We Recommend: A Mysterious Request

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.

Ah, we're back. It's been a while since we've had a We Recommend, and this one will challenge and perplex you, in the best possible way. Also, it comes from someone you have all been successful with in the past. But now he is (as we all are, inevitably) older and more complicated. Like so:

His reading is quite voracious and I have exhausted my list of ideas from my own childhood. He is 9 next month.
has enjoyed all of the Harry Potter books and has read them
independently (although the last couple I think had a lot of material
that went over his head content-wise). He's currently racing through
the Lemony Snicket series, and absolutely loving those.
He's not
much into fantasy stuff, sci-fi or war. He loves anything to do with
language (adored 'The Word Spy') and is keen on maths and music at
school. Loves a good story.

Here's where I am caught: he loves Harry Potter and Lemony Snicket, but is not into fantasy, sci fi, or war. But…Lemony Snicket and Harry Potter? These are not realistic fiction by a long chalk. So I think we have a case of maybe he likes things that he thinks he doesn't like? At any rate, what matters is what will work, and so we can look at the books he enjoyed and from that we can deduce: he's a word kid. And he likes funny things.

I think we can all take a moment to meditate on how delightful these attributes are. And then we can try to think of things that will fit for the young gentleman, while not scaring him off with any wizards on the cover. I toyed with Septimus Heap. I considered Artemis Fowl. I even thought about Terry Pratchett, to whom he will make his way some time soon. But in the end, I went way WAY back, to the book all humorous word-lovers should spend some time with at one point or another.


Unless I have completely misread this young person, this should fit the bill nicely. It's funny! There's word play! It's awesome!

But of course, I might have misread him completely. Oooh, and should I have said Holes? I should probably have said Holes, right? Or Sideways Stories at Wayside School? But don't let me sit here torturing myself: please, in the comments, offer up some ideas, and possible alternate reads of his wishes, and get the kid something great to read!

17 thoughts on “We Recommend: A Mysterious Request

  1. oh, and I absolutely support your suggestion of The Westing Game. I’d like to also suggest another of Ellen Raskin’s books, The Tattooed Potato and Other Clues–more good word play and mysteries


  2. Ha, Belinda already gave my suggestion. I might also suggest the Mysterious Benedict Society books, which are ‘smart’ and fit the bill of not being sci-fi, fantasy, or war.


  3. Yes, Phantom Tollbooth. And anything Thurber. And oh shoot, something just popped into my head and slid out again immediately. Ugh.


  4. Some older books but all have engaging stories and don’t talk down to readers:
    The Diamond in the Window
    From the Mixed Up Files (Konigsburg)
    Spiderweb for Two (Enright)
    Return to Gone Away Lake (Enright)
    Swallows and Amazons- Ransome (But have someone read the first chapter until they get to the island aloud, otherwise the story bogs down for younger readers)
    My Side of the Mountain
    Voyage of the Dawn Treader (C S Lewis)
    Tom’s Midnight Garden( Pearce)
    The Children of Green Knowe (Boston)
    Minnow on the Say (Pearce)


  5. LLoyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain
    Bunnicula and it’s sequels (esp. Howliday Inn but oooh… the puns)
    Eva Ibbotson’s Which Witch, Secret of Platform 13, The Haunting of Granite Falls – these read like a cross between Harry Potter and Lemony Snicket, really funny and dark all at once
    And my daughter’s 4th grade class is obsessed with the Percy Jackson books…


  6. The Puzzling World of Winston Breen
    –12 year old Winston loves solving puzzles, but is stymied by an antique box that contains a mysterious set of words and letters


  7. Great, great suggestions. My son is currently LOVING The Candymakers by Mass. A long read with lots of detail and a mystery but mostly about friendship and making candy. Outstanding.
    Also, maybe, The Mysterious Benedict Society books?
    We just got the Mysterious World of Winston Breen from the library, so I’m happy to see it recommended.


  8. Forget the 9-year-old under consideration, *I* need to read a bunch of these books.. what a great list! 🙂
    Hey, what about Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy? Though it’s a grownup book, I don’t remember it containing subject material that would be inappropriate for kids. And it’s really kind of more about the humor than about the sci-fi context.


  9. For funny, I’d go with Christopher Paul Curtis’s Bud Not Buddy and The Mighty Miss Malone (the audiobook recordings are EXCELLENT). Also, Richard Peck’s Grandma Dowdel books: A Long Way From Chicago and two sequels. The humor in Peck’s books will definitely resonate with someone who likes Lemony Snicket.
    I bet he’d like The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex–zany story about aliens invading earth, and very funny.
    For an excellent story, a very worthy successor to Harry Potter and C.S. Lewis, I’d recommend Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series. My 8-year-old daughter and I are listening to it now (can you tell we like audiobooks) and are completely enthralled. I think these books would be too hefty for her to read to herself, but she is totally getting it from listening to it.


  10. I’m seconding The Name of this Book Is Secret by Pseudonymous Bosch (part of The Secret Series). My 9 year old is eating it up!
    Here’s the description:
    When adventurous detectives, Cass, an ever-vigilant survivalist, and Max-Ernest, a boy driven by logic, discover the Symphony of Smells, a box filled with smelly vials of colorful ingredients, they accidentally stumble upon a mystery surrounding a dead magician’s diary and the hunt for immortality. Filled with word games, anagrams, and featuring a mysterious narrator, this is a book that won’t stay secret for long.


  11. Fergus (also 9 and loves “funny”) has recently enjoyed “Ronia the Robber’s Daughter” by Astrid Lindgren and “The Moffats” by Eleanor Estes. Do look into Frank Cottrell Boyce – “Framed”, “Millions” and “Cosmic” are all wonderful reads! His newest is “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Flies Again”. “Pure Dead Magic” by Debi Gliori? Is “Chasing Vermeer” too serious? We love “Mr Gum” by Andy Stanton, very silly. And Polly Horvath has some wonderful funny reads out there too…


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