Top Ten Tuesdays is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. I’ve been enjoying seeing it around for years, but this is my first time participating.
This list is inspired by Charlotte’s being Consternated about Gender and Middle Grade Books. The conventional wisdom says that girls will read about boys or girls, but boys will only read about boys. I don’t buy it. I might have a hard time getting my son to pick up a book with a Girl in a Dress cover, but a good story is a good story no matter the gender of the main character. Here are ten fantasy books that we’ve either read together or that I hope to read soon. (I took out The Secret Garden when I noticed that I had too many books and the rest were all fantasy… but despite its ubiquitous presence in anthologies of classics for girls, my son loved it. And really, why not? Mary isn’t the least bit girly, and the other two kids are both boys.) I chose these books with middle grade boys in mind.
The Cabinet of Wonders by Marie Rutkoski – Featuring a clockwork spider and zombie-like creatures – how can you go wrong? The only reason I haven’t read it with my son is that my library doesn’t have it on audio – but I’ve just discovered that it is out there for me to interloan.
Dealing with Dragons by Patricia Wrede – Princess Cimorene runs away from the handsome prince and frilly dresses, preferring to deal with dragons and witches, as well as battling wizards. Clean enough for advanced younger readers, but exciting enough for a broad age range.
Earwig and the Witch by Diana Wynne Jones – Featuring a stubborn, cantankerous orphan girl who refuses to be just a witch’s slave. This is a good introduction to the inimitable Jones for younger readers.
Giants Beware! by Jorge Aguirre – Claudette runs away from her too-safe village in search of a baby-feet-eating giant to kill in this fabulous graphic novel adventure.
Igraine the Brave by Cornelia Funke – Igraine’s parents have accidentally transformed themselves into pigs, just when a wicked knight is trying to take over their castle and their famous magic books. It’s up to Igraine and her knightly training to save the day.
Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George – More missing parents and another castle under attack. Here, the castle an ever-changing thing with a mind of its own, and Celie, the youngest of the four royal siblings, is the only one who can communicate with it. We’re just waiting for a space in our read-aloud queue to share this one.
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin – This is a quieter story, but still a journey through magical tales riding on a dragon.
The Wizard of Oz by Frank L. Baum – It’s a classic for a good reason. My boy has listened to the audio production of the original, and read the recent graphic novel adaptation by Eric Shanower.
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle – Really, everyone should read this favorite book! On the selling it to boys front, though, Meg is a girl who gets in trouble at school for fighting, is better at math than people, and who travels through space to rescue her father.
Zita the Space Girl by Ben Hatke – Another great graphic novel. Zita’s friend gets sucked through a wormhole, and Zita goes on multiple planets, flying on a spaceship to save him.
What are your favorite books for boys with female main characters? And – just as important, but even harder to find – what about books for boys with introverted, bookish male protagonists?
Great list Katy – thanks for these recommendations. My kids both loved Earwig and the Witch – it’s pretty hilarious!
Thank you, Renee! Earwig and the Witch is a lot of fun! I hope your kids find some other books to love on this list, too.
What an amazing idea for a list! I detest the stereotype that boys will only read books about boys. Sometimes people don’t give young boy enough credit!
Great list, thanks for sharing your picks!!
I’m glad you like it, and thank you for reading!
What a great list and a great post. I really enjoyed your thoughts on boys reading books with female characters, and I agree. Dealing with Dragons by Patricia Wrede sounds great. I’ve never read it, but I want to.
Paul R. Hewlett
Thank you so much! Dealing with Dragons is the first of a quartet, which I’d read myself as a younger teen and loved, and all of which I read with my son to his great enjoyment. It’s still much loved, so you should be able to find it at a local library pretty easily.
It is a great list and an important one. When I am developing a story I asked both boys and girls to read it and then offer their comments. With few exceptions, Melinda, the adventurous female protagonist, is by far the favorite character of both boys and girls.
Thank you for reading! I can see how boys and girls would prefer Melinda – she has such joy in her gift of transformation, as well as being more active.
All the books on here that my boys have read, they loved! (even Picky Older Reader)
Thank you! I’d love to hear which ones you’ve read, too.
Nice list, and an important one to spread the word about. My son and daughter are both happy to read books about both boys and girls. Here are a couple more you could add to your list:
The Robe of Skulls (and sequels) by Vivian French
The Strictest School in the World (and sequels) by Howard Whitehouse
Oh, thank you so much! I haven’t heard of either of those books!
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