Books for my snowflaky boy
February 20, 2015 4:26 AM   Subscribe

My 9 year-old son is an advanced reader (F & P level U/V) but on the immature side. I'm having trouble finding books for him. He doesn't like fantasy, which eliminates a huge percentage of what's out there. He loves graphic novels but can't read just those. He's liked Wonder, Roald Dahl, and a few historical fiction books, as examples. Books at his reading level are often beyond his emotional level, so he's reading without really comprehending. Any ideas for my boy? Thank you!
posted by aimeedee to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (49 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Maybe try some classics? Peter Pan. Kipling's Kim or Captains Courageous. Treasure Island.
posted by evilmomlady at 4:46 AM on February 20, 2015 [2 favorites]

How about The Great Brain books by John D. Fitzgerald?
posted by WalkerWestridge at 4:51 AM on February 20, 2015 [4 favorites]

Lately I liked Katherine Rundell's books (Rooftoppers and Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms) - the writing is challenging but they're good for younger readers. A little twee, maybe, but not fantasy.

When you say he doesn't like fantasy, do you mean he doesn't like dragons or he doesn't like fantasy? Either way, make sure he's read the eternally popular Percy Jackson books, which are beloved by many supposed fantasy haters. First Light (Stead) and of course A Wrinkle in Time are great & appropriate sci-fi titles. The Glass Sentence is a steampunk-y time travel book that kids like yours enjoy.

You could make him read classics. It would be better if you read them to him. Peter Pam,, Through the Looking-Glass.

Also: has your son expressed a desire to read more challenging material? I ask because I was an "advanced" reader who read nothing but Goosebumps at his age, because I resented being forced to read things that were hard but boring. I work with a lot of kids like yours - young, but with very high F&P levels (which to be clear, are better than Lexile scores but are still just assigning a number/letter to a kid, so blech on that) - and tbh it doesn't matter that much what they read. Later on it will, but when they're nine? Just make sure they read a lot, and that they keep being excited about that, even if that means reading graphic novels exclusively for the next four years.
posted by goodbyewaffles at 4:52 AM on February 20, 2015 [2 favorites]

A Series of Unfortunate Events, perhaps? I think I started reading the series when I was 11. I'm not sure whether you'd consider some of the themes and plots too advanced for him, or whether he'd be disturbed by certain aspects.
posted by kinddieserzeit at 4:57 AM on February 20, 2015 [2 favorites]

Going by the seat of my pants, here ...

How about Mark Twain? His collected short stories range from quirky fun to somewhat dark. Puddn'head Wilson and A Connecticut Yankee are both fairly accessible. And Twain tends to be fairly direct in his message.

Ray Bradbury's R Is For Rocket and The Golden Apples of the Sun are okay for that age (that's when I read them).

Maybe John DeChancie's Starrigger books? They're not really very deep, but they're fun.

Some Roger Zelazny? As I recall, the Amber series can get rather adult. But Lord Of Light and Doorways In The Sand might work?

Misc Heinlein juveniles? Have Spacesuit, Will Travel?

Oh - I mentioned these the other day here on the green: Harry Harrison's The Stainless Steel Rat books are fun space opera. "Slippery Jim" diGriz is a criminal who doesn't kill people.

How about Pratchett and Gaiman's Good Omens?
posted by doctor tough love at 4:57 AM on February 20, 2015 [5 favorites]

Oh, and how could I forget! Anything by Daniel Pinkwater. Literally anything, though I am of the firm belief that Lizard Music is the single most perfect book for a bright nine-year-old.
posted by goodbyewaffles at 5:07 AM on February 20, 2015 [12 favorites]

How about Norman Hunter's Professor Branestawm? Branestawm is an absent-minded professor whose inventions always work a little.... too well. In ways the professor didn't expect. The books are collections of short stories, and they are both deliriously silly and will have him rolling on the floor giggling, but they are also somewhat (sneakily) thought-provoking. (As in, "well WHY didn't he-" - and "what would I have done instead? That machine has GOT to be shut off, so -!!!!")
YMMV, but when i was a kid, they had me building rube-goldberg machines all over the house doing all sorts of silly things. The machines mostly didn't work and i never really expected 'em to (although my barbie dolls really appreciated the elevator and the flushing toilet. Those both worked. Rubber bands are AMAZING.) but they got me thinking about the how and why of the actions and processes going on all around me in ways I'd previously taken for granted.
The books are British and i've seen them on both and
posted by tabubilgirl at 5:13 AM on February 20, 2015

