Sunday, May 14, 2017

Horrid Henry, by Francesca Simon

http://amzn.to/2alqLgy

Henry is one of the naughtiest boys ever, one who lacks any kind of manners or personal hygiene.  To make matters worse it seems like he’s always being held up in comparison to his well-behaved brother, Perfect Peter, and his charming sister, Moody Margaret.   Henry’s wild, out-of-control behavior naturally lands him in a number of hilarious situations…even on one special day when he tries his hardest to be absolutely perfect!

It always seems like girls of this age group have a number of chapter books they can choose between, from Junie B. Jones to Ramona Quimby, but it’s hard to find that perfect book for boys of this age.  The short chapters of the “Horrid Henry” series are perfect for first- or second graders, and even the most reluctant reader would find themselves drawn in to Henry’s crazy adventures.  I highly recommend the Horrid Henry series, even though this boy would make an absolutely terrible role model!

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Island of the Blue Dolphins, by Scott O'Dell


Karana is a young native girl who lives on an island off the coast of California.  Her people have a peaceful existence in their little fishing community, at least until a traveling group of Russian fur hunters engage the tribe in battle.  After her depleted tribe flees for the mainland, Karana becomes the sole occupant of her little island.  Her story is one of self-sufficiency, although over the years she is always plagued by one burning question:  will her people ever return for her?

Yes, I’m aware that the main character of this tribe is a girl, but I’m still willing to recommend it as a perfect read for young men.  It’s an adventure story first and foremost, sort of like another generation’s Robinson Crusoe.  For any boys who’ve ever daydreamed about how peaceful it would be to get stranded by themselves on a remote island, this book might be all it takes to change their mind…



Sunday, April 16, 2017

Moby Dick, by Herman Melville


The narrator of this story is Ishmael, an outcast from society.  While he never really explains much of his own personal circumstances, “Moby Dick” begins with Ishmael taking to the sea in the hopes of changing his life.  He signs on board a Nantucket whaler called the Pequod, which is run by an iron-fisted tyrant named Captain Ahab.  Once on the open seas, it becomes apparent to the crew that this sailing is not driven by the huge profits that come from harvesting whale oil, but rather so that their driven Captain can seek revenge on the whale that disfigured him.  The Pequod’s crew travels the high seas, searching for any sign of that cursed white whale…Moby Dick!

I’ve read “Moby Dick” several times in my life, and it’s important to know that there are many different versions of this book.  The original text by Mr. Melville is 600 pages long and steeped in detail—it’s still a fantastic read today, although younger readers might be perfectly happy with an abridged version or even an Illustrated Classics format.  Whatever version you choose, be sure to add “Moby Dick” to your reading bucket list.  Adventure awaits you on the high seas!

Sunday, April 2, 2017

The Pigman, by Paul Zindel


John Conlan and Lorraine Jensen are two high school sophomores with a knack for getting into trouble.  Their favorite hobby involves making prank phone calls and seeing how long they can keep their victim on the line, an activity which leads them to meet Mr. Angelo Pignati.  After a visit to “The Pigman’s” house, John and Lorraine become fast friends with this elderly widower.  When Mr. Pignati suffers an unexpected heart attack, however, John and Lorraine volunteer to keep a close eye on his house.  Unfortunately, they end up doing more a lot more harm than good…

Without giving away any of this awesome story, it’s important to know in advance that “The Pigman” is a very sad, realistic book.  Many libraries still keep it on their list of “banned” books due to its depictions of underage drinking, drug use and sexuality.  It’s kind of remarkable that this book was actually published back in 1968 since its themes are way ahead of its time, but I think that “The Pigman” will quickly become a favorite to any young men in search of a haunting, mature read. 

Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Red Badge of Courage, by Stephen Crane


Henry Fleming is a young soldier serving in the Union army at the height of the Civil War.  In his first battle, faced with a fierce onslaught of enemy fire, Henry does the unthinkable and flees from the fight.  Ashamed by his cowardice, Henry regretfully longs for a combat wound-- known as a “red badge of courage”-- to show the world that he really is capable of bravery.  As the War drags on, it’s almost inevitable that Henry will be offered a second chance.

One of the most impressive parts of this little book is its accuracy in depicting the multiple combat scenes.  While Mr. Crane was born after the conclusion of the Civil War, he is said to have interviewed hundreds of survivors in order to weave their experiences into the story.  “The Red Badge of Courage” is one of those great works of fiction that literally brings history to life, and I’d recommend it to any young men in search of something new (or in this case, something old!)

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Animal Farm, by George Orwell


In a secret meeting on the farm, an aged pig named Old Major declares that humans are the enemies of all domesticated animals.   Upon Major’s death two younger pigs, Snowball and Napoleon, make it their work to free the other animals from Farmer Jones.   A series of epic battles takes place, and eventually the animals earn their right to self-govern.  Animal Farm should be an idyllic place, although it quickly becomes apparent that no form of government is without its share of political intrigue…

Without giving away any of this excellent plot, it’s important to know beforehand that George Orwell wrote “Animal Farm” as a critique of communist governments, particularly the Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin.  Several of the plot points were based on real-life events during the Russian Revolution, so it’s important to read carefully to get the most out of this book.  No matter your level of interest in history or politics, though, “Animal Farm” will get you hooked from the first page.  It’s a wonderful story that causes you to actually think, and it’s an absolute must-read for young men.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Misty of Chincoteague, by Margeurite Henry


This book begins with the sinking of a galleon off the coast of Virginia over three hundred years ago, a real-life tragedy which released dozens of Spanish ponies onto the shores of America.  Centuries pass until the modern day when we meet two children, Paul and Maureen Beebe, who are saving their money to buy a Chincoteague pony.   Each year the residents of Chincoteague work together to pen up a number of the wild horses, and the Beebe children find themselves the proud new owners of a foal named Misty.  As much as they love and care for their new animal, however, it becomes quickly apparent to the children that some wild things weren’t meant to be tamed…

“Misty” is one of those classics that you might not be able to find in a bookstore today, but I guarantee there’s a copy waiting in your local library.  Now seventy years after it was first published, the book still carries the same meaning for a new generation of readers.  If you make the effort to search out and read this book, it probably won’t be long before you’re hunting for one of the sequels as well…