Books for a 10 yr old?
November 28, 2010 3:43 PM   Subscribe

I'm an Aunt who is utterly lost on what book would be good for her 10 year old nephew. He is just starting his first chapter books and I do not know what is good in tween? literature these days. Help?

My nephew has just found the joy of reading after mighty struggles with English and French (He's in French immersion elementary school). With his father he has been reading chapter books at night. As part of his Christmas gift I would like to encourage this habit.

So far they have only read "Holes" and he has purchased a WWII non-fiction Canadian book to read after that. He's big into the army. That is all I pretty much have to go on.

Does anyone have any recommendations of a good book for a boy of that age?
posted by kanata to Media & Arts (53 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Phillip Pullman's Golden Compass series.
posted by vitabellosi at 3:51 PM on November 28, 2010

The Invention of Hugo Cabret. English but set in Paris, a big fat book but with lots of images, a great story about an independent kid, etc. Very good stuff.
posted by headnsouth at 3:53 PM on November 28, 2010

Check out the historical fiction aimed at this age. Might be some stuff there he'd like.
posted by SkylitDrawl at 3:54 PM on November 28, 2010

I meant to say too that it's a great chapter book for reading at night with dad. I read it that way with my kids.
posted by headnsouth at 3:54 PM on November 28, 2010

Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli.
posted by questionsandanchors at 3:58 PM on November 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

My 12yo son says:

Diary of a Wimpy Kid series
Anything by Raold Dahl
Anything by Joseph Bruchac

And of course, Harry Potter.
posted by dzaz at 4:00 PM on November 28, 2010

my nephew loved the shadow children at that age. Also, there's always Harry Potter. Summerland by Michael Chabon. My go to for kid-book info is kid literate.
posted by dpx.mfx at 4:02 PM on November 28, 2010

It might be a bit of a stretch for his skills at this point, but since his dad is there to help, I'd get him Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card.
posted by Ashley801 at 4:17 PM on November 28, 2010

Every boy should read Hatchet at that age.
posted by General Malaise at 4:20 PM on November 28, 2010

I hated Hatchet. I think Ender's Game might be a little too advanced. Roald Dahl is good. Philip Pullman is good. I liked My Side of the Mountain, also—it has that "Hatchet-ish" survivalism but with less of the depression.
posted by sonic meat machine at 4:23 PM on November 28, 2010

Seconding Summerland ... last year the then-ten-year-old nephew loved it. (Or at least told me that he did.)

Also the Gregor the Underlander series could really draw him in, LOTS of war. But not the way you'd think.
posted by cyndigo at 4:26 PM on November 28, 2010

Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
And seconding Golden Compass
posted by bluelight at 4:27 PM on November 28, 2010

The Mysterious Benedict Society series, by Trenton Lee Stewart
A Series of Unfortunate Events, by Lemony Snicket

Both feature clever, resourceful children (boy and girl) using their diverse gifts (e.g. biting, walking on one's hands, math) to thwart enemies of all stripes. Very engaging plots and characters, easy to read while also being a friendly bit of a brain stretch in the vocabulary department, and just plain fun.

When I interned as a children's librarian last summer we couldn't keep the Percy Jackson series on the shelves, but I haven't read them myself.

And yes, Roald Dahl is excellent. He might particularly enjoy his autobiography, Boy, which deals with him joining the RAF in some of the later chapters.

Also look up Daniel Pinkwater's work. Lots of very fun, energetic books--and he's very prolific, so if your nephew likes him, there's lots available to follow up. Try him on the Snarkout Boys first and see how it goes.
posted by athenasbanquet at 4:27 PM on November 28, 2010 [3 favorites]

Gordon Korman, I Want To Go Home and No Coins, Please. I read those at that age and remember turning back to the start and rereading them instantly.
posted by Beardman at 4:27 PM on November 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

