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Recommendations for an 11 year old

I have been absent without leave for some months now, but, nevertheless, I know that this is the place to come when I need help. My oldest grandson is 11, in year 7 at the local secondary school, and his mum and dad have just had their first parents' evening at his new school. They were told, among much else, that he is a confident reader, with a reading age of 14+, but that he likes to read within his comfort zone, and resists more challenging reading. Now, as a retired librarian, I feel that I ought to be able to assist here, at the very least by providing a carefully chosen Christmas book or two. Unfortunately, I never specialised in work with children and only had daughters myself, so I feel at a bit of a loss when it comes to books for boys.

Does anyone have any suggestions? He is a fairly typical 11-year old, goes to Scouts and tennis club, plays Minecraft and Pokemon, hangs out with his friends, etc, etc. Would he be ready for the classic boys' stories? I have several of my dad's old adventure stories, "The Last of the Mohicans" and suchlike, which I would happily hand down to him, but not until he is ready to appreciate them. Who are the more modern authors that work with this age group? I would be really grateful for suggestions that might help him to move on to the next level and allow him to become a dedicated reader for life.

I would recommend the John Marsden series Tomorrow When the World Began. He is an Australian writer but my non-reading son really enjoyed him at a similar age.  It might come under 'comfort reads' though.  Not that I think there is anything much wrong with that at his age.  The trouble with getting them to read more challenging stuff is that it could turn them off forever, or at least for a long time.  

I think at the moment there are quite a number of World War I stories around that he might enjoy.  Our NZ Listener this week had 20 Best Books for Kids and one that sounded suitable was When Friendship Followed Me Home by Paul Griffin, "a gem of a book about a boy whose resilient spirit triumphs over everything life tosses his way.  An abandoned mutt, a love of books and the friendship of an oddball girl all contribute."

Wind in the Willows? Non-fiction?  Biographies of people involved in whatever he enjoys?

But I wouldn't worry too much.  I didn't really like challenging reads at that age (and till I was considerably older) but I managed to read widely at university and still do now.

Thanks, Caro. I will investigate the Paul Griffin title - I can see several elements there that might appeal to him. It would be nice to find something a little offbeat, which might tempt him away from the Roald Dahl/David Walliams range that he is familiar with. As you say, the danger is, if they don't enjoy the books that are offered as the next stage, all too often, they just give up reading.

My son is just coming up for 10, but he has very narrow interests, so most of his reading centres around football (luckily there are some very good football-themed books around, e.g. those by Tom Palmer or Dan Freedman).

I would have thought Anthony Horowitz would be a good bet, or any of the war-themed Michael Morpurgo books aimed at the slightly older end of his readership (Billy the Kid might be worth looking at).

If you want to go more classic, then Huckleberry Finn, perhaps?

If his reading age is 14, he might be ready for something like Leon Garfield's Smith.

Thanks, Mike. Billy the Kid would be perfect, as he  (my grandson) is called Billy! I will check with his Mum which, if any, of your suggestions he may have already read. I fear Huck Finn might be pushing it a bit, on grounds of length, if nothing else. Maybe I could leave my copy around when he is visiting - if the broadband fails, he might put down the iPad and give it a try!

I have put Huckleberry Finn high up on our list of bookclub books for next year!  Mind you I have had it on my list for years now and it hasn't come, and I can't imagine that that means that lots of groups are requesting it.  I might have to give them a hurry along.  

I didn't really enjoy Tom Sawyer as much as I expected.  But it might be a good start for your grandson, Chris.
Joe McWilliams

I have no idea what would be suitable or acceptable to the kid of today. My efforts to interest our kids in books mostly failed. From my own very rich childhood experience with books it is difficult to remember now what I read and what was read to me. Certainly lot of the latter would have been beyond my reach at the time - including the above-mentioned Mark Twain items. David Copperfield, Moby Dick, Kidnapped, Jane Eyre  - I must have had all those before the age of 12. Couldn't read anything like that to my kids, for some reason. They couldn't sit still. Times were different, I suppose. Or my mother was just that good.

Treasure Island was a great one for a boy, as I recall. I loved Ivanhoe as well, but when I tried to read it to my daughter it flopped.

Harry Potter I found insipid. I'm not being very helpful.

Helpful or not, you do reflect my own views here, Joe. I had no success with my granddaughters, who are now 13 and 15, but hope to do better with their cousin. I think when I,  at least, was a child, there were fewer distractions, so it was easier to get to grips with longer and more complex books. I would feel more confident with the girls, if they were at all interested, but my lack of experience of boys and their reading tastes is a real barrier. So thanks for the sympathy!

A good collection of Greek myths by - Rex Warner for example is essential..
A child's library should contain volumes of myths and legends from a variety of sources - from Chinese to African to Indian to English to Japanese.....there's an endless supply.  These stories are part of a child's baggage for life.............I first read Orpheus & Eurydice when I was about eight.

I was about eleven when I read The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, it occurs to me. That made a big impression. Also The Catcher in the Rye, but perhaps that should wait a few years.
Joe McWilliams

Oh gosh, that reminds me (thanks Mike) of an illustrated Iliad & Odyssey that had a great impact on little Joey. Great stuff, and the illustrations were all in ancient Greek style

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