I wanted to do a boy version of the 20 Gentle Books for a Young Girl at the request of a reader. I tried not to duplicate books but there are many on the girls’ list of 20 Gentle Books that would also be great for boys.
In making this list, I tend towards more old-fashioned books but gentle books for boys can also be modern. What are your favorite gentle chapter books for a young boy? Please share! Thank you!
20 Gentle Chapter Books for a Young Boy
10. Frindle by Andrew Clements
A delightful early chapter book that every boy in 3rd grade seems to love at my elementary school. Nicholas Allen invents the word “frindle” to replace the word “pen.” For him, it is not really an act of rebellion, it’s more an outlet to explore the power of ideas. Frindle catches on much to the consternation of his Language Arts teacher, but is she really upset? [middle grade, ages 8 and up]
9. The Extraordinary Adventures of Ordinary Basil by Wiley Miller
A completely delightful story of a boy who finds adventure when a man in a hot air balloon passes by his window. The book has large print and illustrations so it’s perfect for reluctant boy readers. If he enjoys this book, there is a sequel, Attack of the Volcano Monkeys. [middle grade, ages 8 and up]
8. The Year of Miss Agnes by Kirkpatrick Hill
Historical fiction about a teacher who comes to rural Alaska and changes the lives of her students. [middle grade, ages 8 and up]
7. The Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs by Betty G. Birney
When Eben McAllister is challenged by his pa to discover wonders in his small farming community, he finds the extraordinary in a doll, a bookcase, a saw, a table, a ship in a bottle, a woven cloth, and more. [middle grade, ages 8 and up]
6. A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck
is the Newbery Award-winning book, and it’s the sequel to A Long Way From Chicago. While this book is set in a small country bumpkin town during the Great Depression, it’s a hilarious story about fifteen-year-old Mary Alice who is sent to live with her Grandma for a year during the Great Depression while her parents get situated. Grandma Dowdel is a force to be reckoned with; her resourcefulness is matched by her heart of gold and Mary Alice’s year is filled with enough drama to fill a newspaper. [middle grade, ages 8 and up]
5. A Long Way from Chicago by Richard Peck
is from Mary Alice’s older brother’s perspective during their eight summers at Grandma Dowel’s farm and the antics they got into. It also gives a gentle history of how the Great Depression impacted their community. [ages 8-12] Fair Weather by Richard Peck. Thirteen-year-old Rosie Beckett and her siblings’ lives are about to change forever when a distant aunt sends them tickets to visit her in Chicago to visit the 1893 World Fair. Not only are their adventures hilarious, but you feel like you are stepping back in time and visiting the World Fair which would be ten times more amazing than our modern-day equivalent of visiting Disney World & Epcot Center. [middle grade, ages 8 and up]
Set in 15th century Korea, Korea’s Golden Age, two brothers — one skilled in kite making and the other skilled in kite flying — combine their skills to compete in a kite-flying contest on behalf of the king. [middle grade, ages 8 and up]
Twelve-year-old Nate Twitchell hatches a strange egg laid by one of the hens on his family farm that turns out to be a baby Triceratops. If you can imagine The Mysterious Tadpole by Stephen Kellogg made into a novel in the vein of Homer Price by Robert McCloskey then that would be The Enormous Egg. [middle grade, ages 8 and up]
2. How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell
Can Billy win the bet by eating a worm a day for fifteen days? This book has very short chapters with plenty of illustrations. The story is really appealing to boys. [middle grade, ages 8 and up]
1. Wonder by R. J. Palacio
I think Wonder should be required reading for all elementary school kids because it inspires us all to be better people. Author R. J. Palacio visited my town and I have the backstory on how this chapter book came about here. [middle grade, ages 8 and up]
And a few more …
Cheesie Mack is Not a Genius or Anything series by Steve Cotler
This is a gentle chapter version of Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Steve Cotler nails the everyday adventures of a boy next door. [middle grade, ages 8 and up]
The Strange Case of Origami Yoda series by Tom Angleberger
My son and I have been reading this series and it’s another one that makes the reader into a more tolerant and accepting person. We both especially like that it includes a special needs character in a realistic and sympathetic way. [middle grade, ages 8 and up]
Homer Price by Robert McCloskey
I loved this book as a child and it’s the ultimate portrayal of life in a “Norman Rockwell-Esque” old-fashioned small town. [middle grade, ages 8 and up]
Also, The Pain and the Great One early chapter series is slightly easier than Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing. [Tales: ages 8-11; Pain and Great One: ages 6-10] My middle daughter loves The Pain and the Great One series about a big sister and her little brother and guess what, she has an annoying little brother too so she can really relate to this series. [middle grade, ages 8 and up]
Luz Sees the Light series by Claudia Dávila
This graphic novel is perfect for younger readers in grades 1-4. It has a great environmental message with the faintest hint of an urban, inner-city, Latino community. For a child interested in recycling or cleaning up his or her community, this book would be perfect and might even inspire a community clean-up. [chapter book, ages 6 and up]
The Adventures of Tin Tin series by Herge
This great book pick is from ReadAloudDad who has a great blog on kid lit. He polled a young friend who said, “You simply cannot go wrong with the series about Tintin the fearless reporter and his cute little dog Snowy. It is simply unmissable. Great fun for all ages. I’m sure that it will be popular with kids in the 21st century as well!” The Secret of the Unicorn, ReadAloudDad tells me, is being made into a movie by Steven Spielberg. [middle grade, ages 8 and up]
Fish Finelli: Seagulls Don’t Eat Pickles by E. S. Farber, illustrated by Jason Beene
Fish and his two buddies must find Captain Kidd’s treasure assuming they can locate the treasure map first in order to show up Whooping Hollow’s town bully, Bryce Billings. This easy chapter book has a larger font with text broken up with plenty of full-page illustrations and informative sidebars. This book would appeal to boys who like facts mixed with a not-to0-scary mystery adventure. [chapter book, ages 7 and up]
Reader Suggestions for More Gentle Chapter Books for Boys
Maria’s great suggestion is Love That Dog by Sharon Creech. Love that novel in verse too! (I love Hate That Cat too!)
Love That Dog by Sharon Creech
Thank you to my friend Nat for her great suggestion, Tin Tin, which her two boys really enjoyed.
The Adventures of Tintin by Hergé
Catherine of Story Snug loves Dixie O’Day in the Fast Lane. Her review is here.
Dixie O’Day in the Fast Lane by Shirley Hughes, illustrated by Clara Vulliamy
Dixie O’Day In the Fast Lane is a perfect book for children who are moving from picture books to chapter books. The seven short chapters are designed to be read once a day but it is such an action-packed story that we can’t resist reading it in one sitting. It’s a real page-turner and the perfect size to fit in a Christmas stocking.
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BEST #OWNVOICES CHILDREN’S BOOKS: My Favorite Diversity Books for Kids Ages 1-12 is a book that I created to highlight books written by authors who share the same marginalized identity as the characters in their books.