I’ve been talking to friends with 10-12 year old boys, and there is both an overabundance and a dearth of good reading material for that age group. If the boy is interested in sci-fi/fantasy, there is plenty to read: Harry Potter, Diana Wynne Jones, James Patterson’s “Maximum Ride” series, and many other. However, if he isn’t interested in that, it gets more difficult to find good books.
Dundurn Press in Canada is publishing many fabulous novels, including these two with boys as the main characters. They are not historical (another big subgroup), nor are they fantasy – they are about tween/early teen boys living their lives in today’s world. I was so excited to read these books, and I’m passing them on to the tween-age boys I know.
Speechless is a novel by Valerie Sherrard. This first-person story is told by Griffin, a quiet boy who is easily overshadowed by his sister at home and other kids in his class. Griffin had to do a speech the previous year, and was pushed by his mother into doing a very embarrassing speech. When he learns that his English class is requiring a speech this year, he decides to not speak for the rest of the year.
This seemingly small decision makes huge changes for Griffin. When he is Speechless, he finds out that his choice has major repercussions. He realizes that he needs to have a reason for being silent, and comes up with a human rights cause. Griffin ends up doing more and more in the public spotlight than he would ever have done with his speech, all because he chose silence. This is a fabulous book for boys and girls who are nervous about public speaking or just kids who want to read about other kids their own age.
Ms. Zephyr’s Notebook is a novel told in the third person by kc dyer that looks like it is a notebook. Inside, there is a story told through notes to the hospital’s teacher (Ms. Zephyr, or Abby) from a teenage rugby star with leukemia, Logan; a younger boy in kidney failure named Kip; and a teenage girl named Cleo who has an eating disorder. The story starts with Logan sneaking into the hospital to find out where Cleo is, as she has gone missing. Logan and Kip go through the essays and notes in Ms. Zephyr’s notebook to find clues to where Cleo has gone and how to find her.
While we see the story unfold, we watch the characters grow up, from angry and immature to sensitive but troubled. The characters develop so well within the book that it is almost impossible to put down. We begin to learn and care about why Logan is angry, why Cleo is acting out, and learn how grown up Kip can be due to his own health problems. The hunt for Cleo brings everyone closer, and the story keeps you guessing about what wil happen next. The memos and notes inside the notebook show the best and worst of everyone, and make it fascinating reading. What I found really unusual is that the title character (Ms. Zephyr) is not in the story, she is only seen through the eyes of the 3 teens/tweens.
I know that just like some teens and tweens will dismiss the Maximum Ride series because it is sci-fi/fantasy, others will dismiss these two novels as being to touchy-feely. I think it’s good to have both types of books available for whomever wants to read them, and applaud Dundurn Press for publishing so many great books for the young adult age group!