Book Series for Middle Grade Boys
Get your tween / teen boy to read -- and read, and read, and read! With these fab books ...
Boys are notoriously reading-resistant, especially inscrutable middle school boys, who are busy figuring out who there are, how they fit in, whether that annoying spot on their cheek is bigger today than yesterday...
But boys do read, even in the middle grades. (Trust me; I've got 3 now-teen sons but remember those years well.) And pointing them to an enticing book series can make all the difference in time spent between the pages. Some of these boy-friendly books are even exciting enough to compete with videogames! Well, almost. Check out these books my boys have devoured, raved about, fought over....
(boy-friendly bookplate: kkg via zazzle)
The Hatchet Series by Gary Paulsen - Classic survival tales are real kid-lit
A true classic, Gary Paulsen's Hatchet plunges boys into the survival experience of 13-year-old Brian Robeson, who must crash-land a small plane when its pilot dies suddenly of a heart attack. Brian's emotions (especially raw when it comes to his recently divorced parents) run the gamut as he makes life-or-death decisions each day he spends alone in the Canadian wilderness. A must.
The Alex Rider Series by Anthony Horowitz - Suspenseful spy stuff in spades
All heck breaks loose, in the best possible way, for boy readers when 14-year-old Alex Rider learns his late uncle was a spy whose death was no accident. This series is heaven for the spy enthusiast...action packed, twisty-plotted, and full of cool gadgets & gimmicks, like James Bond movies in book form. Hard to resist.
The Percy Jackson & the Olympians Series by Rick Riordan - A fantasy-adventure series of mythical proportions
Middle school is rough for Percy Jackson, who is impulsive, distractible & at times hot-tempered. All of which just makes him more likeable in this fast-paced series spiced up with modernized Greek myths. After all, Percy's just your standard ADHD kid with Poseidon for a dad. Who couldn't relate? ;) I don't know how much mythology my sons actually learned from this series -- although one of the 6th grade teachers assigned The Lightning Thief as part of her ancient Greece unit -- but I do know I practically went broke buying them each book as it came out. They just couldn't wait.
The Hunger Games Series by Suzanne Collins - Edge-of-your seat stories can compete with videogames
Full disclosure: The protagonist this time is a girl. But The Hunger Games pairs her (or pits her against, or some of each if you must know -- it's complicated!) with a male peer in this gripping dystopian survival story that riffs on reality TV, urban inequalities, gender politics, and much more in a really, really tween / teen friendly way. Be warned: Best for ages 12+ due to violence & gore that doesn't let up.
The Underland Chronicles Series by Suzanne Collins - More topnotch reads from the Hunger Games scribe
I just picked up book one of this series for my boys, after waiting patiently for it to show up in the library. Perfect for Hunger Games fans, this bestselling series focuses on 11-year-old Gregor, who follows his little sis down a laundry grate into a stunning alternative world. "The warmth of the L'Engle books plus the richness of Tolkien," says one reviewer. Wow!
The City of Ember Series by Jeanne DuPrau - Exciting and eerily atmospheric
Like Hunger Games, City of Ember is a dystopian-future series that pulls readers in with a strong female protagonist, but pairs her with an equally compelling male peer. What happens when the electricity (and other mainstays) threaten to run out in Ember, a mysterious city of perpetual night that's home to 12-year-olds Lina Mayfleet & Doon Harrow? Bravery & problem solving take center stage as the tweens puzzle their way out.
The Diary of a Wimpy Kid Series by Jeff Kinney - Comic relief no boy can resist
And now for something completely different! Tween boys still love silly stuff, though they might be too cool to admit it, and the Wimpy Kid series offers boatloads of laughs, intermixed with sneakily insightful pubescent-boy slices-of-life from diarist Greg Heffley, who chronicles his middle school life in wry written entries & hilarious comics. Greg's no hero -- especially in his treatment of nerdy but loyal pal Rowley -- but then again, he doesn't claim to be.
Maze Runner by James Dashner - Dark, twisting adventure
"You have to read Maze Runner," a pal told my older son, and this dark adventure tale -- wherein a pack of teen boys is forced to subsist on their own & struggle their way out of a giant maze -- didn't disappoint. The book even inspired my son to start drawing "3D" mazes for fun. He's loving the second book and can't wait for the third. Best for 12+, due to violence at the hands of evil adult characters.
(psst -- can't get enough of this series? Check out The Kill Order, a Maze Runner prequel published in August 2012)
The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling - Wildly popular modern classics
For reasons beyond my comprehension, my boys have all resisted this series. BUT my nephews have devoured the Harry Potter books, as have many other boys in our ourbit.. Grownups, too. The fact that there's a high-quality movie franchise to back up the books is a major plus. (Ever used the "We'll watch the movie as soon as you finish the book" trick? Great motivator.)
The Great Brain Series by John D. Fitzgerald - Young con artist's exploits enliven semi-autobiographical stories
My brothers and I adored the Great Brain books as middle graders, so I chose them as read-alouds with my sons -- and was pleased to find they've held up great. Don't be put off by the setting (late 19th C Utah) or the fact that the "Great Brain" character -- hero J.D.'s big brother -- is an incorrigible would-be con man. These stories are a great ride, as engaging today as (cough) 30 years ago when I enjoyed them.
The follow-ups are titled More Adventures of the Great Brain (book 2) and Me and My Little Brain (book 3).
Under A War-Torn Sky / A Troubled Peace by L.M. Elliott - Gripping historical fiction for WWII buffs
One of my twin 12-year-olds has been in a historical fiction phase for about a year now, which is awesome. (History is so much easier to learn, and retain, when you've seen it through the eyes of well-crafted kid characters.) He gobbled up these books about a young World War II fighter pilot who is shot down and must find his way through Nazi-occupied Europe. How cool that the author was inspired by stories her father told -- and that she leverages boys' interest in war without glorifying or glamorizing the topic. We only wish this two-book series was longer.
Desert island pick?
Imagine a 11, 12, 13 year old boy like one of these intrepid fictional characters, stuck on a desert island. But with plenty of food and clean drinking water, of course, and a rescue plane on its way. While he waits, he needs some good reading.
Which book series should he have?
get your books back
Share your books with friends, take them to school, drag 'em on boring errands with the family .... but make sure they find their way back to you with these sports themed personalized bookplates featuring boys' artwork. Bonus: half the design proceeds go to Save the Children.
Are you a librarian, a teacher, a parent / aunt / uncle / grandparent to boys, or an actual middle-grade boy? Or a grown guy with fave books to recommend? Please share your top book series picks here! I'd love ideas not just for this lens but for my 3 young readers. Much obliged!