Friday, June 28, 2013

Friday Book List: Books for Men in Training.

           Imagine your daughter is thrilled to read all the lovely books you grew up with: Anne of Green Gables, Jane Austen, Laura Ingalls Wilder... you are raising a perfect literature enthusiast. But then - what about your son? He doesn't like any of the books you loved as a little girl? Not even Johnny Tremain? I'm here to help with a book list written for and strongly approved by my little brother.
    Two years ago my little brother didn't like to read. Now he is a nine year old scientist and adventurer who never turns down a chance to visit the library and reads voraciously. I don't know exactly what happened between my lil man at age seven and my lil man at age nine, but I certainly won't complain. Sometimes I like to credit myself just a wee bit - I did find him a pretty great "specially for boys" book list. 

    These books have suspense, adventure, bad guys, and a just enough classy good character for a gentleman in training. I like to think of this as the junior tutorial version of the art of manliness. No aliens, no stupid bad role models, no unnecessary excessive bad language or violence - but a whole lot of hardy boy fun!

Between the beautiful illustrations and lively stories of merry young men, this book is a go-to for any boy searching for historic manly adventure. Howard Pyle has perfected the art of the boy book - rugged, charming, and filled with subtle lessons of character and goodness. Warning - the writing is a little old fashioned and Pyle may have gone overboard in his use of "medieval language". Watch out for an excess of thee's, thou's, arts, wherefors, and other legendary medieval expressions. You may want to mention to your lil man that even in the time of brave mercenaries and dramatic troubadours - the English language was never really quite that flowery.

This is the pirate adventure novel. Ever heard of "dead men tell no tales", wooden legs, eye patches, or maps leading to abandoned islands? Most of our contemporary pirate stereotypes originated in this brilliantly fun piece of literature. No boy could ever refuse to ride alongside a group of brave adventurers on their search for a lost treasure!

Mark Twain just has a way of putting things. His characters don't have superpowers, lots of money, crusades, guns, or treasure maps at their disposal. They are just typical 19th century young men - and yet their adventures are as exciting and inspiring as even the bravest of medieval knights. This is a story that boys can relate to. A story that may send your sons into the backyard to build a raft and start their own adventure, just as soon as they've sped their way through the last chapter!

The Phantom Tollbooth
This intriguing tale is an extremely fun and unique gem - the best comparison would be that it is a boy's version of Alice in Wonderland. It will appeal to the strange, the excited, and the intellectual alike. With bold adventures in the worlds of digits and numbers, logical problems, and a little bit of hidden philosophy - this book ( from the strange island of conclusions to digitopolis's subtraction soup) is sure to intrigue even the most reluctant of readers.

This may be the Tom Sawyer for a slightly younger or less advanced reader. It is rich in everything that makes a great children's literature book: home-spun humor, strange yet somehow relatable adventures, and beautiful illustrations.

Although adventurous and exciting, this book falls into a much more sensitive set of boyish books. This is the story of a boy and his dogs and it boldly explores the more delicate aspects of manhood. The end is sure to leave you happy, thoughtful, and maybe even stained by a couple of manly tears.

Okay, so this isn't just for boys. But because it is the first in a series of the best children's fantasy books out there - I had to include it. Although a little slow to start, every brother, sister, mother, and aunt will enjoy the thrilling yet delicate adventures and relationships that makes up the world of Prydian.

Castaways of the Flying Dutchman (Flying Dutchman, #1)
I've never quite gotten into the swing of Brian Jacques famed children series: Redwall. Jacques is an extremely animated and talented storyteller - yet for some reason I could never obsess over his critter adventure books like many of my friends and all of my siblings could. However ( a bit later in life ) Jacques began a series of books dealing with human beings rather than animals. As wonderful as redwall is, these books are ions better. The stories are unique, realistic ( though filled with plenty of superstition, magic, and immortals ), and thrilling. No boy ( or girl ) could turn them down. This is a famed storyteller at his very best.

I must admit I haven't read this yet ( ridiculous I know ). But my younger brother recommends it highly, and I know it is hard to go wrong with Tolkien. Like Lord of the Rings, yet directed to younger readers, this is an epic adventure story in the fantasy land of Middle Earth. I would say it is better for the more inspired or enthusiastic reader - though exciting, there are long paragraphs of description and the English is slightly advanced.

This is both the perfect beginner for a younger reader and a lovely quick read for an older reader. Beverly Clearly clearly understands children. Her dialog, situations, and characters are ridiculously human and realistic and ridiculously hilarious at the same time. You really can't go wrong with Beverly Clearly.

I love books that can be read at multiple levels. Raskin's masterpiece is a beautifully woven mystery that I've read three times and still do not completely understand. Yet while the story is extremely intricate, the english is simple and the entire book can easily be enjoyed by even an intermediate to late-beginning reader. It is a book that can be enjoyed at many levels, and it get's better with every re-reading.

Most boys don't go searching around libraries for novels about old widowed mice, but hear me out: this is not Beatrice potter, this is not science fiction, it is not fantasy, it is not realistic fiction - somewhere in between O'brien has crafted a fascinatingly unique tale. This is possibly the only book about amplaformorfized animals that I believe any boy could enjoy.

Men of Iron - Howard Pyle

This is a boy's only book. I mean, I couldn't even finish it. It is one of my lil brothers very favorites. He claims it is the boys book of boys book. I won't deny it - I'll just happily leave it in the men's territory.

And there you have it. My first friday book list - the very best of books for boys. Enjoy!

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