Saturday, May 15, 2010

Becoming an Expert on Literature for Boys

My son and I have read all but 2 of the books in the Redwall series this year and were starting to become anxious over the next books we would read.  I was anxious.  There is so much children's literature that is inappropriate that it can be daunting to choose books you have yet to read.  I don't trust  many 'experts' in this field.  Teachers choose terribly boring literature because it has the right spelling words.  Publishers choose what sells.  As a girl I read all of the time, but the books I read would not appeal to an active boy.  On the recommendation of Raymond Arroyo, I purchased 3 novels by Frank Cottrell Boyce:  Millions, Framed, and Cosmic.  We've read 2, Framed and Cosmic.

These books are definitely boy friendly.  As I write, my son is on a computer next to me playing World of Warcraft, which is mentioned repeatedly in Cosmic.  He has exactly ten days of free play to get it out of his system.

Boyce's books have a lovely quality.  They explore family relationships, especially fatherhood, in ways that are designed to touch a boy's soul.  These are good thoughtful boys that he has created.  Not wimpy, girly boys, or sport-heads, or idiots, or girl-chasers, or introverted computer geeks.  These boys love their parents, try to succeed in school, and care about their sisters and baby brothers, or their friends, in ways that I want my son to emulate. 

In contrast, we read some of the 39 Clues books.  In these books there was little to praise in the behavior of the main characters.  The family is cut-throat competitors who will leave each other to die for the sake of winning.  Yuck.

Redwall is still my favorite however.  Only the vermin are evil.  The world created is so complete and appealing, that my son now wants to start his own abbey.   He has decided who will have the main jobs among his friends and family.  He uses his legos to design buildings and facilities necessary  for the abbey.  Redwall has been the place where we have lived for the past few months.  I don't want to give it up.

Yesterday we started Nick of Time.  I have high hopes for this novel as well. 

We've read C.S. Lewis and will return to Narnia again soon.  I look forward to sharing my love of Tolkien with James, beyond the Father Christmas Letters.

What do I want from a book for my son?  Something that incorporates his worldview, which includes family friends, and faith; something that encourages him to think of virtuous behavior as normal; something that is not over simplified for his reading level; something that has some action; something that creates a world in which we want to live.

If anyone has suggestions or warnings, I'd love to hear what you think.
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