Can you explain what you mean when you say he can't read "just graphic novels"? Do you mean he gets bored by only reading graphic novels, or is this a fear on your part that graphic novels are lesser reading material that won't properly enrich him? If it's the latter, I read mostly comic books from a bit before that age up until... well, I still read more comic books than other reading material and I'm 39. I'm also a University professor in graphic design with articles published in my field. When I am not reading comics, I am reading Murakami, Lethem, Chabon, Atwood, (Octavia) Butler and other materials considered "literary." There's not at all space enough to go into this here, but if it makes a difference there are comics that have won Pulitzer Prizes, such as Maus, and plenty of others with critically-praised literary and cultural value like Persepolis, Sandman, any of the works of Joe Sacco, Chris Ware, Linda Barry, Scott McCloud, Wendy Pini, etc., etc.

Our city library not only has librarians who love to recommend good children's books, but it also has the comics divided into three groups by relative appropriateness for age: young kids (4-10), tweens (11-14) and teens to adults. In the young kids sections you get some great comics that feature girl main characters and boys, a range of historical time periods plus the present day, a range of subject matters and plots, etc. There are some young kid superhero books there, as well. My daughter is 4 and has liked the superhero books and she sorta liked the "Hilda" series by Luke Pearson.

Some comics that a 9-year-old might like are: Bone by Jeff Smith (a series that has oodles and oodles of awards); Battling Boy and The Rise of Aurora West, two all-ages books by Paul Pope; any Marvel Adventures series, which are Spider-Man, Hulk and Iron Man books designed for all-ages audiences; Runaways by Brian K Vaughn (our 11-year-old neighbor might be similar to your son and he loves these books); and, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind by Hayao Miyazaki (of Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, Howl's Moving Castle, etc.). There's LOTS more at my library; my recommendations are just what I can find on my shelf that might work for a 9-year-old.
posted by Slothrop at 5:13 AM on February 20, 2015 [12 favorites]

I read Tolkein in 4th and 5th grade, so that is a possibility. There is also the Phantom Tollbooth and all of Pratchett and also a common one was a A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline Lengle. The main series of the Dragonlance chronicles are safe.
posted by koolkat at 5:15 AM on February 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

Avi is right about in the sweet spot you're looking for, especially if he likes historical fiction. My Side of the Mountain will either be a big hit or bore him. Same with Hatchet. Maniac Magee might be a little over his head or it might be just right.

(oh, and to combine elements of goodbyewaffles and Slothrop's comments, A Wrinkle in Time was adapted into a highly acclaimed graphic novel a few years ago.)
posted by kagredon at 5:18 AM on February 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

Phantom Tollbooth and Wrinkle in Time both occurred to me right off the bat.

Then I'd recommend ALL of the YA fiction that Heinlein wrote. Start with Space Cadet.

How about the Hardy Boys? My best friend loved Nancy Drew, I loved Cherry Ames.

Go to the library with the largest selection of young adult/kids books and speak to the librarian. He/She will be able to speak to your son about what books he's liked in the past and then be able to recommend books that he'll like. Plus, they'll be free, so if it turns out he doesn't like it once he's cracked it...just return it and get another.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:32 AM on February 20, 2015 [2 favorites]

I asked this similar question a few months back and here are some of those recs:

Orca Soundings series
Tim Green
Sharon Creech
The Pushcart War
The Westing Game
The Mysterious Files of Basil E Frankweiler

Definitely Daniel Pinkwater, Louis Sachar, Harry Potter.
posted by kinetic at 5:40 AM on February 20, 2015 [4 favorites]

How about sports manga?
posted by sukeban at 5:41 AM on February 20, 2015

What about non-fiction? My kids at about that age have loved any books of the "500 Completely Unexpected and Gross Nature Facts!" type genre. My currently-10yo has enjoyed books like "Choosing Your Way Through the World's Ancient Past.." and "George vs. George: The American Revolution as Seen From Both Sides." History might not be your kid's specific thing, but don't overlook non-fiction for kids like this. Whatever he's into, whether it's building or pirates or insects or boats, there are great non-fiction books for it.

