Monday, December 10, 2007

Of Books and Boys

I had already started writing this blog when I surfed over to check out Castle Debacle and found THIS post by Pete, which made me laugh. I was thinking of the very same topic, although it wasn't a phone conversation with Lori that prompted this post, but rather the To Be Read teetering alarmingly on my nightstand. I've let myself become too busy to read. How did this happen?

As a child, I spent entire weekends reading. I devoured books eagerly until college. I still read, but not at the same pace. Law school completely stalled my reading. I barely kept up with the workload, much less found time to read for pleasure. I stopped writing as well. Before law school, I was a published poet, but law school squashed the poetry from me. All things that were "Not Law School" passed me by.

After school came work, but reading -- and later writing -- gradually returned to my life. Until lately that is. So this last weekend, I did something for myself as a writer. I put away the notebooks and pens and went offline.

I gave myself permission to read.

And it was lovely.

I curled up on the couch with two warm fuzzy cats and a sufficient supply of chocolate and tea. A space fantasy called my name, so I picked it up and read it until I was completely absorbed into the world of Art and Myrtle Mumby. It was like being a kid again.

And then another though occurred to me. Why is it that so many boys stop reading in the 9-13 year old category? Boys are wired differently than girls. I know this to be the case. Not all boys stop reading, of course, but enough do. Why? An obsession with sports? A lack of books that interest them? It isn't cool? The lure of the electronic game?

I don't pretend to have the answers. As a mother of boys, I do everything possible to keep them reading. Here are a few of my favorite new Middle Grade series for boys.

1. Larklight: A Rousing Tale of Dauntless Pluck in the Farthest Reaches of Space. By Phillip Reve and David Wyatt. This is the space fantasy I was reading. Did I mention it was a space fantasy set in Victorian England? It's great fun and the illustrations are wonderful. There is a sequel out now, but this is the first in what promises to be a fun new series.

2. Percy and the Olympians: The Lightening Thief, Sea of Monsters, Curse of the Titans and a fourth book is due in May 2008 from Rick Riordan. Follow the trials and tribulations of Perseus Jackson, a seemingly normal boy with an unpleasant life who discovers that he just might be the son of a Greek god. These are exciting, edge of your seat, adventures. My husband loves this series as much as my sons.

3. Ranger's Apprentice: The Ruins of Gorlan, The Burning Bridge, The Icebound Land, The Battle for Skandia, by John Flanagan. A more traditional type fantasy, but what sets these apart are the action sequences. Flanagan is an experienced screenwriter in Australia and a martial artist. It shows in his spectacular fight scenes and knowlege of battle.

Someday, I hope to see my own War of the Crickets listed alongside as a classic adventure that is markedly "boy-friendly."

I'm curious to know what books you would recommend for boys at an MG level.


wordsmith said...

I so resemble your post. I used to devour books as a child, in high school, in college and in the work years between college and grad school. But I "lost" reading when in grad school unless it was directly related to my studies, and that's just not the same thing now, is it? So far, my son (almost 22 mos.) seems to have a passion for books...loves stories, in fact, tonight he insisted on having a particular one read in addition to our usual betime story repetoir, and I love it. I hope that he gets bitten by the reading bug and hard and that it's penetrating venom sticks with him even through the future days and distractions (from reading) of video games, sports and girls. (Can venom be a good thing?--In this case, I think it is.)

Thursday said...

Robert Heinlein actually wrote a bunch of books targeted at middle school / high school children (which I still adore, long after passing that age). They're all science fiction adventures, and a great starting point is "The Rolling Stones."

Lori said...

I'm like you, Wordsmith. I actually read all the time, but only books related to my studies anymore. (I'm the Lori that had the conversation with Pete, btw.) It's not the same thing at all. This summer, I stopped and read the last two books of the Harry Potter series. It was glorious. What I noticed, too, was there was an almost automatic increase in my creativity. I felt recharged and energized. But, alas, then I returned to school. I'm nearly finished with this semester, though, and there's a ton of books on my bookshelf beckoning me to read them. Not analyze them. Not study them. Not critique them. Not review them. Just read them. I'm definitely going to give in to the siren call.

DementedM said...

I so resemble your post too. I used to check out 10 books on Friday and read them over the weekend. I also had pretty severe asthma that limited my ability to do anything so reading really was my escape.

You are totally right about boys not reading. My Dad reads a ton, but my three brothers don't despite our efforts to encourage them. My husband is not a reader, but I have managed to stuff some Clive Cussler in him.

And I hear you on law school. My mom just finished and has been bugging me to go. Oh heck no. All she did was complain about how it took over her life. Not exactly an endorsement.


Melanie Avila said...

While I never stopped reading, my writing took a hiatus as I finished college and stepped into the real world. Ten years after graduation, I'm finding I have a lot to say. :)

As for boys' reading, I know Harry Potter (I know) sucked my now-19-year old nephew back into reading. No word yet on the 12-year old.

AnnieColleen said...

Not MG, but I just discovered Heinlein's Double Star -- bought as a Christmas present for my brother (15yo), but I had to preview it for him, right? ;) And, ditto your post -- wow, that felt good. And I have another for a different brother I still have to preview. :D

Second the recommendation for the Heinlein adventure stories.

Mary B said...

I will definitely add the Heinlen books to my TBR (if it doesn't topple over on me.

Arachne Jericho said...

If you end up liking the Heinlein books, you might want to try Scott Westerfield as well. A referral from John Scalzi is here.

Ella said...

As a mother of three boys I have found the only way I was able to get my sons to read was when they were punished. My middle son did poorly in high school one year, and so there was no TV and no Playstation. All he could do was read. To my delight he read a few Anne Rice novels, Stephen King and a few other novels. Unfortunately it didn't stick and once the punishment phase was through, so was his reading. But for that time he did read and admitted to enjoying it. I don't know why none of my kids inherited my love of books.

Elrena said...

My husband says he pretty much stopped reading when he became far more interested in nonfiction (which I've heard often happens with boys) and there just wasn't enough interesting nonfiction in his school and/or library. I can't even imagine -- I grew up with my nose forever in a book!

Laurie (quidscribis) said...

Happily, I grew up in a reading family (started reading science fiction & fantasy by the time I was 7 or 8 thanks to that particular selection of books in the house), and even more happily, I married into a reading family. The husband and I tend to read for 30 minutes to an hour every night before bed. Even more happily, the husband is as much into science fiction & fantasy as I am. :D