Books for Boys


Lunch is for poetry.

One afternoon, as my sons sat eating apples and meat roll-ups, I flipped through a worn book of good poems.  Infact, the collection was entitled, Good Poems, comprised by Garrison Keilor. Often I read, Nothing Gold Can Stay, by Robert Frost, but that day I landed on a new one, For All, by Gary Snyder... and the boys leaned in.


For All

Ah to be alive on a mid-September morn fording a stream barefoot, pants rolled up, holding boots, pack on, sunshine, ice in the shallows, northern rockies.

Rustle and shimmer of icy creek waters stones turn underfoot, small and hard as toes cold nose dripping singing inside creek music, heart music, smell of sun on gravel.

I pledge allegiance

I pledge allegiance to the soil of Turtle Island, and to the beings who thereon dwell one ecosystem in diversity under the sun With joyful interpenetration for all.

(For All, by Gary Snyder)


One stanza in particular made me stop and read it again, asking the boys to stop their munching, close their eyes, and consume the imagery instead.


Rustle and shimmer of icy creek waters stones turn underfoot, small and hard as toes cold nose dripping singing inside creek music, heart music, smell of sun on gravel.


That first line, calling upon three different senses to describe a simple rippling brook - rustling, shimmering, icy.  And then the sting of bitter cold in nostrils and the way a heart sings happy, and the smell of gravel in the sunshine.  The boys all nodded, deep nods, because... well... boys know about adventure in the great outdoors - even if their great outdoors is 18 square feet of backyard with cinderblock boarders.  Boys understand blades of grass and snails in the dirt, and the smell of each season, and the salty sweet taste of their own sweat.


booksforboys graphic


What am I getting at?  Simply this: Boys need great books filled with masculine adventures, imagery, and imagination.  They need to flex the muscles of their heart and mind as they flex their sinewy legs and arms, pumping hard outside each day. Boys need kind farmers and noble knights and gentle women and magic, loads and loads of magic.  I do not know nearly enough, but I know that boys need books.  Books and backyards and mothers.  I don't have an exhaustive list of books for boys to share with you today, but I will offer you these few titles with my hearty endorsement. Order one today for your boys!


Books for Boys

All Creatures Great and Small or All Things Bright and Beautiful, by  James Herriot (ages 3-8)

Billy and Blaze, written and illustrated by C.W.Anderson (ages 4-8)

Swiss Family Robinson, by Johann David Wyss (Classic Starts Series, ages 8-10)

Chronicles of Narnia, by C.S. Lewis (ages 7-107)

Little Men, by Louisa May Alcott (ages 8-16)

My Side of the Mountain, by Jean Craighead George (ages 9-11)

Where the Red Fern Grows, by Wilson Rawls (ages 9-11)

Summer of the Monkeys, by Wilson Rawls (ages 9-11)

Old Yeller, by Fred Gipson (ages 9-11)

Pax, Sara Pennypacker (ages 8-12)

Hatchet, by Gary Paulsen (ages 12-16)

Navigating Early, by Clare Vanderpool (ages 12-16)


My personal all-time favorite read-aloud: Saved at Sea, by Mrs. O. F. Walton

And one to help you understand the wild inside your men: Wild at Heart, by John Eldredge



And now a poem that I wrote for my eldest, who loves to read and loves to be read to, and who cries at just the right spots. 


I finished it

He tumbled out of his room, wiping wet from his eye and smiled, accomplish, then sighed, “Well, I finished it.”

“Was it good?” I asked over the stove and he nodded it was so… so good, he’s sad he finished it.

Two dogs with their boy, a hatchet in hand So like my son who longs to be a man, but he’s not finished yet.

This growing up wild and growing up free and growing up reading in the crook of a tree till we’ve finished it.

But the day will come with he’s grown up and gone and the books on his shelf will sing out like a song, “Well, we finished it.”

by Wendy Speake