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serendipitous journey

Books suggestions for 13yo/rising 8th

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I'd be so grateful for general book suggestions for my 13yo DS.  He reads well and enjoys reading, but it can be hard to find books for him & lately he hasn't been finding his own at the library (he just borrows his little brother's selections!)

He is very STEM-oriented, very sensitive (so no death of main characters -- Bridge to Terabithia would not be okay -- and not much in the way of cruelty/mean-spiritedness).  He can handle some narrative tension/negative stuff if the ending is pretty positive.  He likes sci-fi, will read fantasy (but doesn't seem to like spooky or eerie books) and likes non-fiction.  My goal is to keep him reading and continue to build a love of reading. 

Books he's read, or re-read, fairly recently:

  • Diary of Wimpy Kid books + Minecraft books of non-fiction & fiction sort
  • Westerfeld's "Leviathan" series
  • Weir's The Martian (did as read-aloud initially, now he likes it on his own)
  • Colfer's Airman (also read Artemis Fowl series)
  • books by Dave Barry
  • "I am Number Four" and Lorien Legacy series -- I think he was ambivalent, and perhaps found them a bit dark? but did enjoy and re-read a bit at least
  • "What If" non-fiction
  • "Soonish" non-fiction
  • he's also liked Tintin graphic novels, Bone, &c
  • (ETA): John Barron's OOP "MiG Pilot: The Final Escape of Lieutenant Belenko": he has just loved this book, read & re-read it. 

 

thanks in advance for ideas! 

ETA: for other book-searchers: I often like the Sonlight Summer Readers' books.  We order a set from Sonlight for each child, and then I plug the individual titles into amazon.com to help me find similar/related books.

Edited by serendipitous journey

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This is for "just for fun" reading -- i.e., not your formal/school Literature?

That's always an interesting age, as they are both reading "up" (some high school and adult titles) and also still reading "down" (enjoying late elementary/early middle school titles). A few possible ideas:

non-fiction
Bomb (Sheinkin) -- and others by this author
Tommy: The Gun That Changed America (Blumenthal)
Chasing Lincoln's Killer (Swanson)
Code Talker (Bruchac)
The Boy Who Harnassed the Wind; young reader's version (Kambkwanda & Mealer)
The Boys Who Challenged Hitler (Hoose)
Lost in the Pacific 1942 (Olson)
Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage (Lansing)
Mutiny on the Bounty (Nordhoff)
Kon Tiki (Heyersdahl)
The Colditz Story (Reid)
The Way Things Work Now (Macauley)

science fiction
Shadow Children series (Haddix)
WONDLA trilogy (DiTerlizza)
When the Tripods Came (Christopher)
Star Soldiers: Time Traders (Norton) 
Enchantress from the Stars (Engdahl)
sci-fi titles by Alan Dean Foster

Twenty One Balloons (du Bois) -- has a Jules Verne feel, but lighter/fun
The Martian Chronicles; R is for Rocket; S is for Space -- all are short story collections (Bradbury)
Foundation (Asimov)

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea; Mysterious Island; or others (Verne)
The Time Machine; The Invisible Man; War of the Worlds (HG Wells)
Bobiverse trilogy: We Are Legion (We Are Bob); We Are Many; All These Worlds (Taylor) -- "popcorn" just for fun series; very influenced by Star Trek: Next Generation
Anathem (Stephenson) -- no s*x, little to no language, no gratuitous violence -- not all of Stephenson's works are as "clean"

other threads with Sci-Fi ideas
Book suggestions for Science Fiction -- 12yo
Classic Science Fiction recommendations - Wells, Verne, etc

historical fiction that is similar to non-fiction
Red Hugh Prince of Donegal (Reilly) -- prison break/escape adventure in Elizabethan times
Midship Man Quinn series (Styles)
Hittite Warrior (Williamson)
Beorn the Proud (Pollard)
Ides of April; Beyond the Desert Gate (Williamson) -- the first is also the solving of a mystery
Captain Blood (Sabatini)
The Scarlet Pimpernel (Orczy)
Little Britches series (Moody) -- fictional biography

humor
Bromeliad trilogy: Truckers, Diggers, Wings (Pratchett)
Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy; Restaurant at the End of the Universe (Adams) -- just a very FEW crudities/innuendos
Hoot (Hiaasen) -- and others in his children's books
Wooster & Jeeves (Wodehouse)
Wodehouse on Crime -- short story collection (Wodehouse)
A Year in Provence (Mayle)
books by Bill Bryson
comic strip collections: Calvin & Hobbes; Foxtrot; Pearls Before Swine

