Today, I was at the library, looking for some good books for my kids, particularly my boys. Problem is, I couldn’t find any. I know there are great old books like stuff by Sir Walter Scott and G A Henty, but those are a little old for my boys to listen to, let alone read, since my oldest boy is six. It seems like the most appealing and accessible stuff in the library is simply subverting all the old tropes. I saw a book with a boy and a dragon that looked promising, but by the end of it there is simply the dragon cooking steaks for the knight and his friends, the old peace without Christ gambit. I tried asking the library and whether there were any books they would’ve used to teach boys to read in ancient Sparta, minus the slavery, but she had nothing. Is there anything in literature for little kids that really teaches them to love their God-given sex?
Look into the Moth & Cobweb stories by John C. Wright. They’re on my “To Read” list, so I can’t give unequivocal endorsement, but they’re the first place I’d look.
I’ve not read any of his stuff yet, but I know many of the children around here really love ND Wilson’s stuff. The Boys of Blur, in particular, I think.
EDIT: sorry, just noticed that your oldest is 6. We just ordered the billy and blaze series for my six year old, and he loves it. Highly recommended.
Yea, those look fun, but I am thinking like half that age and reading ability. See spot run, but teaching boys and girls to love the roles God has for them. Georgie kills a snake, maybe.
Will have to check out the blaze stuff
My oldest son is 10. I’m going to follow this closely but I think the first part of the answer is to expect more of our boys, including in books. We just listened to The Boys In The Boat and also Come On, Sea Biscuit with our whole family. Sure, they won’t “get” lots of it, but boy will they learn a lot.
Speaking of expecting more, I’m pretty sure there was a bit of salty language in one or both of those books. We just listen without embarrassment, don’t mention it, and correct our kids if we ever hear them use the language. My son has picked up (and used) more problematic vocabulary (mostly minced oaths) from his private classical Christian school than from his many many books. There was a time when he was three or four that he took an intense disliking to Roman Catholics, calling them “heathens.” I’m not sure where that came from, but I suspect it was something we let him listen to. Another time he picked up a broom at a house in Connor Prairie (a interactive history park), and said “Look mom. I’m the negro servant.” (He’s adopted from Ethiopia.) Again, it must have been something he was listening to. What it was, I have no idea. He was probably 4 or 5 at the time.
We’ve also read the entirety (I think) of Ralph Moody’s Little Britches series. My daughter didn’t like those, but boy did my oldest son, who was either 7 or 8 when we started. Almost every single one of them was about fatherhood, whether good, bad or ugly, though your kids—and many adults for that matter—might not realize it.
When we want something that will engage the younger ones a bit more, we get audio books from the Hank the Cowdog series. Not sure if I should admit this, but boy do I laugh listening to those sometimes.
(We will switch back and forth sometimes from a recording to reading out loud ourselves. I think audio books might be under-rated by a lot of people. Or perhaps they don’t realize how much audio content is available for free. I can’t even tell you how many hours of audio my son has listened to off of Librivox. And that’s ignoring the stuff we get from public library, often on inter-library loan. His vocabulary is huge. And he reads far above his grade level.)
If it’s really stuff they can read themselves you are looking for, then check out the really old Richard Scarry stuff. Very un-PC, IIRC.
I glanced over my Goodreads list and found these which might be something like what you’re looking for- boys and men doing masculine things. These are books for the 3-8ish crowd, some of which a new-ish reader might be able to handle. Also, we’ve found that our library has a number of these online- some audio, some video (same text; simple animation using the book’s illustrations).
These are books we’ve read to our boys (turning 3, 6, & 8 in a few weeks).
Peter and the North Wind
Ox Cart Man
Bored - Nothing to Do!
Story of Little Babaji
Andrew Henry’s Meadow
A Pocketful of Cricket
How to Dig a Hole to the Other Side of the World
The Wonder Clock
Saint George and the Dragon
The Biggest Bear
Whistle for Willie
Ones you’d have to read aloud:
A Day on Skates
The Bears on Hemlock Mountain
Ralph Moody’s Little Britches series
Mountain Born (one of my favorite boy stories)
The Princess and the Goblin
Owls in the Family
Plus classics like Treasure Island, Swiss Family Robinson, Robin Hood, Carry on Mr. Bowditch, The Hobbit, etc. etc.
