Books for boys can be hard to choose. In my house of boys, I have good readers skill-wise, but they don’t actually enjoy reading or choose it as an activity. I’m always looking for books that will catch their attention and let them think positively about reading — like an adventure awaiting them when they open the cover and dive in.
Enter Dave McGrail. Back in my days of velcro sneakers and recess, I knew him as a nice, smart, freckled boy with a bright smile. He was full of bright ideas, too, and is now sharing them with us as he launches his second book for tweens. Knowing I have a M.O.B. house here, he sent me an advanced read of Surviving Middle School: An Interactive Story for Boys (yeah, that’s right, I know important people, and he made me feel cool). Could this be a book that would actually catch my kids’ attention?
At ages 9, 7 and 4, my boys aren’t quite ready for this book yet, but in just a few years, my eldest can jump into this adventure. I jumped in, and I couldn’t stop reading:
- because Dave’s writing is light and conversational, not preachy or serious, and it was fun to see how the story unfolded
- because — since it’s a “choose your next move” sort of book — you can read it multiple times and make different choices and have a completely different adventure
- because it’s so relatable! For me, as a M.O.B., I laughed out loud at some parts and cringed at others (imagining my boys in a fight on the playground, or doing anything dangerous, really!), and for middle school boys, it’s an authentic experience.
That’s how I’d describe it, but Dave does an even better job, of course. He is excited to subtly teach values that are important to him —empathy, tolerance, and inclusivity, in a way that each reader can relate to his own life. Even the cover illustration, by Joaquin Jutt, is intended so that “any boy who picks it up will hopefully see himself in the red hoodie,” Dave explains.
What else makes this book so rich? It is built off of many of Dave’s own experiences as a middle-school boy. Bottle rockets, flirting with girls, firecrackers . . . I enjoyed some “off the record” stories and names from our past as Dave told me how authentic parts of the book truly are!
We all know kids can be glued to Snapchat, Instagram, video games . . . and Dave knows it, too. In his mind, if we can find a book that tweens will gladly read instead of spending countless hours on social media, that’s a win for parents and tweens alike. As Dave describes it, this book “addresses some serious issues such as internet porn, the treatment of girls/women, and the sharing of inappropriate pictures,” but is balanced by the lighter-side of middle school, like school dance drama. And while our sons read Surviving Middle School: An Interactive Story for Boys, Dave has a recommendation for M.O.B.s, as well: Rosalind Wiseman’s Masterminds and Wingmen: Helping Our Boys Cope with Schoolyard Power, Locker-Room Tests, Girlfriends, and the New Rules of Boy World.
Looking for other book suggestions for boys? In my M.O.B. experience, here are some of my boys’ and my favorites for elementary school reading (that’s as far as we’ve gotten!):
- The I Survived series, by Lauren Tarshis
- National Geographic’s Weird but True books
- Katherine Applegate & Brian Briggs’ Roscoe Riley series
What books for boys do you recommend for elementary school and middle school?
Got girls? Dave also wrote Surviving Middle School: An Interactive Story for Girls!