Exciting and Elementary

The editing deadline for Marvel Heroic Roleplaying is this week and the holidays are coming at me with frightening speed. I’m compiling a list of topics I want to write about when I have the time and available brain waves, and I promise that one of those will be the list of books people suggested based on last week’s post (I want to pursue a few more sources for ideas and then take some time to explore some of the suggestions).

In the meantime, I hate to leave my 9 year old boy out of this wonderful rush of book suggestions, so let’s try to compile a list for him this week. He’s been a little slower to come around to reading on his own, although he loves stories and likes being read to. He’s a capable reader when something grabs his attention, but he’s all too willing to give up after 2 pages if a book hasn’t grabbed him. He’s also picky, and it’s hard to know what he’ll like—I fail more often than I succeed in choosing books for him.

He most definitely doesn’t like to be scared—we stopped reading the Harry Potter series to him after Order of the Phoenix, which proved to be a bit too intense. He’s been devouring the Warriors series by Erin Hunter, although I hear those get a lot scarier after the first set of 6, which he’s just finished. We’ll see how that goes.

He appreciates a sense of humor in his books. He enjoys Geronimo Stilton and the Pokemon graphic novels, but he can read them in an hour and I think he needs something more challenging than that—plus that’s a pace I can’t keep adequately supplied.

I’m also not exaggerating in the slightest when I say a book gets 2 pages to draw him in—I’ve seen him toss a book aside in frustration if he doesn’t get it immediately. (Those usually end up on the “We’ll read those together at some point” pile.)

His interests are diverse—I think his preferences are less about topic and more about how engaging the book is right off the bat. I know there are a lot of fantastic books out there that require a little investment from the reader—he’ll get to those eventually. But for now, does anyone have suggestions of books for a 9 year old boy (4th grade) that aren’t too scary and that are awesome quite literally from page 1?

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8 Responses to Exciting and Elementary

  1. My first thought was Jack London, which is great fourth-grade stuff, but even White Fang takes a dozen pages to get going. I think the “two pages or GTFO” thing is going to be hard to surmount from the literature end. I’d suggest gently managing his instant gratification expectations a little.

    • ayvalentine says:

      I’m hoping age and being exposed to more stuff will help him develop some patience. In the meantime, he has a lot more patience when we read together, and he’s good reading books on his own that we’ve already read together since he knows what’s going on and that exciting stuff is coming. It’s just the stuff he’s reading totally on his own that’s hard to manage, and so far that stuff needs to be immediately exciting.

      I need to set aside more time to read out loud to them – it’s all too easy to let that slide once kids are independent readers, but they can get more out of challenging reads if we do it together, plus it’s fun to share books with them.

  2. Hardy Boys. Here’s the opening sentence from The Tower Treasure:

    Frank and Joe Hardy clutched the grips of their motorcycles and stared in horror at the oncoming car.

    • ayvalentine says:

      That’s certainly a good start!

      I’ve been wondering if the Hardy Boys are as dated as Nancy Drew…anyone read one recently? I liked them when I was a kid, but you become a parent and stuff that was good enough for you isn’t good enough for your kids! 🙂

      • The original books have been revised to update some of the language and avoid racial stereotypes. (Doesn’t bother me in this instance, but YMMV.) There is also a totally updated version of the series, with the unfortunate title of “Undercover Brothers”. I think it’s more of a espionage bent, but I don’t really know much about it.

        • ayvalentine says:

          That’s good to know – so these aren’t ones you necessarily want to pick up at garage sales. If we’re reading things together, it’s easier to deal with sexist and racist stuff because we can talk about it. I’m more critical about their independent reading.

  3. Matthew Becker says:

    One of my favorite young adult books was the Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer (link). It’s about a young criminal mastermind that discovers a secret supernatural world – reminds me a bit of The Dresden Files actually.

    • ayvalentine says:

      We might even have that book – I read it years ago, before the kids were ready for it. The boy might find that really funny. And anything that gets them ready to enjoy the Dresden Files… 🙂

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