Mystery/Detective -- my STEM/non-fiction DS#1 really enjoyed mysteries
minute mystery collections (by Hy Conrad, Donald Sobol, and others)
Theodore Boone series (Grisham)
Samurai mystery series (Hoobler)
Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators series (Arthur)
Alex Rider series (Horowitz) -- spy-intrigue with a sort-of teen "James Bond"
Adventures of Sherlock Holmes -- short story collection (Doyle)
Hercule Poirot's Casebook -- short story collection (Christie)
Murder on the Orient Express; And Then There Were None (Christie)
The Moonstone (Collins)

for slightly younger ages, but would be fun fast reads:
Framed series (Ponti)
Spy School series (Gibbs)
39 Clues (Rick Riordan, and others) -- adventure/puzzle-solving

 

Edited by Lori D.
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Thank you, Lori!   <hug>  Yes, this is informal literature.  We're working on the other stuff through the summer -- finishing out the WTM 6th grade Middle Ages "required reading" plus pair-reading some No-Fear Shakespeare, Art of War (I'm linking this for thread-browsers b/c we found a fairly readable translation and it's classic Asian literature that fits nicely in the Middle Ages, I think -- we do just one section at a time, they are very short) and the Junior Great Books science anthologies (just trying to get through the Middle Ages in at least the biology one, though I'd love to make it through Middle Ages in all three).  We're starting Figuratively Speaking and hope to do it over the next year. 

That looks like a terrific list!  Can I get your help with something?  I'm doing the Foundation series right now as a read-aloud.  I think that my DS would not get a lot out of it if he read it alone -- it is sort of political, if you know what I mean, and he doesn't pick those tones up naturally and also tends to skim over them, which makes it harder to enjoy the book.  Also he hasn't enjoyed Pratchett on his own, but loves me to read it before bed (we're alternating Pratchett and Asimov at the moment).  I did the Hitchhiker's series out loud & he happily re-read much of it (except the 5th, which we dropped -- should have stopped at 3, I think).  

Are there strategies you'd suggest to build up his ability to read that stuff on his own?  Or should I let it be, keep reading aloud, and eventually his abilities will grow as we keep doing formal literature: that's my current Best Hope 😉  . 

again: thank you!  am off to get my hands on some good books!

PS/ETA: "That's always an interesting age, as they are both reading "up" (some high school and adult titles) and also still reading "down" (enjoying late elementary/early middle school titles)" -- this is so true!  It is fun to have books they both enjoy hearing read aloud, and see them sharing titles.  They both actually read "Leviathan" though I don't know how much sense the little guy made of it, and they both adore Calvin & Hobbes & some of their Minecraft stories & Dave Barry. 

Edited by serendipitous journey

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It sounds like he has some similar interests as my son. My son recommends the authors Brandon Mull (Five Kingdoms and Fablehaven are two series he's read) and Stuart Gibbs (Spy School and Space Case--my son mentions that someone is murdered in Space Case, but that it happens earlier in the book and isn't the climax). He also recommends Mad Scientists Club, a series called Jupiter Pirates, and White Mountains (Tripods Trilogy).

My daughter is throwing out The Tale of Despereaux, but I'm not sure that fits as well.

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4 hours ago, serendipitous journey said:

Thank you...
... Art of War ... and the Great Books Junior science anthologies


Yea! Hope something there will be of interest and a good fit. And hope others will post lots more ideas. 🙂
Thanks for the links! Although my boys have long-since graduated, I am often looking around for various Lit. for my co-op classes of middle/high school ages. 
 

... Are there strategies you'd suggest to build up his ability to read that stuff on his own?  Or should I let it be, keep reading aloud, and eventually his abilities will grow as we keep doing formal literature: that's my current Best Hope...