Also: what about magazines? Check out what the Cricket Group has. My kid also loves National Geographic Kids.
posted by not that girl at 5:43 AM on February 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

Has he read the Bunnicula mysteries? The first one is priceless, and my mom (a retired elementary school librarian) recommends the others as well.

If he hasnt read them already, the Hardy Boys and the "Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators" were very fun reads (as were the Nancy Drew mysteries, but I suspect your son might be less interested in those.)

And if a *little* fantasy is ok, would he be interested in Susan B Cooper's The Dark is Rising series? It is more like a modern Arthurian legend-style tale, grounded in real life & times.

Walter Farley's Black Stallion books were another standby in my childhood. And if your son likes tales about horses or the American west, many westerns are quite accessible to 9 year old imaginations. Several of Louis L'Amour's novels are good for kids. Will James wrote a few excellent books for children set in the west, including the classic Newberry Award book "Smokey the Cow Horse" (1926). And many of Marguerite Henry's books (including Misty of Chincoteague) are very engaging for kids interested in animals.

Also the Psych novels (based on the TV series) would probably be enjoyable reading.

And last, but not least, I adored The Discontented Ghost by Scott Corbett when I was about 11. Rather juvenile (although isn't that the point), and I giggled away endlessly.
posted by apennington at 5:44 AM on February 20, 2015

Nthing Daniel Pinkwater and Lemony Snicket.

He's definitely the right age for Harry Potter - it has a way of pulling people in who don't like the genre, so it might be worth a try if he hasn't rejected it already.

Maybe Encyclopedia Brown (though they're a bit dated)?

That is also the age I fell hard for The Westing Game and The Mysterious Disappearance of Leon (I Mean Noel) by Ellen Raskin
posted by Mchelly at 5:49 AM on February 20, 2015

The Saturdays by Elizabeth Enright
The Search for Delicious by Natalie Babbitt
The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden
Mrs Piggle Wiggle (and all sequels) by Betty MacDonald
posted by a fiendish thingy at 5:54 AM on February 20, 2015

Thanks for the thoughtful responses! I put Lizard Music, The Great Brain, the graphic novel version of A Wrinkle in Time, and The Black Stallion on hold at the library and will come back to this list for more. Sadly, he read the first Percy Jackson and two Harry Potters and didn't want any more. He's read the whole Bone series and everything by Nathan Hale (plus all Calvin and Hobbes and The Far Side); I'll check out the other graphic novels/comics recommended here. Re: reading levels as reductionist--I agree, but do find that they're useful as one of many criteria for choosing books. Re: exclusive reading of graphic novels/comics--it's more that 1) he likes a wider variety and 2) to be honest, while I don't have qualms about graphic novels per se, I do worry that he won't read the awesome books I read as a kid and hope he'll love, too--many of which are mentioned here. Thanks again!
posted by aimeedee at 6:17 AM on February 20, 2015

I used to read so much as a child and I found the key was just going to the library (my mother would take me, of course) and (revelatory!)- reading the backs of the books to choose. At the library you can take out piles of books so if you don't like one, just read the next one in the pile.

Let him choose his own books, he will know from the covers and summaries if he will like them. If not, on to the next book! (PS I used to love the "Great Brain" books, Encyclopedia Brown, and if you are Canadian (or even not!) Gordon Korman books. I read tonnes of others, but those are the ones that would stand out as "possibly appealing to a nine year old boy" (in the 80's! though!)
posted by bquarters at 6:47 AM on February 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

Seconding Louis Sachar, especially the Wayside School books.

I am a huge fan of the kids' books by Carl Hiaasen (Hoot, etc.).
posted by BibiRose at 6:48 AM on February 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

I very much agree with what bquarters says too. Working in the kids' department in bookstores, I have often put kids at a table to look through half a dozen books and pick one or two. That's the way adults shop; why not kids?
posted by BibiRose at 6:50 AM on February 20, 2015

Sid Fleishman's books, particularly "By the Great Horned Spoon!" and "The Whipping Boy".

Any of the books from the Redwall series by Brian Jaques.

