We Recommend: 10-Year-Old Boy Wants BOOKS

It's We Recommend! In which we post a request that's been sent to us, and do our best to get that person the right book. Know a kid who needs a book to read? Send your request to thediamondinthewindow (at) gmail (dot) com. Include his or her likes, dislikes, favorites, quirks, and any other reading information that might be helpful, and we will think on it, and pose it to our oh-so-helpful readers. And look in the comments—all the best recommendations are there.

Look, everyone: It's a veteran! She's asked us for help before, and she needs our help now (put on your capes, heroes).

You've helped Henry twice in the past and we've had some great recommendations! Like your other recent poster, I'm struggling to find things that are not too teenagey or adult in content but which still provide a decent challenge and that he won't rip through in an afternoon. After a recent holiday in which half my baggage allowance seemed to be taken up with his reading material, I'm also seriously considering investing in a Kindle for his Christmas present before our next trip, so I'd also appreciate any tips about books that seem to work particularly well in electronic format. He's currently blasting through the DJ McHale Pendragon series and loving those, and has snaffled Night Circus out of my Bookclub pile before I've even had chance to read it myself, pronouncing it 'brilliant'. I'll also definitely follow up on the Agatha Christie tip as I do remember loving those myself at about the same age. But any other suggestions for a voracious ten-and-a-half year old? 

When in doubt, go silly. That's my feeling for the voracious bright reader who wants more interesting and engaging, but not necessarily more romance, which is the direction most books seem to grow up into. Silly is smart, and it's funny, and it gives kids a wide, wide world to grow into. I don't know quite how voracious this reader is, but when Diana was a voracious 10 year old, her teacher gave her this, and she never looked back:


As for a Kindle, I am all too familiar with the suitcase filled with hardcover books and its weighty presence. But. I find that both my children—one initially resistant, one initially extremely enthusiastic—have rejected the e-reader. They're happy enough to read fan fiction and other things online, but books? Books are books, as far as they're concerned, and the e-reader we got is in a drawer with a dead battery, ignored and unloved.

Are they alone in this? And what else should this dragon-loving 10-year-old read? Spill, in the comments.

13 thoughts on “We Recommend: 10-Year-Old Boy Wants BOOKS

  1. Rachel Hartman’s _Seraphina_ jumps to mind as meaty without being too adult in content.
    _Hitchhiker’s_ actually is fairly adult, but I know 95% of that sailed right over my head when I first read it at 12 and I certainly loved it then.


  2. If he hasn’t read them already and if he enjoyed “Harry Potter”, I’d recommend anything and everything by Jonathan Stroud. His latest series, set in an alternate universe modern London, begins with “The Screaming Staircase”. Catherine Fisher and Michelle Paver are also awesome. And don’t forget the classics – Sherlock Holmes, Tolkien’s “The Hobbit”, Paidraic Colum (especially “The Children’s Homer”), Kipling’s “The Jungle Book”, and more modern classics by Joan Aiken and Diana Wynne Jones might also work. Oh, and Diane Duane’s “Young Wizards”! And Ursula LeGuin and Rosemary Sutcliff and Megan Whalen Turner – though he’s a bit young for these three, except for Turner’s “The Thief”. Honestly, there are so many great books for a strong reader his age! Good luck, and hope this helps.


  3. Perhaps better yet, Steven Brust’s _The Phoenix Guards_ and sequels? It’s a fantasy homage to the _The Three Musketeers_ (also not a bad suggestion), and while I don’t think I’ve ever heard it referred to as YA, it’s adventurous, witty, and breezy while having nothing “adult” in content, to the best of my memory. (Indeed, now that I’ve thought of it, I don’t think I’d hesitate to read it to my six-year-old in terms of content.)
    The only catch is that it is intentionally over-written, with a narrative voice that takes its time getting anywhere. But with a voracious reader that might be a plus. The first and second books in the series each stand alone, and then the 3rd-5th books form a trilogy. (The exact same structure as the sequels to _The Three Musketeers_, though the homage is much looser after the first book.)
    It’s hard for me to judge how a ten-year-old would like these, but I can say that when I was in college, one of my roommates bought a copy, and within 12 hours all three of had our own copies so we could read it as quickly as possible. 🙂


