Sunday, November 27, 2016

Kim, by Rudyard Kipling

Kimball O’Hara is the orphaned son of an Irish soldier whose mother died in poverty.  As a street urchin in British India, Kim survives by begging and running small errands for shopkeepers.  Through a local horse trader, Kim inadvertently becomes involved with ferrying information for the British secret service.  When Kim enters into the service of a holy lama on a path to enlightenment, his travels take him across the length and breadth of India.

“Kim” might be somewhat difficult to read at first, what with the period language and the historical setting, but it’s definitely worth your time.  This is the type of adventure that every boy dreams of having, and I can’t think of any place more diverse and challenging than India.  Even as an orphan in a country with a billion other people, Kim never seems to lose his nerve.  “Kim” is a classic adventure novel that’s well-deserving of a spot on your reading list.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

The Adventures of Captain Underpants, by Dav Pilkey

Look there, in the sky!  It’s a fat, bald man wearing nothing but underwear and a cape!  Tra la laaaaaa!  It must be Captain Underpants!  There’s no other superhero quite like him, and honestly that’s not a bad thing.  Two troublesome boys, George Beard and Harold Hutchins, mistakenly hypnotized their school principal so now when they snap their fingers, Mr. Krupp suddenly finds himself transformed into the hero of their homemade comic books!

If this sounds like a crazy plot then believe me, we’re only getting started.  Each book in the series seems to raise the bar for outrageousness and third-grade humor.  Combined with the hilarious cartoons and the action-packed fight scenes (in Flip-o-Rama!), each installment in the Captain Underpants saga will have boys flying through the pages with laughter.  These books are the perfect choice for a reluctant reader ages six to sixty!

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak

This book is arguably the most famous picture book of all time, so there was no way that I’d consider leaving it off my list!  When a naughty, misbehaving boy named Max gets sent to bed with no dinner, he wishes himself off to a magical land where the creatures are just and nasty and wild as he is.  The beasts stomp and roar happily in a wild circus…at least until Max starts to feel the slightest bit homesick!

This book is over fifty years old now, and it remains one of the best-selling picture books of all time.  It might sound silly, but “Where the Wild Things Are” was actually banned from several school libraries because parents feared it might encourage their kids to misbehave!  Thankfully cooler heads have prevailed, and now it’d be nearly impossible to miss a copy of this book.  Check one out if you haven’t already…it’s the perfect book for the wild things in your life!

Sunday, October 16, 2016

The Bully of Barkham Street, by Mary Stolz

Nearly everyone’s had a run-in with a bully at some point in their lives, but how many of us have ever stopped to think about why these kids behave this way?  Mary Stolz’ classic book forces the reader to do just that by telling the story of a frustrated boy named Martin Hastings.  Beneath the gruff, thoughtless exterior is a chubby boy who’s actually a little bit lonely himself.  Acting out is a way for him to get attention, and inevitably Martin comes into conflict with his next-door neighbor, Edward Frost.  This book is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, albeit someone that you might not necessarily like…at least not at first!

One great thing about “The Bully of Barkham Street” is that it’s actually a companion novel to another book called “A Dog on Barkham Street”.  This book was published a few years earlier, and it tells the same events through Edward Frost’s point of view.   I’d recommend reading both books, but no matter which you read first you’ll be able to see the conflict from both boys’ points of view.  Apparently, boys will be boys no matter the decade.  If you’re looking for some great insight into the way boys think, look no further than the Barkham Street books!

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Holes, by Louis Sachar

Stanley Yelnats is a teenage boy from a poor but hard-working family of farmers.  The family blames their continual bad luck on a curse of bad luck set in motion by his pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather, and the latest example of this comes when Stanley is wrongfully accused of stealing a priceless pair of shoes.  Stanley is sentenced to a period of hard labor, digging precisely-measured holes in the ground at a prison camp.  Over time, Stanley discovers that he and the rest of the inmates aren’t just digging as punishment, but rather searching for something…

Besides the fact that this book is such a great story, one other reason for its phenomenal success is that it’s just plain fun!  Yes, Stanley’s last name is his first spelled backwards, and that’s just one of the small details buried within this book for careful readers to find.  The supporting cast is just plain hilarious, and it’s no wonder that Disney decided to make “Holes” into a film.

If you’re looking for a modern classic that will have boys howling with laughter as they fly through the pages, look no further than “Holes”.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

The Marvelous Inventions of Alvin Fernald, by Clifford B. Hicks

Since 1960, boys and girls alike have enjoyed reading about the adventures of Alvin Fernald and his Magnificent Brain.  Whenever his brain clicks into action, a glassy stare comes into Alvin’s eyes and not even his troublesome sister, lovingly known as “The Pest”, can distract him from his work.  Whether it’s creating the Foolproof Burglar Alarm for his bedroom door or developing the Sure Shot Paper Slinger for delivering newspapers from his bike, Alvin is always in search of another marvelous invention.  In this book, the first in the series, a set of mysterious circumstances surrounding the Old Huntley Place is all the inspiration that Alvin needs for his sleuthing.

The Alvin Fernald books were already modern classics when I discovered them as a child, and although they might be slightly hard to find they are actually still in print today!  The author, Clifford B. Hicks, also served as an editor for Popular Mechanics magazine, so one neat feature of these books is that all of Alvin’s creations are actually realistic!  Based on the descriptions in the stories, a tinkering reader can easily re-create some of the inventions within.  Mr. Hicks seemed to know both the inner workings of machines, as well as young boys’ brains, which makes these books such enduring stories today.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

The Hardy Boys, by Franklin W. Dixon

Frank and Joe Hardy are a pair of teenage brothers and amateur detectives.  When they’re not attending high school in the city of Bayport, they often find themselves entangled in any number of local mysteries.  Whether they solve one of the confidential case files that their father (a detective) is working on, or they accidentally stumble across a villain’s concealed activities, action and adventure seem to seek out the Hardy Boys. 

One fun fact is that while the “Hardy Boys” series is supposedly authored by someone called Franklin W. Dixon, all of the books were actually created by ghostwriters.  There have been over 200 books added to the series over the past century, so it’s very easy to pick one up at random and dive in.  Each book is a self-contained novel, so you don’t have to start with any particular book like you would with “Harry Potter” or “Lord of the Rings.”

The Hardy Boys are the type of teenagers that every boy dreams of being, so it’s no wonder that their popularity has endured for so long.  Over a million of these books are still sold each year, so I’m betting you’ll find it easy to put your hands on a copy!