a few boy-tested, boy-approved books

On Fridays, I meet with a group of boys, ages 12-15.  We have a book club discussion, and then they rumble out the door to play hockey or football or basketball or whatever the current weather permits!

For those of you looking for books appealing to older boys, here are some boy-tested titles we’ve read so far this school year:

The Ides of April, by Mary Ray — A murder mystery set in Ancient Rome, this is quite different in tone from the more well-known Detectives in Togas book.  It is more authentically historical and foregoes the juvenile humor.  The plotline follows the murder of a senator and the subsequent arrest of the entire household of slaves, who will all be killed unless the true murderer can be discovered.  Takes place in 62 AD during the reign of Nero.  The boys had to wrestle a bit with the profusion of Latin names, but engaged nicely with the well-crafted characters.



Canoeing with the Cree, by Eric Sevareid — Eric Sevareid earned his fame as a long-time CBS news journalist and intrepid war correspondent.  He got his start in journalism amidst quite an adventure:  he and a pal decided to canoe from Minneapolis to Hudson Bay, and the Minneapolis Star newspaper helped the boys financially in exchange for a number of field reports from Sevareid along the journey. This book is Sevareid’s account of their trek, accomplished with 1930s equipment and a depression-era budget, precious little experience, but a mountain of perseverance and the assistance of various people encountered along the dangerous journey, including some Cree Indians.  Fascinating story, written for adults but very accessible to middle-graders and up.

A Single Shard, by Linda Sue Park — A Newbery Medal winner.  Historical fiction from medieval Korea.  I’ve written a full review of it here.  My group really loved this book, and I continue to hear of others who feel the same way.  The characters are very engaging and the growth experienced by the characters in the course of the novel was compelling for the boys.   I think this is one of the best books published in the past decade.




The Call of the Wild, by Jack London — One of my favorite books as a child, the boys loved this story as well.  London traces the story of Buck, a glorious dog, from his comfortable, sun-soaked California life, to the strenuous life of a sled-dog during the days of the Klondike gold rush.  Not only a look at the step-by-step process of Buck’s wild nature returning to him, but an insightful view of the varied characters of the men (and woman) Buck is owned by along the way. 



We are just now beginning to read Rifles for Watie, by Harold Keith, another Newbery Medal winner which takes place in Kansas and Oklahoma during the Civil War.  Very gritty war scenes and an unforgettable character…plus a tish of romance…I think they will enjoy this one, too.

Here are Amazon links for these titles:
The Ides of April (Ray, Mary, Roman Empire Sequence.)
Canoeing with the Cree
A Single Shard
The Call of the Wild (Puffin Classics)
Rifles for Watie