  4. Grandma just gave her very old kindle to my very precocious son for his 8th birthday. He really likes it now and enjoys “bookmarking” pages. He is currently reading Rick Riordan’s Kane Chronicles on the kindle. We’ll see whether he’ll go back to print. Anything by Rick Riordan would likely be of interest.
    I’d recommend some big, beefy books like the Septimus Heap series or Mysterious Benedict Society. Or maybe the Westing Game, or Chasing Vermeer or The Puzzling World of Winston Breen (all quarky books about puzzles of some sort)? My Side of the Mountain is also a super book, but no dragons in there. There is also an author named Kate Messner that has written three books in a series, I think the first one is Capture the Flag. Good writing and good reading. These all may be too easy for your son. I’m very bad at knowing what books are good for what ages.
    My son has enjoyed the old Nancy Drews, but not the Hardy Boys (too scary!). There is a Theodore Boone mystery series that is too scary for my son now, but might be right for you?
    I second Diamond’s silly recommendation. A good dose of Calvin and Hobbes can be read and reread.


  5. Huh. I figured there’d be hundreds of comments in minutes on here. Let me through out some more obvious suggestions that still might be worthwhile.
    The Percy Jackson books by Rick Riordan. Starts off as a good Harry Potter clone and just keeps getting better and better (and longer and longer) through 10 books.
    Airborn series, Kenneth Oppel.
    Does he like short stories? _The Past Through Tomorrow_ by Robert Heinlein and _The Complete Short Stories of Mark Twain_ are both huge books.
    _The Once and Future King_, T.H. White.


  6. Those all sound great. And it usually takes a while for all the comments to roll in, people check in on lunch breaks etc. I’m guessing he’s gone through Rick Riordan, but it’s hard to say. He’s been a heavy duty reader since he was 6 I believe, which gives him a lot of time to burn through a lot of books. I do hope he readers The Once and Future King if he hasn’t already!


  7. “The Diamond in the Window”! Magic and adventure.
    “Swallows and Amazons” (and sequels, especially “We Didn’t Mean to Go to Sea”). The old fashioned language may take a bit to get used to but that makes it more challenging (and still fun). Our specific technique was to read the first couple of chapters out loud (skipping a bit of the back and forth) until the characters get to the sailing adventure on the island. Then it speeds along just fine.
    Also, how about “My Side of the Mountain” and sequels. The prose is not advanced but it is fun.
    A sentimental favorite (although a bit outdated) is “Mad Scientists’ Club”- get it from the library as not sure it is still in print.
    Some of Heinlein’s juvenile titles could be good like “Tunnel in the Sky”.


  8. Terry Pratchett: start with Maurice and His Amazing Educated Rodents or Truckers or Only You Can Save Mankind or Nation or Dodger; Diana Wynne Jones, The Dark Lord of Derkholm; Naomi Novik, His Majesty’s Dragon; Jasper Fforde, The Last Dragonslayer


  9. The Ranger’s Apprentice series by John Flanagan is a great age-appropriate series. Lots of adventure and no adult content to worry about.
    I have to chime in about the ereader. We have 3 in this family. Two kindles and a kobo ereader. My mom lives with us and has a kindle, I won one in a contest, and I purchased a kobo ereader for myself. Quality wise, they are completely comparable, but I have to put in my two cents for an ereader that does not depend so heavily on purchasing books from a single supplier.
    The whole reason I went with a kobo rather than a kindle is because it reads epub files, so you can borrow ebooks from your public library (YAY!) and also there are lots of free ebooks available as epubs, which is the standard file format for ebook publishing. I know that kindle is the automatic go-to ereader in the US, but in the rest of the world, it isn’t the same. You can get the same range of content (wider, if you include library content) without being forever tied to Amazon if you go with an epub ereader. Sorry, it is kind of an issue for me.


  10. Just coming in to second the Mysterious Benedict Society and The Westing Game. Also, about Kindles, my 10 year old got one 6 months ago and was initially very excited about it. We talked about recently and she said that she doesn’t like to read books on the Kindle because it “changes” the book in her head (for what it’s worth). She prefers paper books.


  11. For what it’s worth, our local library can lend ebooks in ePub or MOBI (ie Kindle) format. Free books are generally available in both formats and are easily converted from one to the other if they are not.
    (Not a Kindle owner, but I’ve been using the free Kindle app on my Android phone for about five years now with great success.)


  12. Yes I know you can covert epub to mobi using Calibre if the files are not encrypted, but for encrypted files conversion becomes a bit more complicated.
    Really my main issue is that I don’t believe in being tied to a single supplier of ebooks, which is what Kindle attempts to do by using a proprietary file format.
    Anyway, I don’t want to highjack this blog with the issue, but I just thought it was important to bring up the idea that there is another viable option out there other than Kindle and Amazon. That’s all. 🙂


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