Yes, I think it does happen over time -- the more stuff you read, the more "fluent" you get. I also think watching a lot of certain movies and TV shows from the 20th century can get you "up to speed more quickly" on the culture/politics/mindset of those times, so when you read a book from the 1930s or 1950s, it is not quite so "foreign" feeling, lol.

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8 hours ago, silver said:

It sounds like he has some similar interests as my son. My son recommends the authors Brandon Mull (Five Kingdoms and Fablehaven are two series he's read) and Stuart Gibbs (Spy School and Space Case--my son mentions that someone is murdered in Space Case, but that it happens earlier in the book and isn't the climax). He also recommends Mad Scientists Club, a series called Jupiter Pirates, and White Mountains (Tripods Trilogy).

My daughter is throwing out The Tale of Despereaux, but I'm not sure that fits as well.

silver, please thank your children for me!  It is wonderful to have a group of series to try, and kind of you & your children to brainstorm for us.  I will get my hands on those books:  whoo-hoo interlibrary loan!  You are right that your son's interests seem a better fit for my older one -- The Tale of Despereaux did _not_ go over well with him (and the movie is so cute; he didn't like that either, IIRC). 

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4 hours ago, Lori D. said:


Yea! Hope something there will be of interest and a good fit. And hope others will post lots more ideas. 🙂
Thanks for the links! Although my boys have long-since graduated, I am often looking around for various Lit. for my co-op classes of middle/high school ages.

Oh, glad the links are of interest!  The Junior Great Books series is heavy lifting for us.  DS is very STEM-y, though, and I'm sold on the value of reading original works in the sciences, so we're trying to build up abilities so that he can do science-oriented WTM history/literature in high school.  Or at least do more science-oriented stuff than he could otherwise. 

4 hours ago, Lori D. said:


Yes, I think it does happen over time -- the more stuff you read, the more "fluent" you get. I also think watching a lot of certain movies and TV shows from the 20th century can get you "up to speed more quickly" on the culture/politics/mindset of those times, so when you read a book from the 1930s or 1950s, it is not quite so "foreign" feeling, lol.

What a great point!  He's watched some old Star Trek ... any others you'd suggest? 

 

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7 hours ago, serendipitous journey said:

... He's watched some old Star Trek ... any others you'd suggest? 


Does "old Star Trek" mean the original/classic series with Kirk, Spock, Uhura, etc.? That's a fun one! And pretty simple beginning politics to follow.

Star Trek: Next Generation gets more of that, especially seasons 3-5, but seasons 6 and 7 also have some good episodes. You start getting into the politics and intrigues of the Klingon empire in ST:NG.. And definitely Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, seasons 1-4 have a ton of great politics. Especially season 1, the Bajoran and Cardassian situations reminded me of the Bosnia/Herzegovina War of the early 1990s, but also echoes of other 20th century oppressor/oppressed countries, plus there is political in-fighting within the Bajoran religious hierarchy.

What about the John Adams mini-series? Or the older British TV series comedy of Yes Minister?

And some movies:
The Manchurian Candidate (1962)
Casablanca (1942)
The Mouse That Roared (1959)
The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming (1966)
12 Angry Men (1957)
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)
Hunt for Red October (1990)

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My boys also love the MiG Pilot book. Some of these might be in the same vein... 

  • Kon Tiki (mentioned above)
  • Mover of Men and Mountains - R. G. LeTourneau (my boys read this one over and over)
  • Endurance - Alfred Lansing
  • Has he tried any Jules Verne? Around the World in 80 Days or 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea might work.
  • The Prisoner of Zenda - this is action with a wee bit of romance, my then 16yo's favourite book of the year
  • Has he tried any Sherlock Holmes?
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On 5/28/2019 at 11:11 PM, serendipitous journey said:

He's watched some old Star Trek ... any others you'd suggest? 

How about some Star Trek novels?

My favorites (which my daughter loved as a teen):

Yesterday's Son and Time for Yesterday both by A.C. Crispin,

Uhura's Song by Janet Kagan

Ishmael by Barbara Hambly

The Kobayashi Maru by Julia Ecklar

Doctor's Orders by Diane Duane

These last two are a bit gory ~

Dreams of the Raven by Carmen Carter

and The Pandora Principle by Carolyn Clowes

**

You might read a sample of S. K. Dunstall's space opera trilogy which begins with Linesman (A Linesman Novel) and see if you think it's suitable. I like it, my daughter likes it, and my husband (Ph.D. in Chemistry) likes it.

