Pale Fire by Vladimr Nabokov (author of Lolita)
  • Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
  • The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  • Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
  • Our Man in Havana by Graham Greene
  • All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
  • Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
  • The Mysterious Stranger by Mark Twain
  • Scoop by Evelyn Waugh
For a short summary of each, go to Kristof’s essay:  Action! Romance! Social Justice!

Would you rather stick with nonfiction? NPR’s Rachel Smythe has these suggestions:

  • The Man in the Rockefeller Suit by Mark Seal (Read my review here)
  • Nothing Daunted by Dorothy Wickenden
  • Turn Right At Machu Picchu by Mark Adams
For more ideas on nonfiction, see Smythe’s article: Summers’ Biggest Juiciest Nonfiction Adventures