We Recommend: Big-Time Reading 11-Year-Old Boy

It's We Recommend! So here's how it works: a person writes in with a request for a book for someone, and we, who used to be believe we had superpowers in this area but have since been humbled, try to find the perfect choice. Need a recommendation? Tell us the age of the reader, likes and dislikes, and anything else you think we might need to know. You can write to us at thediamondinthewindow (at) gmail (dot) com. Here's the key: the best suggestions are in the comments.

We're back! And better than ev—…well, let's not get ahead of ourselves. Here we go: it's not such an easy one.

Hi, my son is 11 years old, and he reads at a 12th grade level. As with
many other parents, I am struggling to find books that he enjoys that
have appropriate content for an 11 year old.

He has read and enjoyed the Theodore Boone series, the Hunger Game series, and Jimmy Buffet's Swine Not.

He loves basketball, lacrosse, golf, and most sports in general. He is
not a huge fan of science fiction. He does enjoy military books to a
certain extent. He likes suspense and is in general a fan of an
interesting story. He would probably read more biographies or historical
fiction, I just don't really know what to recommend.

Ah, boys. I feel I understand boys better through this blog and its requests than I do any other way. Which is maybe a little pathetic? I don't know: I am one of three sisters, no brothers. I have two daughters. I mean, I am married to a man, but that does not seem to give me instant access to a broad and deep understanding to the gender as a whole. However, here, I find out that a lot of boys like history. Military fiction. Stuff like that. Who knew?

I must say, that's the direction I would go with this young man. And maybe something a bit old fashioned. I mean, "appropriate for an 11 year old" is subjective. Lots of parents would shy away from The Hunger Games for instance, but he seems to have liked it. I am guessing though that he's not quite ready for romance? Just a guess.

First, I would point this person to this blog, which covers books about WWII in specific extensively and well. Then, for good measure, I would tell him to read this.


I cribbed the idea from the comments on another We Recommend, and it struck me that she was right: it's a blend of fantasy and action and characters that matter, and it's just excellent.

But I know you guys will have other, better ideas. Put them in the comments, please! Especially if you know any sports books, a category in which I am sadly lacking.

9 thoughts on “We Recommend: Big-Time Reading 11-Year-Old Boy

  1. Perhaps the sports-themed books by R. R. Knudson, from the 1970’s and ’80’s? Zanballer, Zanbanger, Zan Hagen’s Marathon, and Rinehart Lifts? I hated sports as a kid (still do), but those books made me appreciate the athletic point of view. Out of print, but available secondhand.
    Is Trustee from the Toolroom, by Nevil Shute, appropriate for an 11-year-old? Maybe in a couple of years.
    As for history, reprints of narrative comic strips from the 1930’s and ’40’s can lead to some fascinating places. As a kid, I started learning about WWII from Milton Caniff’s Terry and the Pirates, and the home front from Frank King’s Gasoline Alley.
    Also, collective biographies, which usually have a theme and devote a chapter to each person, might be a good introduction to historical subjects. Dewey Decimal J 920, just before the biographies in J 921.


  2. I’m thinking spy fiction and mysteries.
    How about the Montmorency series? British, funny suspenseful.
    Having said that, Sherlock Holmes? Also, while it is fantasy, the Redwall series is really great storytelling. And in that vein, Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain are wonderful stories.
    I also always recommend Terry Pratchett as a great transition author for advanced reading youngsters. Smart, funny, knowing but not scary.
    And speaking of scary, John Bellairs?


  3. Ender’s Game (SF but more realistic really)
    Between Silk and Cyanide (adult, non-fiction but appropriate for 11)
    Midshipman Bolitho by Alexander Kent
    Ramage by Dudley Pope
    and definitely a bit dated and written for a younger reader but:
    Mad Scientists Club by Bertrand Brinley
    We Didn’t Mean to Go to Sea/Swallows and Amazons* by Arthur Ransome
    *my standard caveat- even at 11, we read aloud the first chapter(s) – with judicious editing, until the kids get to the island. Otherwise at the beginning the tale bogs down a bit


  4. I second Ender’s Game. It’s technically science fiction, but is recommended reading for officer’s school because of it’s discussions of battle plans and strategy.
    Also second Terry Pratchett and would further recommend Unseen Academicals, which is a satire about football (soccer) and is hilarious.
    What about some of the war classics, like Red Badge of Courage and Johnny Tremaine? I didn’t like them, but I know a lot of kids who did at that age.


  5. I want to know what this child was reading at age 7, so I can get some suggestions for my son!
    How about Agatha Christie mysteries? And Where the Red Fern Grows? Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer by Grisham might be too young, but those would be fun reads!


  6. Ack, I just saw he has already read Theodore Boone. Sorry!
    Some easier books that he might like are:
    Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library and the Mysterious Benedict Society books.


  7. His Dark Materials. Also, I recommend reading this blog: http://julia.typepad.com/. Her older son is the same age, same reading ability. She often talks about what she reads (or listens to on audiobook) with him. You could probably shoot her a note, too.


  8. How about non-fiction. Neal Bascomb’s “The Nazi Hunters” is a must read, he’s taken his “Hunting for Eichmann” and re-written it for high school kids. Bascomb writes non-fiction that is compelling, he’s also written one about robotics competitions but I haven’t read that one yet. On a completely different front, what about Susan Cooper’s “Dark is Rising” trilogy. King Arthurish dark against the light.


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