I’m a big fan of the Gannon & Wyatt series by Keith Hemstreet and Patti Wheeler. It’s pitch perfect for boys ages 8 and up who like realistic adventure books (as opposed to fantasy á la Harry Potter and Percy Jackson). What’s great about these adventures is that the reader learns about geography and environmental issues while being captivated by a fast paced plot. There are also images and photographs sprinkled throughout the book, making it reader-friendly.
I’m giving away 3 copies of the newest Gannon & Wyatt adventure set in Hawaii. Please see below.
Other adventures include:
As a child, I gravitated to stories about nature. Even better were books that combined high-stakes adventure and a spectacular environment — dogsledding in the Arctic, a voyage in the South Pacific, or a safari on the African savannah. Adventure stories such as The Call of the Wild, White Fang and Treasure Island were a few of the classics that I remember enjoying when I was young. As I got older, my interest in far-away places and exotic cultures led me to the local libraries where I studied maps and read the journals of famous explorers such as Lewis and Clark, Captain James Cook, and Sir Robert Falcon Scott. These journals are some of the greatest adventure tales ever told and inspired me to learn more about our fascinating and diverse world. Coauthor, Patti Wheeler, loved the books of James A. Michener—Alaska, Caribbean, Hawaii, to name a few. Together, it was these books along with our own travel experiences that inspired our middle-grade adventure series, Travels with Gannon & Wyatt.
Today I worry that we are becoming more and more detached from nature. Everywhere I go, I see young people hunched over, their eyes glued to a device, looking as if they are in a trance. Technology is wonderful for many things, but I believe we are enjoying it too much. In turn, we are spending less time outdoors. What we cannot forget is that time spent in nature is essential in making us well-balanced, compassionate and positive human beings. Nature feeds our soul. A walk in the woods, a stroll along the beach, an exploration of a nearby creek or river, even climbing a tree; these simple activities help us gain a deeper understanding of nature’s critical roll in our wellbeing and the health of the planet.
It is also important for young people to be introduced to cultures that are different from their own. Early introduction might encourage kids to grow up with greater empathy for all human beings. It all begins with the understanding that, in many ways, we are all very much the same. We may look different, dress differently, eat different foods, and speak different languages, but most of us have the same hopes and dreams—the desire to live in peace and with dignity, to enjoy lasting friendships, to be close to the ones we love.
The books I have listed below are those that I think will inspire children to explore the natural world. Some will also give readers a better understanding of what life was like in the past and expose them to different cultures, all of which are important things to be aware of if we hope to make the world a better place for future generations.
10. A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park
I just read this book last week and am recommending it to everyone I know, regardless of their age. This slim novel is an engaging read that traces the lives of a Sudanese boy and girl born more than two decades apart. Based on actual events, the main characters must survive an ongoing war and the daily struggle to find water. Despite the hardships and tragedies they endure, the book closes with a scene that will inspire readers to believe in the goodness of humanity. [chapter book, ages 10 and up]
9. My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George
This book made me want to escape my urban neighborhood and take up residence in the woods. I longed to become an expert hunter-gatherer, living completely off the land and enjoying the serenity one can only find in unspoiled nature. That’s exactly what the twelve-year old protagonist, Sam, does in My Side of the Mountain. Fed up with city life, Sam leaves for the Catskill Mountains, where he makes his home in a hollowed out tree. Though well read on wilderness survival, his primitive lifestyle is not without dangers and Sam has many close calls. Most of the book is written as a journal entry where Sam reflects on his experience while waiting out a blizzard. [chapter book, ages 8 and up]
8. Choose Your Own Adventure by Edward Packard and R.A. Montgomery
Told in the second person “you”, this series turns the reader into the main character. These books were always fun to me because my decisions dictated the outcome of the adventure. I admit, sometimes, if a decision I made resulted in my untimely death, well, then I went back to the previous passage and made a different choice so that I could continue the adventure. That was just part of the fun. Choose Your Own Adventure also takes readers around the world, exposing readers to wildlife, far-away cultures, and world history. Maybe that’s why the series, last I read, has sold more than 250,000,000 copies! [chapter book, ages 8 and up]
7. Old Yeller by Fred Gipson