Also, Korman's Canadian.
posted by Beardman at 4:29 PM on November 28, 2010

I second the Harry Potter series and Hatchet requests.
Also, Jerry Spinelli is another good suggestion.
May I add that Roald Dahl does a fantastic job writing interesting "tween lit".
Maybe the Encyclopedia Brown series? Or Cam Jansen? I liked those two series in elementary school.
Look for the Boxcar Children series, too. It really depends on what you think he would like the most. (Of course, my suggestions are all the really ridiculous books, written with oodles of wit.)
posted by MHPlost at 4:31 PM on November 28, 2010

Oh, man. While I was typing, "Roald Dahl" was suggested. Take my post as a second, then a third of the request.
posted by MHPlost at 4:32 PM on November 28, 2010

Some of these suggestions are not fantastic for a 10-year-old boy who has just discovered chapter books after a reading struggle. As much as I love the Golden Compass series (and I do, I really do), for example, I would not recommend it for a kid who is just delving into chapter books. My 10-year-old daughter reads several grades above her grade level and that one has been a bit of a slag for her.

This is what children's librarians are really good at! Call up or visit your local library and tell the children's librarian what you've told us. He or she will be happy to help.
posted by cooker girl at 4:36 PM on November 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

- Danny the Champion of the World by Roald Dahl

- Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix
posted by kirst27 at 4:37 PM on November 28, 2010

I loved John Bellairs' books when I was his age. They are pretty creepy and scary though, which he may not like. The House With a Clock in its Walls and The Letter, the Witch, and the Ring were my favorites, as I recall. Bellairs used a series of male protagonists. Those feature Lewis Barnavelt, who I preferred over the others.
posted by apricot at 4:43 PM on November 28, 2010 [3 favorites]

Garth Nix's Keys to the Kingdom series is a great steampunk fantasy series for middle grade readers. Several of the books are set in a military scenario -- one in the navy and one in the army. They're quite imaginative and action-filled and the protagonist is really likeable and heroic. So I think they'd be great for reading aloud.
posted by alicat at 4:48 PM on November 28, 2010

Suzanne Collins' Gregor the Overlander series is amazing. Even better than the Hunger Games, which I would say is far, far too gory and violent for kids that age. But Gregor (five books) is awesome, and a pretty easy read at the same time.
posted by lemniskate at 5:07 PM on November 28, 2010

When my dad was a kid he struggled with both reading comprehension and staying interested in the subject matter. For Christmas one year someone gave him a Hardy Boys Mystery, and he was hooked. Amazon has lots of options.
posted by janepanic at 5:09 PM on November 28, 2010

My 10 yr old son didn't read chapter books until this fall when he discovered the Percy Jackson series, as mentioned above. Now he loves to crawl into bed a bit early and read for a while. And he's now really interested in anything related to Greek mythology. Finds it all fascinating.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 5:30 PM on November 28, 2010

This is not exactly what you asked for, but I loved the Asterix books when I was little, and they are so wonderfully researched that you learn a lot of historical information on the way. Asterix and Cleopatra is a classic.
posted by Omon Ra at 6:04 PM on November 28, 2010

The Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan. Modern kids descended from Greek gods.

The Wimpy Kid books are amazing, but maybe better for him to read alone--they're sort of a text/illustration blend, which might make for difficult read-alouds, if that's the situation. But they're good reluctant-reader stuff.

There's always Hatchet.

Christopher Paul Curtis is awesome too.
posted by the_blizz at 6:36 PM on November 28, 2010

Note to self: preview, dammit.
posted by the_blizz at 6:37 PM on November 28, 2010

True, Asterix! Or Tintin! In English or French!
posted by the_blizz at 6:40 PM on November 28, 2010

The first couple of Harry Potter books (Sorcerer's Stone and Chamber of Secrets) would be perfect. The writing is very much aimed at young kids who are pretty new to chapter reading. However after that the series gets progressively more advanced, so if you think your nephew will read the first couple and then have a pressing need to know what happens next but be unable to read the rest of the series, that's something to consider.
posted by katyggls at 6:46 PM on November 28, 2010