My first thought was The Martian but I see he already read that. My second thought was What If?

Classic Feynman: All the Adventures of a Curious Character which is a compilation of two of Richard Feynman's earlier books -- "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!" and "What Do You Care What Other People Think?".  The edition I've linked above is wonderful because it includes a CD of Richard Feynman telling some great stories of his time at Los Alamos.

Has he seen Elements: A Visual Exploration of Every Known Atom in the Universe  by Theodore Gray?

A bit on the younger side, but has he read the Brown Paper School Books? (Your library might have these titles and others.)

Math for Smarty Pants  by Marilyn Burns

The I Hate Mathematics! Book by Marilyn Burns and Martha Weston

Blood and Guts  by Linda Allison,

Regards,

Kareni

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My DS that age with similar likes as your son read and liked the first two books of the Framed series by Ponti that Lori mentioned above.  What about Dead End to Norvelt? My son liked that one too. Honestly, I don’t know much about these 3 books, but I do know that my ds does NOT like sad, creepy, or animal death, so I’m assuming they are all free of that!

Edited by mmasc
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💕  Thank you so much, everyone!  Earlier this week I brought this thread up while we were at the library and hit the shelves; so far he's enjoyed The White Mountains and I'm encouraging him to start another book. 

We are just keeping heads above water here with elder DS' health problems (the same fellow your book recs are for -- you can imagine how grateful I am for your help!) and some infrastructure issues at our house (emergency generator installation, dishwasher leaking into the downstairs air vents) and I'm sorry I haven't been present. 

hollyhock2 -- thanks; I did find a translation of 20,000 Leagues he enjoyed, though I had to make it required reading to get him to finish it.  That list looks great, and I'll start with Kin-Tiki & Endurance.  RE Holmes: I loved Doyle when I was young, and began reading through Sherlock Holmes as a read-aloud with DS several months ago.   Either he's too young or it is not his thing.  The drug use was an interesting surprise -- I'd forgotten! -- and I think he doesn't find Holmes to be a sympathetic character; plus, in the novels/novella-length works, the background stories feel both boring and tragic to him.  I'm thinking we'll try again in high school.  If you like Holmes, you might get a kick out of Dirda's "On Conan Doyle: Or, The Whole Art of Storytelling"  -- it was a fun read, if a wee bit smug, IIRC. 

Kareni -- thank you!  I had not known of the Star Trek books: will begin pinging the library system for books on your list. 

mmasc: I really appreciate the second endorsement of the Framed series & the suggestion of Dead End to Norvelt, esp. coming from a child who doesn't like creepy &c.  Will ping the library for those, too. 

I really can't express how much I appreciate these ideas.  Thanks so very much. 

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6 hours ago, DiannaKennedy said:

Waving at @serendipitous journey 

Books my boys are reading currently

The Wild Robot
The Wild Robot Returns

The Night Gardener

On the library reserve list:
Call of the Wild

And, since you're a MP momma, have you taken a look at Martin's list

Waving back at you, friend! 

Will look at those recs! though Call of the Wild is too violent/tragic for DS at the moment -- that's also on my save-for-high-school radar.  

I am an MP mama of sorts!  though I think I'm the most non-conformist one around.  Martin and I are at sixes & sevens philosophically & while I've looked at his list, I don't think it is going to be much help with this DS.  His all-time favorites: Lester's version of "Remus Tales";   Pullman's version of Grimm's Fairy Tales (but no other fairy tales at all, aside from funny re-tellings); Evolution of Calpurnia Tate & sequel; The Martian; What If & Soonest; MiG Pilot. 

I don't think a single one of those is on Martin's list  🙂  -- but (I just now checked the list for DS' favorites) the Joel Chandler Harris "Remus Tales" is.  Sigh.  So, no, it doesn't look like Martin's list will do much good here: it has too many serious "misses" for our family to make it easy enough to find the "hits".  But I'm glad you linked it for thread-browsers' benefit!

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16 hours ago, serendipitous journey said:

Waving back at you, friend! 

Will look at those recs! though Call of the Wild is too violent/tragic for DS at the moment -- that's also on my save-for-high-school radar.  

