Another edition of We Recommend, in which we do our very best to
solve book-related questions, needs, and other miscellany, and then
turn them over to you, the readers, who really solve them. Need help
finding the right book? E-mail
us with some information about your reader, likes and dislikes, and
anything else, and we'll do our best. Now, on to our
I don't know about you but I am finding that in summer all kinds of sibling issues come up. Without the strange and hierarchical overlord that is school, other things emerge: lots of fights, lots of playing, a whole different easy but fraught feeling. So when I got the following e-mail, it just made sense, somehow:
My daughter: 10 years old, a young 10 in that she is not in to “boys”
but still in to fantasy play, art, imagination. Very creative, very
loved the Harry Potter books. She
read the Mysterious Benedicts Society (all within a week I think). She
liked the first, but felt the next two were not as good.
is reading Warriors right now and seems to like it (a book a day at this
point), but I am not so sure about that series from the few excerpts I have
read (lots of violence). I
want to find books with heroines, or strong females. Examples of working
hard to achieve something you want and has complex plots that keep her mind
loves imagination and fantasy. She really like Time Traveler’s
Wife, until I found out she was reading it and stopped her (due to adult
content). This is why I say she likes somewhat complex plots – the time
travel complexity of the story line she really liked.
My son: 8 year old, again a young 8 in terms of maturity level. He is
sensitive emotionally (teachers call him young at school because he will still
cry when frustrated. I call him sensitive as I can relate since I was that way
all the way through school). He
has a harder time staying engaged when he is reading. We read out loud
every day and he loves it, but is not as comfortable reading himself. He
will pick up Captain Underpants (read an entire one yesterday morning before
getting out of bed, first book all the way through on his own in one sitting J) and likes
funny stories. He loved Judy Bloom’s Superfudge series too, but we
read that series out loud. I
am looking for something that will keep his interest but is going to teach him
a little more vocabulary and reading skill than Captain U. Perhaps expand his
mind and give him positive role models too.
Just to let you know, there was more to the e-mail (it looks a little odd up there, as though someone just sent me something that said "my daughter, my son" when there was a lot more context, a lot of which I edited out due to length). But that's not the point, is it?
I must say, first, that I'm a bit leery of books that offer positive role models, probably directly in proportion to the extent that I wish for positive role models for my children. I just feel that sort of thing tends to come back and bite you in the ass. They end up choosing the bad role model in the book, or they find some entirely irritating quality in the good role model and that's all they hang on to.
But I keep getting off the point. We are here to find books for these people. So here I go:
For her, I would say (based almost entirely on her unbelievable similarity to Diana's reading taste), The Sister's Grimm:
They are all appealing, and they sound just right for this particular person (though I have no problem with the Warrior's series, as long as I don't have to read it myself). For a grownup it's overblown and heavy-handed, but it seems to offer every kid I know a real way to connect to some deep strangeness within themselves, which can only be a good thing. Note: Diane believes that the perfect book for her would be The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel, but we thought if the mom felt uneasy with the violence in Warriors this might not be good for her (but the kid would love it).
Now for him. Hmm. That's a bit harder. It sounds like he'd rather read things that are easier for him, which makes sense.
See, here's the thing: as I've said before, at length, I think if reading Captain Underpants brings him joy, then he should read Captain Underpants. I mean, finding a book that thrills you, that gets you to sit in a chair, rapt and unmoving until you finish it—this is a wonderful thing. He has found love! Maybe it's not the most complex thing in the world, but he's only 8. Soon the time for Captain Underpants will be past, and he'll have missed this particular allotment of joy. And he had it all lined up!
But if truly truly they want something else, and he's all into Star Wars and all of that, then I—very reluctantly—offer this:
This book is not as good as Captain Underpants. It is not as insane, or silly, or rude. I doubt it will be loved quite as well. But it probably could be said to have a more complex storyline. And then again, if he doesn't love either, Encyclopedia Brown might work.
No doubt you readers have much more to recommend, and a wealth of "books for boys" (forgive me) to offer. On to the comments with them, and help out these siblings!