Children's books for boys?
January 30, 2008 7:59 AM   Subscribe

What are some great classic children's books geared toward boys? (Excluding sci-fi). I'm working on a project for which I need a long list of children's books for both boys and girls. Being a gal myself, I've got that covered; the boys' list is harder.
posted by pipti to Media & Arts (64 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Swallows and Amazons
posted by jontyjago at 8:01 AM on January 30, 2008

posted by danb at 8:02 AM on January 30, 2008

danb beat me to it. Seconding Hatchet.
posted by saladin at 8:04 AM on January 30, 2008

Hatchet again.
posted by Pants! at 8:04 AM on January 30, 2008

The Three Musketeers used to be one of my favorites.
posted by ersatz at 8:05 AM on January 30, 2008

Anything by Howard Pyle.
posted by jquinby at 8:05 AM on January 30, 2008

Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel.
The Phantom Tollbooth.
posted by Reverend John at 8:05 AM on January 30, 2008

What age? I read these around ages 10 - 12:

The Hobbit - Fantasy, don't know if this classifies as Sci-Fi
Hatchet - There's a whole series of these
posted by Jimmie at 8:06 AM on January 30, 2008

Geared towards boys or featuring a male protagonist? If it's the latter, I always loved Where the Wild Things Are or the classic Roald Dahl books (James and the Giant Peach, the Charlie series.) Many, many Seuss options too; Bartholemew and the Ooblek comes to mind.
posted by chococat at 8:06 AM on January 30, 2008

Children's books as in picture books or young reader novels i.e. Treasure Island or Tom Sawyer? And excluding only sci-fi, or all fantasy/speculative genre fiction?
posted by nanojath at 8:07 AM on January 30, 2008

Cowbody Andy

Many of Richard Scarry's books, such as Richard Scarry's Great Big Air Book and Richard Scarry's A Day at the Airport, focus on subjects that boys traditionally like.

For older children, the books by Beverly Cleary that feature Henry Huggins are always good. In fact, she wrote them 50 years ago, she said, because she noticed that there were no good books about and for boys anywhere.
posted by Melismata at 8:07 AM on January 30, 2008

Oh, I never liked Hardy Boys but that's an obvious one for the list.
posted by chococat at 8:07 AM on January 30, 2008

Seconding The Phantom Tollbooth.

Farmer Boy is also good.
posted by GuyZero at 8:10 AM on January 30, 2008

Where the Red Fern Grows
any of the Great Brain books
posted by drezdn at 8:10 AM on January 30, 2008

Oh also

The Crystal Cave - Is about Merlin, depicted as a mortal man with some clairvoyant powers. Stewart is a fine writer who focused on the reign of King Arthur without him ever making him a protagonist.
posted by Jimmie at 8:12 AM on January 30, 2008

This is likely the one book every young Canadian boy has read at least once:

The Hockey Sweater

Just figured I'd throw it in there.
posted by smitt at 8:13 AM on January 30, 2008

The Indian in the Cupboard
posted by inconsequentialist at 8:14 AM on January 30, 2008

Response by poster: excluding sci-fi and fantasy/speculative genre. And all ages, from 0 to say, 15.
posted by pipti at 8:15 AM on January 30, 2008

No Sci-Fi? At all?

Not even Ender's Game?
posted by Oktober at 8:15 AM on January 30, 2008

Oh oh, I've got one, I've got one!

Wonderboy (8) and I have been reading the fantasy-adventure novels of PW Catanese. These are imaginative retellings of what happened after famous fairy tales. They are wonderfully fast-paced, have complex plots that a child can still follow, and are surprisingly dark and scary at times. They also have a rich vocabulary. These are some of the best books we have read together.
posted by LarryC at 8:16 AM on January 30, 2008

I'm a girl, but read extensively in my youth. I would volunteer:
My Side of the Mountain
The Mad Scientist Club (a series)
posted by kimdog at 8:21 AM on January 30, 2008

Books for boys.
posted by miss lynnster at 8:23 AM on January 30, 2008

From the site I just linked: "We are the parents of a seventeen year old boy. When our son was about twelve, we realized that he was having difficulty in selecting books that would interest him. We were frustrated that he wasn't reading enough. Finding books to interest him became our goal..."
posted by miss lynnster at 8:25 AM on January 30, 2008

The Sign of the Beaver

(I accidentally linked to the DVD version of The Indian in the Cupboard, but it is a great book series also.)
posted by inconsequentialist at 8:27 AM on January 30, 2008

these are all great suggestions. I'd add Anthony Horowitz (Alex Rider series and others), Jon Scieszka (various picture books, Time Warp Trio series, and recently named Ambassador of Children's Literature), Markus Zusak (the Book Thief).

Jon Scieszka has a website and program titled Guys Read that might be helpful.

