Five Favorite Books for Tween Boys

Linking up with Jenna at Call Her Happy & Rachel at Efficient Momma for Five Favorites this week.

I do not often get to talk about mommy stuff as my kid is half grown and I only have one, and not a passel. He is, thank and praise God Almighty, a healthy, well-adjusted child, so I don’t have much to complain about with him either. I think in all of his 13 years, he has thrown up 3 times, and the last time he had a fever on my watch was when he was 3 years old and he had an abscessed tooth. Aren’t I the lucky duck?

Anyway, one thing I do lament over is he is no book worm like his mommy dearest. He tolerates reading reasonably well, and very occasionally he will get into a book and forget to do chores or eat, but only very rarely. He used to love to have me read to him as a child, though. He and I would always go pick out two books on payday, so we have a hefty library of children’s books that I am saving for dream baby #2 or for grandkids. He would pick out a book for himself, and I would pick out one FOR him…and invariably he liked the one I picked out more, so I must have good taste 🙂

Being a girl, I grew up in the worlds of Anne Shirley and Laura Ingalls Wilder. I own every single Laura book and Anne book, including recipe books. I read almost incessantly as a child and so did my sisters, so this foreign male creature barely seems like my kin at times. Finding books to entice a tween or young teen boy (other than comic books) has been a especial challenge, as he is not quite old enough for more mature content or to grasp heavy themes, but I want to introduce him to weightier material without scaring him off of books. I have to read them first to make sure they are suitable and have some merit to them–he reads enough comic books on his own, so I have to supplement his library with something with more substance. I definitely don’t mind him reading books written from a female perspective, and I encourage it, but since he is little bit hard to induce to read in the first place, I prefer to bait him with primarily masculine books.

Of course, any kid with a healthy imagination and a grain of sense and taste loves Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, though lots of the literary devices of Rowling and (especially) Tolkien will be lost on him for some time yet. Below are some books that I have coaxed him into reading (and one he asked ME to read) and we both think they rock our socks, so if you have a tween/young teen or know one, these might be some cool suggestions for summer reading.

1: Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli

 I cannot say enough good things about this book. Adults and kids alike should read it. It is funny, touching, and gives you something to really mull over. He’s the funnier, smarter, more talented Harry Potter in that he, too, is an orphan left with a weird aunt and uncle but is destined for greater things. Neglected and unloved, he sets out on his own and inadvertently becomes a legend. If this was a hit, then your kid will probably also enjoy Hoot by Carl Hiaasen.

2.  A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park

This is a true story of a seemingly orphaned Sudanese boy and his journey to find refuge in a war-torn country. The story flashes back and forth to the boy’s future in which he comes back to help his country by digging wells for clean water in poor villages. There is plenty of suspense and even a little gore to engage any young boy, and the story is told simply and effortlessly. My son read this in 6th grade and loved it so much he DEMANDED that I read it, which I did, in about two hours.  It was the first recommendation he has ever made me on a book, and he did his mama proud. If your boy liked this one, I recommend The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne. Be prepared for some serious questions, but it will open up great dialogue.

3. Bud, Not Buddy—Christopher Paul Curtis

This is more for the 9-11 age range, but my son loves it nonetheless. Bud, a young orphaned African American boy growing up in the Great Depression (why do I enjoy orphan books so much???) sets out to find the father he never met, who he believes is a semi-famous jazz musician.  A beautiful story of hope, optimism, and sheer grit and determination. Elijah of Buxton, also written by Curtis, is another great story if your kids enjoyed this one, as is the classic Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor.

4. Johnny Tremain—Esther Forbes

Not for nothing is this one a classic. I always love anything about the American Revolution, despite being an Anglophile, so this one is right up my alley and it appeals to masculine little souls as well. Johnny is a young apprentice silversmith caught up in the intrigue of 1770s Boston on the cusp of the war for independence. There is even a tiny bit of romance in it for boys just starting to be the teensiest bit curious about girls, but not enough to freak them out or anything, and it is very tame and clean. I recommend this book for 12-13 year olds, but The Riddle of Penncroft Farm by Dorthea Jensen is a good choice for the 10-11 year old crowd. Both would make a good reading assignment for an American Revolution unit.

5. My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George

This kid lives the life any kid, especially any boy, would dream about. He “runs away” (his parents let him) to live on his own in the Catskill Mountains. He teaches himself all kinds of cool survival tricks that I cannot wait to try out on my next camping trip in Ocala, trains a hawk, and lives in a hollowed out tree. Pretty dang awesome. If your boy (or girl) likes this book, then he (or she) would also like Hatchet by Gary Paulsen and the Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare, or even Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell.

I am ALWAYS looking for new books for me and the kid to enjoy together, so if you have any suggestions to entice a 13 year old boy to read, please let me know!


6 thoughts on “Five Favorite Books for Tween Boys

    • I try to give him books that have meat, you know? Every kid likes R.L. Stine and whatnot, but I feel if I am going to get him to appreciate literature I have to push the heavier things a little at a time. When he goes back to read Maniac Magee in 10 years, he will have his mind blown by all he missed when he was 12 🙂


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