I think it’s fairly safe to say that we all have several reading personalities, depending on mood and circumstance. Sometimes, you might be in the mood for the literary equivalent of a summer blockbuster, with explosions and car chases and clearly defined bad guys. Other times you might want a stately costume drama or something with talking animals or a documentary about some little-known corner of history.
And, if you’re me, sometimes you want danger and adventure and…fart jokes.
Yes, it’s true. Sometimes I just want to read like an adolescent boy. (Not all adolescent boys, mind you, and there’s no reason the books I enjoy when I’m in this mood wouldn’t appeal equally to both boys and girls, but they are very much marketed to a certain type of young male reader.) As you may imagine, this can come in handy when a parent comes in looking for a book for their ten- or twelve-year old son, especially when that kid has already read all of the Captain Underpants and Wimpy Kid and Goosebumps books.
Here then, are some of my favorite handsells for that boy–or for me in a certain mood.
If he’s a kid who likes adventure, one of my go-tos is Roland Smith’s Beneath, which is about a boy who goes looking for his brother in New York City and discovers him living in the subway tunnels beneath the city with a group of people who have chosen to live away from society. There is danger and intrigue and secrets and it’s just a cracking good read. Or, I’ll recommend Dan Gemeinhart’s The Honest Truth, which is about a kid who’s very sick and wants to complete his bucket list and so decides to climb Mt. Rainier with his dog. It’s also full of danger, as well as tension and feelings and the dog doesn’t die, which is a bit of a spoiler, but feels important to point out.
If he’s a series addict, there are a couple I like to recommend. For the fantasy/adventure/sword fights aficionado or the reader who wants something Game of Thrones-like, but isn’t ready to actually read A Song of Ice and Fire, Curtis Jobling’s Wereworld series is a great pick. It has warring clans of shifters (werewolves, of course, but also werelions and weresharks and weresnakes and werepanthers and even wererats), lots of royal intriguing and political maneuvering, magic, and plenty of fight scenes. For the more science-fictionally inclined, I like David Liss’s Randoms series. It’s a little Ender’s Game, a little Ernest Cline and even a little “Galaxy Quest” in its humor.
For just straight-up humor and the setting of a bad example (DO NOT try these things at home), you can’t beat Mac Barnett and Jory John’s Terrible Two books. Thankfully, they aren’t about ill-behaved toddlers, but two pranksters who start off competing to determine which of them is the best prankster, until they decide to join forces, instead. Separately, they’re the bane of their principal’s existence, so imagine the havoc they wreak when they team up.
Scientifically-minded? Nick and Tesla’s adventures are fun and feature experiments you can do at home. Some dude named Bill Nye has also written a series with science-y stuff. His features an ordinary boy named Jack and his foster siblings, Ava and Matt, who are the geniuses of the title. And, of course, there’s John Scieszka’s Frank Einstein books, if your reader is still looking for more funny science books. (And there are others. Lots of others. Funny science books are kind of a thing right now.)
And, of course, there are graphic novels. But, honestly, if I start down that road, we’ll be here all day.
So, next time you’re talking to that ten-year-old boy who’s read everything you usually recommend, or who (quelle horreur) doesn’t read, maybe my appreciation of books marketed toward Middle Grade boys will come in handy. Or maybe something here will sound interesting to you. Go ahead. Indulge yourself. We both know you secretly (or not-so-secretly) appreciate a good fart joke every now and then.
Billie Bloebaum is not now and has never been a ten-year-old boy and while she does appreciate a good fart joke, her pun tolerance is dangerously low. She works at Third Street Books in McMinnville, OR.