I'd also reccomend contacting your local library, and asking the children's librarian for a list of favorites. a lot of times, they're somewhat more familiar with recent childrens books (and they certainly know what books for what ages).
posted by kumquatmay at 8:31 AM on January 30, 2008

Also, you can do a search for age on guysread. And here's a list from the book Great Books for Boys.
posted by miss lynnster at 8:33 AM on January 30, 2008

Would also recommend:

Maniac Magee
Tuck Everlasting and
The Westing Game
posted by inconsequentialist at 8:38 AM on January 30, 2008

The Adventures of Tintin by Herge. Any compilation. Wonderful...

posted by sandpine at 8:50 AM on January 30, 2008

Response by poster: wow, thanks all!
posted by pipti at 8:57 AM on January 30, 2008

I'm also wondering what age. My nephew is in the second grade, and is now differentiating between girls books and boys books. So he won't read Ramona, but he will read (and likes) Beverly Clerary's books about Runaway Ralph.
posted by dpx.mfx at 9:05 AM on January 30, 2008

I always liked the Ralph S. Mouse books also by Beverly Cleary.

Although it is fantasy, the Prydain Chronicles are a great boys books since they are essentially aboutt the maturation and coming of age of a young man.
posted by MasonDixon at 9:13 AM on January 30, 2008

The Henry Huggins books.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 9:17 AM on January 30, 2008

WTF noone posted the Biggles books yet?!

Started reading those really early and the moved on to thrillers by Alistar McLean and Desmond Bagley. Especially remember the awesomeness of the Desmond Bagley books, reading High Citadel and building your own crossbow and shit.

For me the criteria for good books were lots of action, adventure and suspense and most importantly NO FUCKING ROMANCE!! (sorry about the screaming but I just can't stress this enough). Girls and icky bits were a big no-no. Muah-ha-ha remember how Biggles only girlfriend ever was a german spy! Taught me not to trust women at an early age. Ok, that was not true but anyway, the books were great.

After all that (age 12-14) I read lots of Stephen King. Great books for children.
posted by uandt at 9:38 AM on January 30, 2008

I'm a girl, but I thought The Great Brain series was hilarious and awesome.
posted by moxiedoll at 9:57 AM on January 30, 2008

Not necessarily "great" but I'm pretty sure I read every Encyclopedia Brown book our local library had.
posted by piedmont at 10:01 AM on January 30, 2008

A Solitary Blue is an amazing book for older kids about a boy. The author wrote other books (not a series, but loosely connected) where this character appears, so if they don't mind reading books with a girl as the main character, they can continue onto those.
posted by moxiedoll at 10:08 AM on January 30, 2008

Ditto on Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, my sons favorite book.
Actually, almost anything by Virginia Lee Burton is a winner.
posted by SPUTNIK at 10:09 AM on January 30, 2008

nthing Hatchet. One of the truly great reading experiences of my youth.

A few more:
The Homer Price stories by Robert McCloskey. They may seem a bit dated (pre-television, and pre-desegregation), but the essential, decent character of Homer shines through, even as he calmly goes about his business of causing great ruckus.

The Cricket in Times Square

Island of the Blue Dolphins

posted by Chrischris at 10:10 AM on January 30, 2008

Anthony Horowitz is a fine modern writer whose work appeals to children of both genders. The Alex Rider series is a great series for boys.
posted by chairish at 10:12 AM on January 30, 2008

I can't believe no one's mentioned Bridge to Terabithia.... another Katherine Patterson I'd recommend for boys is "The Great Gilly Hopkins" - the main character is a girl, but she's a really troubled kid and I think boys would find her interesting and relateable. (Not equating boys with troubled girls. Just, you know, that she's not "girly" at all, and that the story is good enough that even boys put off by girl books might like this one).
posted by moxiedoll at 10:14 AM on January 30, 2008

I read and loved the Horatio Hornblower series by C.S. Forester when I was 10-12 yrs. or so. Lots of Napoleonic Wars sea battle action and lots of words that I wouldn't have learned without those books. Can't recommend them highly enough.
posted by PhatLobley at 10:16 AM on January 30, 2008

I second both My Side of the Mountain and The Indian in the Cupboard. I'd also add The Magic Meadow by Alexander Key (out of print so may be hard to find), and Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH...although neither of those are specifically boy-oriented.
posted by mehum at 10:33 AM on January 30, 2008

Phantom Tollbooth
The Indian in the Cupboard
Runaway Ralph
The Great Brain books

My own recommendations:
The Freddy the Pig series
Where the Red Fern Grows

I'm a girl, but I'd steal the Great Brain and Freddy the Pig books off my brother's shelves whenever he wasn't around to stop me. And then I'd get in trouble for reading his books without permission. But how else was I supposed to read them over and over again?
posted by bassjump at 10:37 AM on January 30, 2008

Seconding: everything by Roald Dahl, everything by William Steig, My Side of the Mountain, and The Great Brain.

How about Keith Robertson's Henry Reed books, illustrated by Robert McCloskey (start here).

Also: C.S. Lewis!
posted by Songdog at 10:49 AM on January 30, 2008

Hey Pepti, can I ask why no sci-fi?
posted by moxiedoll at 10:52 AM on January 30, 2008

More specifically, some perhaps less-familiar books by Steig that I loved include Dominic, Abel's Island, Amos and Boris, Farmer Palmer's Wagon Ride, and The Amazing Bone. For Dahl I'd suggest Fantastic Mr. Fox, Danny, the Champion of the World, and George's Marvelous Medicine (in addition to James and Charlie, of course). And when they're old enough for more vicious dark comedy, read Dahl's The Twits!

