Tye Cattanach is the Library Coordinator at Manor Lakes P-12 Specialist College. Here she shares some of the books in her library that are engaging boys. Visit Tye’s blog, The Book Gryffin.
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Worth commenting on of late and certainly impressive are the amount of titles being published for Middle Years and Young Adult readers that have a high engagement level, or ‘hook factor’. Not just for boys, but a growing number of girls who prefer to read dystopian fiction rather than paranormal romance or urban fantasy.
I am often asked what books I would recommend for boys (it is worth pointing out at this stage that I am talking for the most part, about boys who enjoy reading, though these titles would work equally well with reluctant boys).
The following titles are wonderful novels to direct those boys and girls toward.
A dystopian YA novel set in futuristic Sydney, I have been using this novel recently with my Friday Morning Year 8 Book Club with great success. Fast paced, engaging and featuring courageous characters, Days Like This is an enjoyable and accessible read for many students. The themes explored in the novel are topical and timely, and lend themselves fluidly to class novel study exploration without ‘preaching’ or having students feel as though they are being ‘spoken down to’. The characters of Days Like This will, in fact, make teen readers feel empowered and encourage them to explore further those issues that largely affect the world they will come to control. Days Like This has been extremely well received by a wide readership in my library.
Pittacus Lore is known to many of us as the disgraced author of Million Little Pieces, but to my students he is a celebrated and imaginative YA novelist. I Am Number Four and its newly released sequel, The Power Of Six, has caused a great deal of controversy in our library to date, largely owing to students competing to reserve a copy. I Am Number Four has single handily been responsible for engaging and hooking one of my most reluctant male year 8 students, to the point whereby, when he was presented with an ARC of The Power Of Six, he promptly squealed, jumped from his seat to hug me and then jealously guarded his newly acquired prize from all who might enquire to examine it. A dystopian/science fiction series ‘with a twist’, I Am Number Four is now also a successful movie with an impressive cast.
I stated quite firmly in my review of The Comet Box that I believed that his novel was secretly a time machine. I still believe that, so effortlessly does Adrian Stirling transport the reader to the 1980’s. I worried at first that the choice of time setting may deter my readers, however, it seems to have the opposite effect. I have to wonder now if this is because The Comet Box is such a deft illustration that teen issues have not changed, despite the yawning expanse of time. The characters and themes explored in The Comet Box are so accessible and so familiar to my students that one commented recently it felt like he had read his own life story, without the technology. The Comet Box has facilitated some lively discussion and debate amongst my students and all returning readers have enthused over their enjoyment of this novel.
The perfect comic combination, Oliver writes kids and their trials and tribulations beautifully. His use of every day situations and light humour ensure that every reader who picks up his novels finds something to relate to, whether dealing with culturally challenged parents or not. I take enormous pleasure in witnessing my students laughing out loud in the library while reading these books, and invariably leaning over to share with a friend a paragraph, joke or illustration. Both novels appeal to readers on several levels. There is the surface humour and the pranks they may not have thought of themselves, yet the underlying ‘seriousness’ of the characters life situations do not escape them. Both novels are equally popular and I highly recommend them to accomplished middle grade students.
Dunkirk: Duty Calls – James Holland
I get a great many requests for ‘war books’ and I find as most students start to explore themes of war and history in the classroom. Sadly, there are too few books suitable to pass on to them once they have read Once and Then (Morris Gleitzman) and various other titles available to them, even fewer are written from a YA protagonist point of view. Duty Calls has been a hit particularly with my older boys in year 8 and 9. They are able to relate easily to the protagonist, Johnny and through his voice reach a deeper level of empathy and comprehension of the horrors that were routinely suffered by boys not that much older than they are. Duty Calls is a thought provoking and sobering read that has been well received in our library, word of mouth often bringing borrowers to reserve this title.
We are so blessed as readers in Australia. We have a great many talented authors right here on our own shores and the books coming out at the moment are truly exciting!! This is only a very small list, but these are the ones that have the boys in my library excited right now.