And ND Wilson’s books, yes! We read Leepike Ridge aloud last Christmas and they all loved it. We haven’t yet introduced the others.
We’ve found that our boys can understand and enjoy a lot more than we think!
Start with When We Were Very Young. Memorize them. Read them Foxes Book of Martyrs along with Bible during devotions. Bible in Pictures for Little Eyes. Can’t recommend Moody highly enough.
For something present day, I think S.D. Smith’s The Green Ember is good for a younger age group. At least from my memory, it doesn’t overturn or blend the genders into some indiscernible mush. That said, I know very little about S.D. Smith, his theology, or anything else. My daughter and I simply enjoyed listening to the audiobook on our commutes.
What more could you ask? Seriously.
I’ll absolutely second this, especially if audiobooks are being considered—which I’d also recommend.
Also worth a look is Eleanor Estes’ Pye and Moffat series. Ginger Pye in particular is a favorite in our house. Though, in looking at her catalog to get that link, I see she’s written The Witch Family which gives me pause. I haven’t read it, so I can’t / won’t speak for it.
For younger children, we’ve also appreciated some of the Robert McCloskey picture books:
Slower, somewhat longer reads, but beautiful.
You’ve already gotten a ton of great recommendations. The ones closest to what you’re looking for, i.e. something your oldest could read to himself, is the Billy and Blaze suggestion. If he’s not at that level yet, he will be soon. Illustrations are also excellent. The Little Bear books are also excellent early readers. There are SO many excellent books, but you’re not going to find them by browsing in your library or asking the liberations usually. You need to get online and use book lists to get suggestions. Our library has an amazing number of excellent older books but you wouldn’t know it from going there. We get online and request them and then they find them from wherever they’re hidden and we go pick them up. I’ll post a couple booklists for you in a few.
Here’s a book list I made for a talk I gave at our mom’s group about reading with kids.
At the end you will find links to other lists I recommend.
Oh, and one you can’t miss is The Dangerous Journey, an illustrated children’s version of Pilgrim’s Progress.
A couple of read alouds that I took a chance on this past year based on a book list were My Father’s Dragon and Toys Go Out. All my kids have enjoyed these and were literally laughing out loud all through the books (even my 2.5 year old). My oldest boy is also 6. He can’t read these yet but probably will be able to in a year or two. They’re short chapter books.
Thanks all for the many recommendations
Well my kids are a bit younger…but I’ve been reading them The Hedge of Thorns from Lamplighter Books
I like Alan Snow - Here Be Monsters! and currently reading Worse Things Happen at Sea. There is occasional salty language (probably not worse than Narnia). And a man dresses up like a lady to fool everyone, but he is not admired.
I also like Old Mother West Wind but its not so much about boys loving their God-give sex. Just animals and such.
Andrew Peterson’s Wingfeather Saga is pretty good as well. All these books are above reading level for the average 6-year-old. I’ve read them to my kids.
Someone mentioned Holes. My kids love everything they’ve heard thats by Louis Sachar.
There’s a series by Jonathan Rogers (who also wrote a great Flannery O’Connor biography) that starts with a book - the Bark of the Bog Owl - thats pretty good. Its basically the story of a young King David but he lives on an island that resembles southern Georgia.
Homer Price is pretty good.
My Side of the Mountain - but he may run away and become a falconer.
Just ran across this again. I remember reading it years ago… there are some really good ones listed!
Most of these are our favorites, too!
Have Space Suit - Will Travel is a great one to read to the kids, if you want some Sci-Fi. Great protagonist who always tries to do the courageous thing, and has great respect for his parents. It avoids the modern YA trope of the parents being incompetent, or worse, the antagonists.
I’ll also plug my own fairy tale, Princess Hiccup