The Borrowers by Mary Norton.
posted by rhythm and booze at 7:32 AM on February 20, 2015

The Boxcar Children books are at that reading level and very not-intense, emotionally. Like Hardy Boys, they get formulaic, but worth a try.
posted by deludingmyself at 7:46 AM on February 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'm going to call out Kidnapped! and Treasure Island, by Stevenson, then Swiss Family Robinson, Journey to the Center of the Earth, War of the Worlds, Tarzan, and the Barsoom books.
posted by bq at 7:48 AM on February 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

Has he tried either the Artemis Fowl series or The Mysterious Benedict Society series? I work at a school for gifted kids, and those are very popular here.
posted by superlibby at 7:52 AM on February 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

I looked up F&P reading levels and found that U/V seems to be roughly 5th grade level. Some books at around that level that my 9 year old has either read himself or enjoyed as read-alouds:

The Mysterious Benedict Society series by Trenton Lee Stewart
Holes by Louis Sachar
the Warriors series by Erin Hunter
George's Secret Key to the Universe (and sequels) by Stephen and Lucy Hawking
The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks
The Wheel on the School by Meindert DeJong
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O'Brien
The Silver Crown by Robert C. O'Brien

If he likes Bone, then he doesn't dislike all fantasy. Has he tried the How to Train Your Dragon series? My 9 year old absolutely loves those books.
posted by Redstart at 7:57 AM on February 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


Sorry, maybe it's my own special snowflake, but my dad gave me The Jungle Book to read in 3rd grade and it scared me off real literature for years and years. The reading comprehension was fine, but it was dense and slow and I didn't get past the first chapter.

FWIW, the series that rescued me back was The Dark Is Rising. It's equally fantastic as Madeline L'Engle and I think your son might be about the same age as the protagonist. Start with either the first book in the series, Over Sea Under Stone or the second book The Dark Is Rising and treat the first as a prequel.
posted by maryr at 7:59 AM on February 20, 2015

What about science fiction? I think at that age I was reading Asimov. Also I read a boatload of books by Monica Hughes. Try the Isis trilogy as a start, maybe.

Also John Belairs for some really gripping scary novels. Not like Goosebumps - far richer and creepier. Kind of like Lovecraft for kids.
posted by PercussivePaul at 7:59 AM on February 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

Oh, and The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place books are funny and awesome as well.
posted by superlibby at 8:00 AM on February 20, 2015

PS: The Dark Is Rising sequence is great but STAY AWAY from the movie.
posted by maryr at 8:05 AM on February 20, 2015

Jennifer Nielsen's Ascendance trilogy
posted by soelo at 8:12 AM on February 20, 2015

On a phone, so this isnt easy for me to look up.
Treasure Hunters by Robert Patterson.
Stick Dog
The Boxcar Children
The Magic Treehouse (less magic, more history - though morgan la fay being a librarian for Camelot will throw you)
Frank N. Stein which is about a kid inventor
Stuart Little
A mouse and his motorcycle
Encyclopedia Brown
The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew
posted by Nanukthedog at 8:16 AM on February 20, 2015

Definitely give Peter and the Starcatchers (and the three sequels) a shot. Of the recommendations above I've re-read many of them to my children and can say that they weren't fans (at all) of the Boxcar Children or Hardy Boys, and I'd remembered them ... more fondly than I should have.

They definitely liked Phantom Tollbooth and Wrinkle in Time (less so the sequels), but they also are big fans of fantasy (ie. Harry Potter, etc.).

Also, everything Slothrop said. For a long time I felt like I shouldn't be reading graphic novels, focussing instead on reading lots of important literature. I ended up missing out on a lot of great stuff that I'm getting to backfill. I still read lots of books, but I probably read more graphic novels these days.
posted by togdon at 8:25 AM on February 20, 2015

It was mentioned above and you put it on hold, but I still need to recommend the Great Brain series.
posted by 724A at 8:26 AM on February 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

I started getting into Zilpha Keatley Snyder at that age. The Stanley Family Series is great.

The Phantom Tollbooth is so much fun!

I also started reading Heinlein's YA books at that time, although I didn't quite "get" them.

I agree that Hatchet (and it's sequels) are great, I remember reading those in fifth grade.