I'm so happy John Bellairs' books were mentioned! I absolutely adored him when I was around 10, and so few people I've met have ever heard of him, much less read any of his works. They're fabulously written and evocative - highly, highly recommended! And this is coming from an admitted Percy Jackson and Harry Potter fan (as a definite adult) - while these books are wonderful, there's something special about John Bellairs since he's so under-read. Well done, apricot!
posted by AthenaPolias at 7:16 PM on November 28, 2010

At that age / stage of reading, the books my boys could not get enough of were:
Harry Potter
Percy Jackson
and not yet mentioned: the Redwall books by Brian Jacques.
posted by evilmomlady at 8:45 PM on November 28, 2010

Beverly Cleary's Henry Huggins, Ralph S. Mouse, and Leigh Botts books.
posted by brujita at 8:48 PM on November 28, 2010

Seconding The Underland Chronicles (Gregor the Overlander is the first in the series.) My 10 year old devoured the first two books.
posted by vespabelle at 9:03 PM on November 28, 2010

Thanks for all the suggestions. Looks like some great books to mull over. Right now they are trading chapters back and forth so I think a shorter book would be better. Off to Amazon to see!
posted by kanata at 9:04 PM on November 28, 2010

Okay, so I'm a children's (school) librarian, and I have some strong opinions about this, my chosen field. Take what you want from this.

1) Barring more information about what your nephew has enjoyed before, this question is very hard to answer. When kids (or parents) come to me for recommendations, we usually talk for a few minutes about what the kid has and hasn't liked. So the recommendations here are just fine and all but the chances that any one title is going to hit with your kid are not great.

2) Just to be clear: it's difficult to tell from the OP's original message, but if the kid is 10 and below grade level in reading he won't be successful reading Harry Potter or most of the other titles suggested here. OTOH, it sounds like OP is interested in readaloud titles and of course that's a very different animal. And perhaps OP meant the nephew is just now getting interested in reading...

3) Many apologies to those with favorite titles from their youths (God knows I got 'em), but after 3 years of resisting kids' desire to read what's new and popular, I've come to embrace it instead. At least when it comes to new. Face it: kids lit is now a huge, huge field, and there are amazing writers working it. Classics are still great, but many of the books we loved 30 years ago simply don't have the same power to captivate kids that current titles have. When the kids in my library tell me their favorite books, 90% of them have been written in the last 10 years.

4) Someone above already said it, but it's worth repeating: you need to talk with a good children's librarian or (harder to find) a good bookseller who knows his stock. This is their job. Asking folks on AskMe isn't a terrible idea but I'm always struck by how many of the Kids Lit questions asked here are answered with books written 40 years ago. Those books generally aren't moving in our libraries, and there's a reason.
posted by carterk at 9:13 PM on November 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

I loved The Phantom Tollbooth. Thinking about it now, I'd like to read it again.
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 9:14 PM on November 28, 2010

Yeah, that's the problem. Holes is the only book my nephew has read before aside from mandated school things. He bought the WWII book himself (a true story about a young POW and his escape) as his interest is in army things.

He isn't reading at his grade level in english or french and he isn't able to read these books on his own. His father and him alternate reading aloud pages at a time so that he gets the feeling of a flowing story and gets interested in continuing. I think most of these recommendations would be good when he is older and is stronger at comprehension but not now. I think I may be loving them a lot as they spawn my interests.

Hmm...I should probably rethink the whole book gift but as a dedicated reader myself I have been waiting 10 years for him to show an interest in books and since his father only reads 1/2 a book a year at most I want to encourage him to continue and see reading as a pleasurable thing.
posted by kanata at 9:29 PM on November 28, 2010

I'm seconding the Mysterious Benedict Society. It's kind of a children's action/adventure series. I picked it up a couple months ago, and absolutely fell in love with it. You say he has trouble reading, and this book is a pretty easy read. It's also very . . . captivating, so hopefully it will push him over into the world of book-lovers. Also, one of the characters frequently has to stop to ask for explanations/word definitions. So it'd help him follow along, and probably enrich his vocabulary.