Ooo! How Tom Beat Captain Najork and His Hired Sportsmen, by Russell Hoban, with great illustrations by Quentin Blake!
posted by Songdog at 10:56 AM on January 30, 2008

These are also not particularly geared towards boys, but: Any version of this list lacking the works of E.B. White is terribly, terribly deficient. Stuart Little, Charlotte's Web, Trumpet of the Swan. All awesome, all books I read multiple times as a child.

I remember Maniac Magee being pretty awesome as a child, as well. Also nthing Hatchet, Where the Red Fern Grows, and the Phantom Tollbooth. And the Indian in the Cupboard. And probably just about everything else already here.

Huck Finn is probably out, but Tom Sawyer is a good book for the young'ins. Don't forget Shel Silverstein, even though it's poetry and it's gender-neutral.
posted by thecaddy at 11:05 AM on January 30, 2008

Boys at that age can really get into sci-fi… seems strange to exclude it. Jules Verne and H.G. Wells aren't classics?
posted by designbot at 11:08 AM on January 30, 2008

There's the David series by David Shannon. Pretty funny stuff that appeals to both boys and girls.
posted by arishaun at 11:11 AM on January 30, 2008

The Story of Ferdinand

This is one of the greatest children’s stories for boys. It is for children 4-8. It really covers the ideas of masculinity and violence that is expected of a bull vs. nonviolence and tranquility that the main character epitomizes.
posted by elationfoundation at 11:22 AM on January 30, 2008

I got really into Redwall for quite a while as boy.

I also loved the following:
My Father's Dragon
The Dark is Rising Series
And a lot of the previously listed books like The Hobbit (hell, the whole series), Dahl, The Indian in the Cupboard and Little Stuart.
posted by cyphill at 11:35 AM on January 30, 2008

For other perspectives, often focusing on race/ethnicity:

Walter Dean Myers--Fast Sam, Cool Clyde, and Stuff; The Young Landlords; Hoops (some of Myers's books, like Scorpions and Shooter, cover topics more suitable to teens--the first is about gangs and the second is a Columbine-like story)

Gary Soto--Buried Onions is probably his most acclaimed; the Chato the cat books are good for younger readers

Laurence Yep --while he writes some sci fi/fantasy, the Golden Mountain Chronicles are historical fiction accounts of life in San Francisco
posted by CiaoMela at 11:36 AM on January 30, 2008

Non-fiction: The Dangerous Book for Boys.

I'm personally strongly in favor of anything Daniel Pinkwater has written; I plan to reread my acid-enriched-paper yellowed tattered copy of Yobgorgle for the last time on my deathbed, so I can go out with a smile. Most of his stuff seems to be out of print these days, which is a shame.
posted by Drastic at 11:58 AM on January 30, 2008

Seconding the Freddy the Pig books. I loved them as a kid; I'm 57, and I have read four or five over the past two years and they're just as fresh now as they were then! Great illustrations, too.

There used to be a web site by a guy who claimed to be Mr. Eha, and that he had been wronged by Walter Brooks, the series author -- and that Freddy was actually an obnoxious young human boy whose adventures had been fictionalized and cleaned up by Brooks. Just too much! Every bit as clever as any of the books, and quite well written.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 12:38 PM on January 30, 2008

OMFG! Mr Eha's Place is still available -- archived, but available... !! Enjoy, Freddy fans!
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 12:41 PM on January 30, 2008

Stuart Little
The Steadfast Tin Soldier
posted by plinth at 1:36 PM on January 30, 2008

The Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators series
posted by candyland at 2:01 PM on January 30, 2008

Captain Underpants, obviously.
posted by naoko at 4:49 PM on January 30, 2008

Here's another vote for My Side of the Mountain.

And, for both boys and girls, Randall Jarrell's The Animal Family.
posted by Guy Smiley at 11:23 PM on January 30, 2008

Many of Sid Fleischman's books fit the bill, particularly those in the boys historical adventure mode like Chancy and the Grand Rascal, Jim Ugly and By the Great Horn Spoon!

Daniel Manus Pinkwater IS great, and tends towards boy protagonists - Alan Mendelsohn the Boy From Mars, The Last Guru, Lizard Music, his most recent the Neddiad are personal favorites but they're all good; he writes good picture books for little kids as well as intermediate illustrated read-to-me books like the excellent Blue Moose series - BUT these stray quite a bit into the speculative arena. They aren't sci-fi or fantasy per se but they aren't straight fiction by any stretch.

The Alvin Fernald series by Clifford Hicks is great.
posted by nanojath at 10:44 AM on January 31, 2008

And how can we forget the "Frog and Toad" books by Arnold Lobel, let alone Milne's Winnie the Pooh.
posted by Songdog at 6:07 PM on January 31, 2008

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