books to get kids reading, books for reluctant readers, books for boys, books to get boys reading, best books for boys

Exceptional Books for Picky Kids

Great Newly Published Books for Reluctant Readers

My 2nd grade son and I have been reading most of these books together. I do the heavy lifting but he will read a half page here and there. I think that’s ok. We’ve especially enjoyed the challenge of trying to make it through the Worst-Case Scenario adventures with getting ourselves killed or sent home.

My son has also introduced to a small pile of graphic novels he purchased at the school book fair last month. SideKicks is especially well done and reads like the next big animated movie. Not surprising because it’s from a Disney animator-turned-author.

We are going to see Grace Lin talk about Starry River of the Sky tomorrow. PickyKidPix is bringing her book club and we are all excited to meet her.

So many great books. So little time! What are you reading with your kids and what do you recommend? Please share!


The Worst-Case Scenario: Deadly Seas: An Ultimate Adventure Novel (Worst-Case Scenario Ultimate Adventure) by David Borgenicht

Non-fiction and adventure collide in this appealing “you decide” chapter book aimed at boys. You, the reader, will need to read the Expedition File in the back first to glean the knowledge necessary to survive. At critical moments during this adventure, you’ll need to decide what to do: two choices will lead to different outcomes. There are 33 possible endings but only 1 path to sail around the world in one go. My 8-year-old son loves this combination of being in the driver’s seat while utilizing a database of knowledge. His sailing knowledge is limited to fishing trips but boys with sailing experience will particularly enjoy this adventure. [chapter book, ages 8-14]


The Year of the Book by Andrea Cheng

The Year of the Book is a subtle and realistic portrayal of what it means to grow up as a second generation Asian American. For 4th grader Anna Wang, it means being on the sidelines at school while her once best friend trades up socially. At home, life is safe and cozy, especially with books that comfort and entertain her. Is it her Asian-ness that keeps her from being popular or it is her bookish personality? Should she care or embrace it? Books, family and friends make up the triad that define Anna right now and this is the year of the book to learn how to balance it all. I’d hand this multicultural chapter book to any girl who has ever felt left out. [chapter book, ages 8 and up]


Tales of a Sixth-Grade Muppet Book 3: The Good, the Bad, and the Fuzzy by Kirk Scroggs

The premise for this series is intrinsically comical. 6th grader Danvers Blickensderfer wakes up one morning to find that he’s been transformed into a muppet. Each book in the series has Danvers searching for a reverse Muppetophosis while he grapples with the reality of middle school life from bullies to boy band battles, all the while assisted by his pals in the Muppet theatre. We find the muppet characters to be an integral part of the fun. This series is particularly suited for reluctant boy readers but boys 7 and up will enjoy it.


Starry River of the Sky by Grace Lin

I’m a huge fan of Grace Lin’s work her latest companion book to Newbery Honor winning Where the Mountain Meets the Moon did not disappoint. In fact, I think it’s her best work to date. She masterfully weaves Chinese mythology into an adventure story of a young boy’s rebellion against his greedy and self-absorbed father, Magistrate Tiger. Rendi is a more complex and realistic character than Minli’s beatific can do optimism. But it’s probably more correct to think of this pair of books as yin and yang counterparts with each resolving the issue of how the moon meets the mountain. I’d recommend this book to kids ages 8 and up.


Sidekicks by Dan Santat

Dan Santat, the animator who brought us Disney’s The Replacements  animated series, has a graphic novel gem about an older super hero and his superhero-wanna-be pets. Captain Amazing, the superhero savior of Metro City, is getting old and needs backup in the form of a sidekick. Told from the point of view of his pets, they want this coveted position but must convince their dad, Captain Amazing, who is too busy auditioning sidekick prospects to spend time with them. Add in a bad guy, DNA transfer technology, a peanut allergy and a disgruntled ex-pet and you end up with a graphic novel as entertaining as an animated movie. My son and I loved this exception graphic novel’s full color illustrations on every page and the plot that is just right for a younger audience. [graphic novel, ages 6 and up]



The Templeton Twins Have an Idea: Book 1 by Elis Weiner, illustrated by Jeremy Holmes

