My “almost-ten-year-old” and I have been planning a summer reading list for our Epic, Big, Long, Summer, Road-Trip. He and I are book lovers, and lately I have been having a blast reading and re-reading books from my youth, as well as new books for young readers.
My oldest son is a really good reader, and has an “old soul”, so he is reading and wanting to read some books that sometimes make me hesitate. He really wanted to see the first Hunger Games movie, so I told him he wasn’t allowed to see the movie until he had read the book. I thought this would buy me some time, or deter him altogether, but he blasted through the first book. So, we watched the first movie together. He pointed out to me that “so much was missing in the movie” and that the book was “way better because you could read what Katniss was thinking”. Can I just say, as a Shakespeare-loving English major, who thinks it sacrosanct that one must always read the book before one sees the movie, as there is nothing better than the book, my heart did a little leap when he said that to me. He then went on to read the second and third book in the Hunger Games Trilogy. We talked about each book, so that I could gauge how (or if) the violent and often mature content was affecting him. What I realized was that he was able to grasp the relationships in the book, the plot, and the ethical and political messages throughout the series just fine. I was impressed.
It was about this time that I realized I had found a kindred spirit in this family of non-readers.
Lately we have been doing this: I read a book he is interested in first – mostly to screen it, but also so we can talk about it after. The latest book we read was The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel, and it was awesome! I knew as soon as I read the word sasquatch that my son was going to love it.
We are having so much fun reading through our piles of books that I thought maybe we should share some of our favourites, as well as some of the books we plan on reading over the summer break. So without further ado:
Top 5 Summer Reads for Young Boys, Ages 8ish-12ish
1. The One and Only Ivan – Katherine Applegate
Because EVERYONE needs to read this. Don’t wait until your kids are older, read it out loud to the younger ones, and then ask your older children to re-read it. It’s the best.
2. The Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis
Do I even have to explain? CS Lewis…just read everything he has ever written and you will be a happier, more intelligent and much more interesting person. But start with Narnia. Books first, movies after, because frankly, the books kick ass on the movies.
3. The Boundless – Kenneth Oppel
I am really starting to like Kenneth Oppel books. We read Airborne, which would have made the top 5 summer reading list, if we hadn’t just read The Boundless which eclipsed Airborne for me. The Boundless really is a fun read. From the first page I was sucked into Oppel’s world of thrilling adventure, odd creatures and an exciting plot. This book has it all – the circus, exploration, danger, magic, and even a sasquatch or two!
4. Charlie and The Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl
I know you have read it. You have seen the movie. But this book is a rite of passage for every kid, and it is a wacky, adventurous, and delicious summer read. Grab some Curly-Wirlies, your beach blanket, and enter the Chocolate Factory.
5. The Hobbit – J.R.R.Tolkien
And last but not AT ALL least, The Hobbit. It’s never too early for a little Tolkien. The Hobbit is a great starter Tolkien for 10-12 year olds, and just watch as your son enters the Shire for the first time! Pure literary joy. Right here. Just read it. Read it out loud, read it together, read it beside each other. And remember – none of the movies until they read the books first!
That’s it for the Summer Reading List, but here is my addendum to the list…
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer – Mark Twain
This is the book I wish I could have put on the summer reading list but won’t. I never want my sons to use the “N” word, or think that it is ever acceptable to marginalize a person because of their skin colour. There will be a point in their development that they will be able to process the content of this book, but probably not until late high school. I SO wish there wasn’t such blatant racism in Tom Sawyer. I have read it, and love it, however i still cringe at the language, even though I understand the context of the time in which it was written.
If you do decide to add it to your summer reading list, parents, you will definitely want to screen-read this if you are not familiar with Tom Sawyer. Decide for yourself if you and your child are ready to tackle this one. This book is controversial, and for good reason. Tom Sawyer was first published in 1876. There is coarse and derogatory wording in this book, along with racist, outdated and false portrayals of people of different cultures, skin colour and backgrounds. Up to you on this one – I totally understand if you pass on this one, but I hope you get to it eventually.
Re-reading Tom Sawyer made me wax nostalgic for all of the old, musty books of my youth. So I dug out an my old copy of Pippi Longstocking, which I still find wonderfully entertaining to read. I have just finished two stories by Jack London: Call of the Wild and The Cruise of the Dazzler. I would recommend these adventurous and swash-buckling tales to my son when next he is looking for something to read this summer.
Right now, he is reading the Inkheart Trilogy by Cornelia Funke. Tonight when I tucked him in, he asked me to “define the word sinister”. I said “gladly” to my wonderful reading buddy, as I secretly celebrated the growth of a young boy’s vocabulary and mind!
Read on! Read often!