I have an avid reader. He is also a reluctant reader. How can he be both? This is how my son gets into a book:

“Son, what are you reading right now?”


“Why don’t you try….”

A. The 39 Clues

B. How To Train Your Dragon

C. The Mysterious Benedict Society

D. Etc.

“No, thank you.”

“No, really. Pick one.”

Whereupon, he will. And he will do nothing else until he finishes the book. Including sleep.

So for all those other parents trying to guide their newly independent readers into interesting territory, here’s what has captivated my son’s attention lately:

The 39 Clues Series

day of doomBy Rick Riordan, David Baldacci, and many others

His favorite book is “Day of Doom, Cahills versus Vespers Book 6.” He has read a total of “16- no, 17” books in this series so far. And, “that’s all there is at the moment.” How would you describe the series? “Nothing is better.” What is it about? “Amy and Dan trying to save the world from the Vespers.” Could you use some adjectives? “Awesome.”

I have not read this. But having heard my son talk about it, there are some mature characters and plot complications. My son knows about credit cards because of these books. And car rentals. But he loves this series above all else, so it’s hard to argue with something that keeps his interest this long.

I did some fact-checking, as you might when interviewing an eight-year old. There are indeed 17 books between the original (11) and Cahills vs. Vespers (6) series. But book one of the Unstoppable series came out in October 2013, and more are planned.

Although I generally believe books are for reading, I admit to letting him explore the website. The games are pretty cool. He kind of learned how to pick locks.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid

diary wimpy kid

By Jeff Kinney

What can you tell me about this series? “It’s petty good. Not as good as 39 clues. It’s basically just a journal of Greg Heffley’s life.”

Do you like it? “Yeah. But not as much as the 39 clues.”

What’s good about it? “It’s just really funny.”

I read this also, and while I agree it is funny, and captivating, it reads more like a series of comic scenes than a novel. Kids might laugh, yet miss some of the more sarcastic humor at the same time, much of which relies on pranks and generally treating other people badly. I had to have the following conversation with my son as a result of this series:

“You know I don’t want you to be like any of the people in this book, ever, right?”

“Yes, Mama.”

Which did not stop him from devouring the first four books. In a week. There are seven books in the series so far, plus a do-it-yourself book and a movie diary. Interestingly, because of this book my son has shown interest in keeping a diary himself. We’ll see how that works out, once he realizes his doesn’t come with cartoons.

The Mysterious Benedict Society

mysterious benedict society

By Trenton Lee Stewart

“MBS. Yeah.” And? How do you like this book? “Good.” What’s it about? “That is a really hard question.” Try. Put down Minecraft. “The four friends are trying to save the world from Ledroptha Curtain.”

Much longer than the average middle grade novel, but full of fun puzzles, and yes, a somewhat complicated and not easily summarized plot. Extremely well-written, and age-appropriate, despite its complexity and length. It inspired my son to learn Morse Code. He is working his way through the sequel, “The Perilous Journey,” and enjoying it just as much.

There are a total of four books in the series, including the recently released prequel. I’m going to show my son the website–the games and puzzles looked as fun and challenging as the ones in the book.

How to Train Your Dragon

how to train your dragon

By Cressida Cowell

Is it funny? “Yes, very funny.” Which is better, the book or the movie? “Movie.”

A fun fantasy, relying heavily on bodily function humor. For those hoping the book will be as magical as the movie, be prepared for a very different voice and plot. I admit, I only read the first few chapters. They were cute. And my son enjoyed the book, even after seeing the movie first. However, he required more prompting than usual to actually finish the book, and so far shows no interest in the sequels. Of which there are many. At least ten.

Last but not least…

“I forgot to ask you about your favorite book. What about Timber Howligan?”

“Good. I mean, great.”

‘Atta boy. He read an early draft, stayed up late to finish it, and laughed at all the right places. My book is currently undergoing professional edits and with any luck (and a lot more hard work) will be available to readers…eventually!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s