When I was young, I was fascinated by life on the western frontier. You had to be strong and resilient to survive. And yet, there was something so appealing to the setting—remote ranches with minimalist log cabins and long, sweeping views over beautiful, unspoiled country. And the wildlife! During the period of western expansion, coyotes, bears and mountain lions roamed in large numbers. Living in this environment, it was wise to have a dog, not only for its companionship, but also as a protector. I don’t know that there is a more loyal or brave dog in literature than Old Yeller, a “dingy yellow” stray who comes to stay at the Coates ranch. Over time, the dog earns the respect and love of Travis, a young boy who has been left in charge of the household while his father is away on a cattle drive. This Newbery Honor book is a must read, especially for young boys with a love of dogs. [chapter book, ages 10 and up]
6. Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
Another Newbery Honor book, Hatchet opens with a riveting scene that leaves a young boy stranded in the Canadian wilderness. Author, Gary Paulsen, is a master of the survival genre and this is his most popular book, with sales approaching five million copies, last I looked. Paulsen’s terse prose makes for a real page-turner, emphasizing the dire circumstances faced by the boy and maintaining tension throughout. [chapter book, ages 11 and up]
5. Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
This is another great story about a boy and a dog, or in this case, dogs. Several middle graders have told me that Where the Red Fern Grows is their favorite book. A few dads who read this book with their sons agreed that it was their favorite, as well. I admit, I have only read parts of this book, but I can see why it has remained so popular since its publication in 1961. Set in Idaho’s Snake River Valley, we follow Billy, a boy who takes on odd jobs to save enough money to buy two Redbone Coonhounds. After making the purchase, he trains his hounds to hunt and a close bond develops between them. While Billy endures a tragedy, the story ends on an uplifting note that illustrates the different ways people cope with life and death. [chapter book, ages 8 and up]
4. Call it Courage by Armstrong Sperry
An epic adventure novel set in the remote South Pacific, Call it Courage is the story of a young Polynesian boy tormented by a terrible fear of the sea. In a culture that emphasizes courage, he is teased and called a coward. Determined to overcome his fear and prove his bravery to others, he sets out in a canoe and is lost in a storm. The young boy ends up on a deserted island and must figure out how to provide for himself, while surviving the dangers of the sea and a visiting tribe of cannibals. [Newbery winning chapter book, ages 12 and up]
3. Hoot by Carl Hiaasen
A humorous adventure novel about a boy who relocates with his family from Bozeman, Montana to South Florida, this book is really about the price of urban development in paradise. Hoot includes an amusing cast of characters, including a renegade eco-warrior, a school bully and a bumbling police officer, and makes readers think about the damage we often inflict on nature in the name of progress. [chapter book, ages 10 and up]
2. The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss
This book is about a family that is shipwrecked on an island in the East Indies. It was written by a Swiss pastor as a lesson to his own four sons on the importance of good family values and self-reliance. Over the course of the book, the family encounters an unbelievably diverse assortment of wildlife—hippos, wolves, walruses, moose, black bears, tigers and kangaroos, to name but a handful. While it is impossible that all of these animals could exist on a single island, this gimmick remains educational and makes for a fun and entertaining read. [chapter book classic, ages 9 and up]
1. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
One of the great literary thrills of my life was touring the Havana, Cuba estate of Ernest Hemingway. To envision this giant of American literature seated at the desk in his high office tower, working out a story on a writing pad, was a profound experience. The Old Man and the Sea, considered Hemingway’s masterpiece, is the story of a Cuban fisherman’s epic struggle with a giant marlin. I have read that this novella is appropriate for children ages 9 and up. Whether or not kids that young will relate to the book is debatable, but Hemingway’s simple prose does make the story accessible to younger readers. At some point, I think every boy should read a Hemingway novel or short story, and this is one his most beautifully written. Should you decide to shelf this book until later in life, check out The Good Lion, an amusing tale of a winged lion from Venice, and one of only two children’s books written by the Nobel Prize winner. (You can find collector’s editions online and the text is available in the public domain). [chapter book classic, ages 9 and up]
Lastly, a great source for boy readers that I want to mention is www.guysread.com. There you will find all kinds of book recommendations. From mystery to sports to non-fiction, guysread.com is an excellent source for books that boys will really enjoy.
Travels with Gannon & Wyatt 3 Book GIVEAWAY!
I’m giving away three copies of Travels with Gannon & Wyatt Hawaii by Patti Wheeler and Keith Hemstreet. To enter, please fill out the Rafflecopter below. Due to the high cost of shipping, I can only mail to U.S.A.
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