We Recommend: Facts + Captain Underpants = True Love

It's We Recommend, in which we use our superpowers to find readers the perfect book. Got a kid who needs a recommendation? Write us at thediamondinthewindow (at) gmail (dot) com with the age, reading tastes, favorite books, and any other relevant (or irrelevant) information, and we'll give it a shot. And really? All the good suggestions are in the comments.
All the brave young men! Not that this particular piece has to be about boys, really. As hard as I find it to believe, some kids somehow find themselves (or we find them) in the "not interested in reading camp." A very nice 10-year-old girl was at my house the other day, and while Chestnut and I were wrangling about how and when she would do her homework, overheard one of us say "And of course save the reading part for last as a reward."
She said, "Wait! You save the reading for last…for fun? I would rather do a thousand math sheets than do 40 minutes of reading." And bear in mind, this was reading a novel of your choice. I can't understand it or explain but I must acknowledge that this is somehow the case for many people.
Often, though, as with our question today, something happens that changes this person. And if and when it does, we would be wise to honor it properly.

My son (7 – about to be 8) was not interested in reading.  What books he brought home from the library were non-fiction – generally about animals.  He has always loved "fact" books.  We went to the library to try out some books and he fell in love with Captain Underpants.  He read every one in short order, then the 2 Super Diaper Baby books, then the Black Lagoon series – all of them in about 3 days.  I have been reading Wee Free Men (Terry Pratchett) to him, but those books are too old for him to read on his own and I am running out of ideas for him.  I just ordered a Stinky book (Megan McDonald) - hoping he will like it, but I would love some other recommendations. 

First of all: Captain Underpants, YES. Because: why not? What's tricky for me is that I don't know (exactly) what he liked most about the Captain. The silliness? The rudeness? The whole package? In any case, the question remains: what next?
I originally thought I should go with The Day My Butt Went Psycho, for obvious reasons. (Also, interesting to me at least, is that this was originally called The Day My Bum Went Psycho due to the author's being Australian, which because I am a stupid American I think sounds even odder and funnier.) However, it's not really a great book. I mean it's fine, but—I want to offer this young gentleman a great book.
So I went to one of the excellent resources out there for boys, Guys Read. Bear in mind: this is an excellent site for any kid. It offers a certain easiness that makes kids feel less like they are being scolded and more like they might just find something awesome to read. It is maybe not being as closely curated as one would wish (I spotted a few inaccurate titles) but it offers kids a chance to vote on how much they like a book by clicking buttons, and hey—when you're 7 that's kind of awesome.
And there I saw a book that is really and truly a great and silly book, that made me realize—duh!—why did he love Captain Underpants? Because it's funny! And so I would give him Sideways Stories from Wayside School:

Because it's great. And it's funny. 
I am, however, aware that I myself am not in possession of a 7 about to be 8-year-old son. So maybe others can chime in, and tell this kid what to read?

14 thoughts on “We Recommend: Facts + Captain Underpants = True Love

  1. My second grade son loved DC Super Pets. Those books turned him into a Reader. Now he loves the My Weird School series and the Time Warp Trio books.


  2. My 10-year-old was once a devourer of fact books only. I suggest the marvelous series about Franny K. Stein, Mad Scientist, and her lab assistant, Igor by Jim Beaton. Funny, irreverent, silly, and heavily illustrated. Definitely check out the wealth of graphic novels available for younger readers, they make the transition to longer stories easier. Squish by Jennifer Holm will likely suit. Jenny and the Cat Club by Esther Averill might appeal (if he likes animals). The Dinosaurs Of Waterhouse Hawkins might be a hit, for the facts, even though it is technically a picture book.. The Willoughbys by Lois Lowry or The Penderwicks might suit for having rather self-contained chapters. The Lunch Lady series by Jarrett J. Krosoczka. The Shrinking of Treehorn by Florence Parry Heide.
    I think it’s important to let him know that you’ll happily read to him (or get audio books at the library). Heavily illustrated books help kids get through that transition from really brief text to full chapter books, but he’s likely to discover many stories that appeal but that he isn’t ready to read to himself yet.


  3. I don’t know if it’s too old, but maybe A Series of Unfortunate Events? My sister (now 21 but once a huge Lemony Snickett fan) and I were just talking about the inexplicable appeal of those books.


  4. Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Definitely! These are the perfect book for such a kid. Just enough text to keep it book-like, but also enough art to keep it visual. Hilariously funny – my husband read them as well, chortling to himself the whole time. Also is a bit naughty and has cool-factor for reading at school. All this and a movie tie-in too…what more could a reluctant reader want? 🙂
    My son has also lately been enjoying Zac Power books. I haven’t looked at them too closely, but they seem to be more on the action side than the funny side.


  5. Just in case: Time Warp Trio series might be good to read on his own. Also, “The Name of This Book is Secret” is probably a little too old for reading-to-self (more on a par with Wee Free Men, maybe) but it has many, many facts layered into a fun, & funny, adventure story. My current 8-9 yo & his friends have devoured the series this spring.


  6. I know I’m coming to this late, but I have to recommend “George Brown Class Clown.” My older son devoured “Captin Underpants,” and my younger boy really loves those too, but there is something so incredibly appealing about this boy with a magical burp that makes him get into trouble. For a kid who sometimes feels like he tries and tries but can’t “be good,” the story of a kid whose ridiculous antics can be blamed on magic really resounds with him.


  7. Wanted to let you know that based on this entry I got the three-book Wayside School set for my 7 yo boy, and he LOOOOOOVES it. Has been reading and re-reading it all summer long. Thanks!
    He also likes the first two Betsy-Tacy books, but not to the same degree.


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