Boxcar Children are also nice to read, and there are quite a few in the series. Oh wow according to Wikipedia there are 19 original novels and then since the authors death there have been over 100 more written by ghostwriters.
posted by radioamy at 8:32 AM on February 20, 2015

In addition to the Heinlein, if he likes adventurous science fiction, try him on some old Andre Norton novels, like Sargasso in Space or The Stars Are Ours. Not too violent, not too challenging, appealing protagonists, and there's plenty of them--she wrote over 50 books in her lifetime.
posted by suelac at 8:39 AM on February 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

The Call of the Wild and White Fang.

Young adult biographies of people he is interested in or who have careers he may be interested in.
posted by cda at 8:53 AM on February 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

Swallows and Amazons. Famous Five (and other books by Enid Blyton). The Happy Hollisters. Twenty-One Balloons. From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. The Westing Game. Homer Price. Pippi Longstocking. Mrs. Piggle Wiggle. Mr. Popper's Penguins. Encyclopedia Brown. Snow Treasure. In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson.
posted by oceano at 9:09 AM on February 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

I think this is a phase many boys go through. They just aren't ready to read most books...
Both of my boys got "stuck" on Bone in 3rd grade. They read NOTHING but Bone, Babymouse, Amulet, & Geronimo Stilton. I didn't push it. One of them read Bone over and over until his omnibus copy was falling apart.

Then, magically, somewhere in 4th grade their horizons broadened and by 5th grade they were devouring series left and right.

Some of the books they liked when they were ready to start reading non-graphic novels again were:
Gregor the Overlander
Warriors series
Ranger's Apprentice series
Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Catcher
The Castle in the Attic
The False Prince and the rest of that series

Also, audiobooks helped bridge the gap till they were ready to take the next step.
posted by LittleMy at 9:48 AM on February 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

Manga is a great option because if there's a subject he's remotely interested in (tennis! forensics! baking!), there's a manga series about it somewhere. Do note that most bookstores shelve all the manga together regardless of age range or content, so check the manga cover for content warnings; manga publishers are pretty good about self-labeling.

I'm surprised no one's yet recommended the Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Nate the Great series, which are wildly popular comic/novel hybrids. The Popularity Papers and Dork Diaries are similar series marketed at girls. The Little House on the Prairie series is also written very simply and has illustrations by Garth Williams, who also illustrates the excellent Charlotte's Web and Trumpet of the Swan.

The "I want you to read this book because I loved it as a kid" move is more likely to backfire on you than not, since there's the added pressure on him to read or like it out of duty to your feelings, like a homework assignment. Anecdata: my mom and I are both voracious readers, but our tastes in books have differed wildly for as long as I can remember. Feel free to stick some of those books you love among other books on a shelf for him to poke through, but let him poke at them in his own time when he feels like it, if he ever does.

I agree with bquarters above about library visits being invaluable part of building a love of reading. I discovered many of my favorite childhood books by wandering around the library and picking up books with exciting-looking covers. Make a weekly or biweekly library visit a regular, mandatory part of your family schedule, whether he finds a book there each time or not. As a bonus, the librarians there will be able to learn his tastes and give you both recommendations for new reading material.

The hope isn't to get him reading "good" or "better" books to improve his mind or share favorites with you; the idea is to get the habit of library visits and reading (anything: novels, comics, magazines, newspapers, whatever) so deeply engrained in him that "reading" is automatically included in his mental Fun Ways to Spend Time list (videogames, movies, sports, etc). So many of the older children and adults who rarely read do so because all they read were the required Classic Important Educational Books in school; they'd no more turn to a book for fun than they'd do algebra for fun.
posted by nicebookrack at 9:52 AM on February 20, 2015

My 10 yo son also doesn't like fantasy/magic stories, and i get where you're coming from, because some days it seems like that's all there is for advanced readers of this age.

some of our faves:
Chike and the River by Chinua Achibe
The One and only Ivan
Frank Einstein and the antimatter motor
posted by OHenryPacey at 9:57 AM on February 20, 2015

Reporting live from my 8 year old son's room -- he sounds very much like your boy in terms of reading level and emotional development.