And, if he doesn't like it, you should read it. It's light-hearted and clever and is just plain fun.
posted by shesaysgo at 9:35 PM on November 28, 2010

Don't be afraid to give him books he won't read right away. One thing I have done with my late-reading son is to just enjoy seeding his bookshelves with things he might like to pick up someday. He and I have enjoyed a lot of what's mentioned up-thread as well as some others: Mysterious Benedict Society, Redwall, The Dark is Rising, His Dark Materials. Two of my friends had late-reading sons whose first read-alone books were the Percy Jackson series. My son and I are reading the first Warriors book right now and enjoying it. Percy Jackson, Warriors, and Redwall all strike me as books that don't demand a whole lot, comprehension-wise. They're not complex either in plot or language. In some ways, that means that to me they're not as good as some of the others that have been mentioned, but they are full of action and may be more "just right" for someone just dipping his toes into the water.

One idea that occurs to me since he's not reading independently yet and only just beginning to enjoy being read to is that there are some very good audio books available. My kids and I have enjoyed listening to the Artemis Fowl books, and the Philip Pullman His Dark Materials audiobooks are so very very well done (read by the author, but with good actors doing the character voices) that I think it could be argued they're the best way to read those books. My 9-year-old likes having audiobooks on his iPod shuffle; if you had a big budget, a shuffle loaded with an audiobook or two plus some music might be a great gift.

I am a big reader and have liked giving books to my niece and nephew. I will always remember my niece at Christmas, around age 10 or 11, opening one of my gifts, saying in a bored voice, "Oh...a book..." and tossing it casually to once side with a flick of her wrist. The way I have gotten around feeling like I'm pushing is that I don't give them only books. I give two or three things, one of which is book.
posted by not that girl at 9:53 PM on November 28, 2010

Ok, well. Holes & war: this is what I got.

Sachar wrote 'Holes', a really great book. It wasn't a mistake: Sachar is brilliant. He's written two series, both easier to read and shorter than 'Holes': the 'Sideways School' books and 'Marvin Redpost'. Neither has the grittiness of Holes, tho.

War: well, 'Gregor the Overlander' has gotten many recommendations above, it's really good, not TOO hard (perhaps a little easier to read than 'Holes'). Collin's other series, also mentioned above, is 'The Hunger Games. This book is too much for some 10 year olds so proceed with care, but if he likes war stuff this has a lot, particularly in book 2 and 3. Keep this on your list for next year if you're not sure.

If he has any interest in history, I thought Colliers 'My Brother Sam is Dead' was really terrific. Revolutionary war.

Generally books for kids 12 and under aren't going to have a lot of detail about war, tho certainly some kids are looking for that. Often those kids are satisfied with non-fiction like what your nephew found.

If you're interested, you can browse my shelfari pages and sort by rating to see what I've loved.
posted by carterk at 9:57 PM on November 28, 2010

posted by carterk at 9:58 PM on November 28, 2010

Seconding My Side of the Mountain and Where the Red Fern Grows. I also loved The Giver by Lois Lowry at that age. As for current YA fiction, I highly recommend Un Lun Dun by China Mieville.
posted by lexicakes at 10:05 PM on November 28, 2010

Harry Potter and Percy Jackson, definitely.

Would he enjoy mysteries? The Hardy Boys are pretty easy to get through but they've got some pretty excellent plots.
posted by patronuscharms at 10:33 PM on November 28, 2010

The aforementioned Sideways Stories From Wayside School were a favorite of mine when I was around that age. Very funny. The Giver was also a good one when I was around that age.

I liked Judy Blume too. Tales Of A Fourth Grade Nothing was probably my favorite around then.

Keys To The Kingdom is a good recommendation, though possibly a bit of a push, but I agree that The Golden Compass series might be a bit beyond him-- a must read in a year or two, though. (As previously mentioned, Golden Compass has a great audiobook, I've also listened to a fair amount of Keys and enjoyed it. The ones for Lemony Snicket are also quite good from the couple of books I've listened to in that series.)