Suppose there were 12-year-old twins, a boy and girl named John and Abigail Templeton. Let’s say John was pragmatic and played the drums, and Abigail was theoretical and solved cryptic crosswords. Now suppose their father was a brilliant, if sometimes confused, inventor. And suppose that another set of twins—adults—named Dean D. Dean and Dan D. Dean, kidnapped the Templeton twins and their ridiculous dog in order to get their father to turn over one of his genius (sort of) inventions. Yes, I said kidnapped. Wouldn’t it be fun to read about that? Oh please. It would so. Luckily for you, this is just the first in a series perfect for boys and girls who are smart, clever, and funny (just like the twins), and enjoy reading adventurous stories (who doesn’t?!).

I love a snarky narrator and The Templeton Twins’  is the best I’ve ever encountered. Equal parts clever and sarcastic, he — I think it’s a he –assumes the reader is responding to his every word and insists on audience participation with quizzes at the end of each chapter. The twins would be up to his questions. They, too, are clever which is good because they need their smarts to rescue themselves from their inventor father’s nemesis, adult twins of a nefarious nature. I’d hand this funny adventure book to a clever kid who is capable of outwitting an adult. Which is to say, most kids! [chapter book, ages 8 and up]


Liar and Spy by Rebecca Stead

Stead’s new book is a spare zen gem with the names of her characters shouldering some of the story telling. There’s Candy, Safer’s little sister who loves candy. Bob English Who Draws is rewriting the rules of English. And, of course, seventh grader Georges, named after artist Georges Saurat whose dot paints are a metaphor for Georges’ middle school life. Focus on the big picture when bullies pick on him. Notice the small dots when they don’t. Seeing the picture is harder than it seems. Things shift. People change. All is not what it seems. This is a remarkable book. I’d hand this to kids who like Newbery books as well as anyone who loved Hoot by Carl Hiaasen.

Click on image to view at Amazon or here for Barnes and Noble.

books to get kids reading, books for reluctant readers, books for boys, books to get boys reading, best books for boys

By Mia Wenjen, PragmaticMom


  1. I’ll have to keep these in mind for Emma in a year or two!
    maryanne recently posted…Learning About StarsMy Profile

  2. I love Grace Lin so much. I heard her talk at KidLitCon and she was so wonderful!

  3. Ann

    I think that is a great way to read a more challenging book!

    Been meaning to check out the Worst Case Scenario books!
    Ann recently posted…Snowflake CutiesMy Profile

  4. Ann

    My daughter is reading American Girl Doll historical books. Together we are reading Swiss Family Robinson (abridged version from Barnes and Noble – on the fence about these – you get the story without the older language – the kids like it – but I guess you also miss out on the richness). We are also reading all the Gingerbread books… Man, baby, pirate…). My son is really into them right now! Of course other Christmas picture books too : )

    Sea of Monsters sounds really good! Definitely looking for books for my daughter too. She doesn’t want anything too challenging. Her favorite is Magic Tree House books and she loves the Fact Trackers but needs a change.
    Ann recently posted…Christmas DreamsMy Profile

    • Hi Ann,
      The American Girl Doll books are really excellent. My oldest had a phase in which she seemed to get them as presents and had piles of them. She liked the American Girl Doll mysteries as well.

      Your daughter might like The Doll People series. I think we used it for 3rd (a little advanced) and 4th grade book club for girls. She also might like the Clementine series and that would be just right for her I suspect. The author, Sara Pennypacker, also lives on the Cape so you might have opportunity to see her at a local book signing. Her latest book is supposed to be great and some think might win a Newbery, Summer of the Gypsy Moths. I want to read it myself.
      Pragmatic Mom recently posted…Kickboxing: My Best Post of 2012My Profile

  5. Ann

    Awesome, personalized recommendations from Pragmatic Mom! Making a request for a Clemintine book right now!
    Ann recently posted…Gingerbread Finger PuppetMy Profile

    • Hi Ann,
      Let me know what your daughter thinks. She may find it fun that the author is near you and Clementine is a great character that kids really like. We’ve read the entire series and my PickyKidPix will still want to read every new book even though they are easy for her as a fifth grader. Fingers crossed!
      Pragmatic Mom recently posted…Book Club for Kids: My Best Post of 2012My Profile

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