In addition to The Westing Game, From the Mixed-Up Files, The Phantom Tollbooth, I am seeing well-thumbed copies of:

Diary of a Wimpy Kid series
Big Nate series
Jacob Two-Two series
The Chronicles of Narnia
Pippi Longstocking books
The Invention of Hugo Cabret and other books by Brian Selznick
Stickman Odyssey books
Harriet the Spy
The Measle books by Ian Ogilvy
Guys Read compilations edited by Jon Scieszka
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Middle School series by James Patterson
Judy Blume's Pain and the Great One and Fudge series
All-of-a-Kind Family series

He has not liked the Overlander series yet, and though he loved The Hobbit, he doesn't seem ready for the rest of the Lord of the Rings books. I think they're all a bit emotionally intense.
posted by gateau at 10:01 AM on February 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

El Deafo by Cece Bell is an outstanding graphic novel that was just read and re-read by my kids. And then they made me read it out loud to them! Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library was also a big hit.

I usually comb through the Notable Children's Books lists compiled by the Association for Library Service to Children. Lots of great reccs there!
posted by poodelina at 10:49 AM on February 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'm going to second recommendations to let him do a lot of wide-ranging, self-guided reading, if he's so inclined. My reading level was higher than my maturity level for a lot of my childhood, and I read lots without really understanding it. I missed almost all of the sex in Dragonriders of Pern the first go round, for example, and all of the irony in Jane Austen. But I latched on to the excitement of riding dragons and the relationship between people and dragons, and it formed the basis of a great many games and daydreams. And while talking like someone out of a Jane Austen novel in middle school didn't make me popular with my peers, it did draw the attention of my teachers in a very poor school system, which made a huge difference in my life.
posted by congen at 11:24 AM on February 20, 2015

Oh, and he might like Jules Verne? I remember really liking his stories when I was about that age. I had this great edition with illustrations.
posted by congen at 11:33 AM on February 20, 2015

I was also going to recommend Hatchet (which was assigned reading for me in third grade) and My Side of the Mountain. And also Island of the Blue Dolphins.
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:10 PM on February 20, 2015

I want to mark all of these as best've not only given me lots of great titles to consider, but also some good food for thought re: approach to reading. He's read many of the books you've suggested (almost all of gateau's list, for ex.) and some of these others look right up his alley (at least the alley he's going down right now). I will try again at the library even though we haven't had great success there in the past, and will do some perusing at the bookstore and on Amazon. And for the record, I don't give him books and say, "I want you to read this. I loved it as a kid." I'd like to think I'm a bit less prescriptive as a parent than that, although I'm sure I do say things that would make me cringe if someone repeated them back to me :) Cheers, all.
posted by aimeedee at 2:50 PM on February 20, 2015

A few extras:

The Mouse and the Motorcycle

The Egypt Game, by Zilpha Keatley Snyder

Bridge to Terabithia, Katherine Paterson

How to Eat Fried Worms, Thomas Rockwell

The Bunnicula series, James Howe and co-authors.

Mentioned above, My Side of the Mountain, Island of the Blue Dolphins and Hatchet are representative of a whole genre, and so if he likes those there's plenty more.

Definitely give The Dark is Rising a shot, too.
posted by snuffleupagus at 8:47 AM on February 22, 2015 [2 favorites]

I'm late here, but if you're still following: William Sleator's books, Interstellar Pig (which my kid loved when he was eight) and House of Stairs (this one aimed at pre-teens but with an emotional content that your younger reader might appreciate).
In terms of classics: Treasure Island by R.L.Stevenson. Not the movie(s) but the book. A nicely illustrated edition (and there are several) would be great. The thing about this is that the active hero is a twelve-year-old boy.
I discovered Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn at about ten years of age. I lived in the South so that made them more immediate and important to me. I still re-read Huckleberry Finn.
That brings up other questions. If you are an urban northerner then try Stuart Little ( or maybe Charlotte's Web if you live outside the City.)
I disagree with not promoting Kipling. The Jungle Book is pretty fine, really, and Rikki-Tikki-Tavi stayed with me as a fine hero. Other animal books, try Ernest Thompson Seton. Also, his Two Little Savages, which a college friend told me was very important to him at an early age.
If horse books (like Farley's) are not his thing, try dog books, there's lots. But a non-dog Dog Book that wins hearts and minds is The Dog That Wouldn't Be by Farley Mowat, which is mostly about a kid.
All these books were cited to me or experienced by me as important to someone 8 - 12 years of age, and remembered long after.
posted by CCBC at 4:20 AM on April 17, 2015

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