There are also a lot of good YA graphic novels, which'll be a lot easier to read for the time being, though I don't know all that many with the interests you listed-- you might want to look there and see what's available. (I believe Gaiman has some for young readers?)
posted by NoraReed at 12:13 AM on November 29, 2010

Diary of a Wimpy Kid sells like crazy to 10 year old boys in our store; check the School Library Journal review on that page:

Kinney does a masterful job of making the mundane life of boys on the brink of adolescence hilarious. Greg is a conflicted soul: he wants to do the right thing, but the constant quest for status and girls seems to undermine his every effort. His attempts to prove his worthiness in the popularity race (he estimates he's currently ranked 52nd or 53rd) are constantly foiled by well-meaning parents, a younger and older brother, and nerdy friends. While Greg is not the most principled protagonist, it is his very obliviousness to his faults that makes him such an appealing hero.

It's great for struggling readers, too, because there are lots of cartoons along with the words (the subtitle is "A novel in cartoons"). Plus, there are now a bunch in the series. Toss that one in the batch and you'll have a good shot at making him happy.
posted by mediareport at 7:03 AM on November 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

In addition to any fiction, I'd definitely run with his interest in non-fiction war stuff. Take a look at the Eyewitness series published by DK; they sell a lot of large, colorful, picture-filled books with tons of information about a variety of subjects, including World War II and other cool stuff. I think they're great for age 10.
posted by mediareport at 7:20 AM on November 29, 2010

I came back to add Percy Jackson as well. I also loved Phantom Tollbooth as a read aloud to my then 9 year old nephew. We laughed a lot.

Also, Cracker is about a dog in vietnam. My nephew LOVED it - I haven't read it, but he keeps giving it to me to read. It's got the army angle for you at least.
posted by dpx.mfx at 8:45 AM on November 29, 2010

You might try out the 39 Clues series, also by Rick Riordan of Percy Jackson fame. They have quite a bit of history in them, and seem very popular with the kiddies nowadays. If you think he'd like mysteries at all, try out Blue Balliet or Pseudonymous Bosch. Good luck!
posted by backwards compatible at 11:33 AM on November 29, 2010

Ooh. A bilingual kid who's interested in WWII? Get him The Avion My Uncle Flew. He'll love it. So will you.
posted by tangerine at 2:10 PM on November 29, 2010

I strongly recommend books by Bruce Coville. He tends to write fantasy and sci-fi for younger readers, with various series targeted at different age ranges. His characters are well developed and actually feel like real people. They have motivations and make mistakes. I'm actually currently hunting down and re-reading his out of print works, and I'm enjoying them as much now as I did when I was a kid (I'm 25 now). Aliens Ate My Homework might be a good one to start with.
posted by Logic Sheep at 12:18 PM on November 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

I second Logic Sheep's suggestion of Bruce Coville. I am a grown-up girl and I still make it a habit to read at least one of Coville's Magic Shop books every few months.

I also deeply regret giving my brother my copy of Alien Adventures. He probably sold them at a garage sale.
posted by janepanic at 5:36 PM on November 30, 2010

Several of Marilyn Sachs' books are set during WWII, but many of them are out of print.
posted by brujita at 11:56 PM on November 30, 2010

Thanks to everyone. I ended up going w/ Cracker as it was war + dogs (and they are going to be getting a new dog in the spring as their old German Shephard passed away).

I got up my nerve to bother the children's librarian (who I always figure has enough going on than try to figure out how to help w/ my vague help) and she pointed me to some non-fiction Canadian WWI stories in the similar vein as the one he bought. (I forget their names).

Oh and I got one on Sharks which has proven to be quite successful as well as it is simple enough he can read on his own. (even tho it is well below his grade level and I felt bad for that)

Puppies, war, and blood thirsty sharks. What little boys are made of?
posted by kanata at 4:01 PM on January 2, 2011

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