I am an MP mama of sorts!  though I think I'm the most non-conformist one around.  Martin and I are at sixes & sevens philosophically & while I've looked at his list, I don't think it is going to be much help with this DS.  His all-time favorites: Lester's version of "Remus Tales";   Pullman's version of Grimm's Fairy Tales (but no other fairy tales at all, aside from funny re-tellings); Evolution of Calpurnia Tate & sequel; The Martian; What If & Soonest; MiG Pilot. 

I don't think a single one of those is on Martin's list  🙂  -- but (I just now checked the list for DS' favorites) the Joel Chandler Harris "Remus Tales" is.  Sigh.  So, no, it doesn't look like Martin's list will do much good here: it has too many serious "misses" for our family to make it easy enough to find the "hits".  But I'm glad you linked it for thread-browsers' benefit!

 

Oh boy. I haven't read Call of the Wild since I was young --- maybe I need to revisit that idea. 

Andrew Lang Blue Fairy? (fairy tales --- but decidedly NOT prettied up. )

My kids are fans of Brandon Mull, too --- I like them, but I want to slap one of the main characters for being so immature and ridiculous all the time. 

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   21 hours ago,  serendipitous journey said: 

...Call of the Wild is too violent/tragic for DS at the moment...

 

On 6/9/2019 at 5:59 AM, DiannaKennedy said:

...Oh boy. I haven't read Call of the Wild since I was young --- maybe I need to revisit that idea. 


I did Call of the Wild in my last 7th- 8th grade Lit. & Comp co-op class, and the vocabulary/complex sentence structure was stiff going for reading the book for some students. Plus references to events/things of the time of the book (1899) were unfamiliar to most of the students, which was very "distancing" to some of them.

In case it helps -- violence I recall that is in Call of the Wild
- the nature setting of the Arctic is harsh and brutal and humans and dogs alike struggle to survive
- at the beginning of the story, the protagonist dog is repeatedly clubbed to "break" him and "train" him
- dogs have savage fights between them for pack leadership
- a pack of semi-wild dogs from a village come in and sneak-attack the protagonist dog and his fellow sled team dogs, and one dog is so badly injured that it has to be "put down" (the human shoots the dog)
- one dog sled owner mistreats his team, by not caring for the dogs' physical needs, overworking them, and underfeeding them
- there is a somewhat graphically described attack by Native people on gold miners, who are all left dead where they fell
- a trio of naive people heading to the gold fields mistreats their dog sled team out of ignorance, and they all go through the ice and drown

The first 4 chapter titles give you a big hint as to the major themes of the book, and also what to expect violence-wise:
- Into the Primitive
- The Law of Club and Fang
- The Dominant Primordial Beast
- Who Has Won to Mastership

Edited by Lori D.
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1 hour ago, serendipitous journey said:

Thank you, Lori, for writing that out & helping people discern!  Call of the Wild is a terrific book, and I myself loved it at that age. 


My DSs loved it too, and several of my 7th-8th grade students enjoyed it as well -- and I felt like it was a great choice for discussing Naturalism, as it doesn't pull any punches and lets you see exactly what the choices/consequences of that worldview are. But no doubt about it-- Call of the Wild is a tough book for animal lovers and for those sensitive to violence!

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On 6/9/2019 at 6:03 PM, Lori D. said:
   21 hours ago,  serendipitous journey said: 

...Call of the Wild is too violent/tragic for DS at the moment...

 


I did Call of the Wild in my last 7th- 8th grade Lit. & Comp co-op class, and the vocabulary/complex sentence structure was stiff going for reading the book for some students. Plus references to events/things of the time of the book (1899) were unfamiliar to most of the students, which was very "distancing" to some of them.

In case it helps -- violence I recall that is in Call of the Wild
- the nature setting of the Arctic is harsh and brutal and humans and dogs alike struggle to survive
- at the beginning of the story, the protagonist dog is repeatedly clubbed to "break" him and "train" him
- dogs have savage fights between them for pack leadership
- a pack of semi-wild dogs from a village come in and sneak-attack the protagonist dog and his fellow sled team dogs, and one dog is so badly injured that it has to be "put down" (the human shoots the dog)
- one dog sled owner mistreats his team, by not caring for the dogs' physical needs, overworking them, and underfeeding them
- there is a somewhat graphically described attack by Native people on gold miners, who are all left dead where they fell
- a trio of naive people heading to the gold fields mistreats their dog sled team out of ignorance, and they all go through the ice and drown

The first 4 chapter titles give you a big hint as to the major themes of the book, and also what to expect violence-wise:
- Into the Primitive
- The Law of Club and Fang
- The Dominant Primordial Beast
- Who Has Won to Mastership



Thank you for this, Lori! I'll think it over and perhaps even talk about it with him. Right now, he's enjoying The Wild Robot and the Wild Robot Returns? Escapes? 

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My Stem oriented (and non-violent lit lover:)) has also read and loved Soonish and What If.  His other two or three favorites along those lines are Math With Bad Drawings,  Things to Make and Do in the Fourth Dimension (Matt Parker) , and The Code Book (Simon Singh).  

He is currently devouring all things Terry Pratchett.  We started with the series aimed towards kids and preteens (The Tiffany Aching series that begins with Wee Free Men) and he has progressed through at least 15 more at this point! They are very well written, witty, so creative, and any type of tension or any deaths are always allayed by humor.  

He has also enjoyed the Carl Hiaasen books for middle schoolers.  And his backup books for if he's got insomnia are always Calvin and Hobbes.  Those are well loved and reread constantly.  

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Have you introduced him to Margaret Peterson Haddix yet?  I'd skip the Among The..series and maybe start with a stand alone like Running Out Of Time.  A little suspenseful, but an interesting take on historical sites and science experiments.

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On 6/17/2019 at 4:44 AM, SanDiegoMom in VA said:

My Stem oriented (and non-violent lit lover:)) has also read and loved Soonish and What If.  His other two or three favorites along those lines are Math With Bad Drawings,  Things to Make and Do in the Fourth Dimension (Matt Parker) , and The Code Book (Simon Singh).  

He is currently devouring all things Terry Pratchett.  We started with the series aimed towards kids and preteens (The Tiffany Aching series that begins with Wee Free Men) and he has progressed through at least 15 more at this point! They are very well written, witty, so creative, and any type of tension or any deaths are always allayed by humor.  

He has also enjoyed the Carl Hiaasen books for middle schoolers.  And his backup books for if he's got insomnia are always Calvin and Hobbes.  Those are well loved and reread constantly.  

Thank you!  We've done Tiffany Aching out loud (except the last book which I am pretty sure he won't love) and Mort too.  Maybe he'll pick them up to read if I leave them lying around.  Haven't looked at the Matt Parker or the Singh -- will do! -- and Hiassen too.  I think we've read a Hiassen ....

Calvin & Hobbes is what the boys are carting about the house lately (to round out the Pokemon and MInecraft books).  They are wonderful! 

On 6/17/2019 at 4:57 AM, HomeAgain said:

Have you introduced him to Margaret Peterson Haddix yet?  I'd skip the Among The..series and maybe start with a stand alone like Running Out Of Time.  A little suspenseful, but an interesting take on historical sites and science experiments.

 

No Haddix apart from the Among the when he was younger.  Will get my hands on Running Out of Time to start us off: thanks!

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2 hours ago, serendipitous journey said:

Thank you!  We've done Tiffany Aching out loud (except the last book which I am pretty sure he won't love) and Mort too.  Maybe he'll pick them up to read if I leave them lying around.  Haven't looked at the Matt Parker or the Singh -- will do! -- and Hiassen too.  I think we've read a Hiassen ....

 

I didn’t realize until after I finished the last book that it wasn’t actually written by him. He had started writing I guess, but then had passed away. I just knew it didn’t have that same spark as the others! 

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11 hours ago, SanDiegoMom in VA said:

I didn’t realize until after I finished the last book that it wasn’t actually written by him. He had started writing I guess, but then had passed away. I just knew it didn’t have that same spark as the others! 

I didn't know that, either!  I just knew that it was toward the end of his life.  I'm so glad you told me this -- it was somehow much less hopeful in tone, much less affectionate of people as people (one of the things I love about Pratchett is that he seems genuinely fond of people) -- somehow it is nice to know that it wasn't his own work. 

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