Finding good books for boys as they get older is always a challenge. Last fall I put together a list of good books for boys aged 10-14 . You will see that the scope of it is limited. On my blog, I want to introduce you to some of my favorites in more detail. Not all of these are on the list.
A novel-length fairytale
The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis are undoubtedly already on your radar screen. The Horse and His Boy is my favorite, and one of my favorite children’s books of any genre.
It is the story of Shasta, who has been raised by a Calormene fisherman, but is light haired like the people of the north. When he overhears the fisherman negotiating to sell him as a slave to a lord, he runs away, taking the lord’s horse with him. The horse, Bree, is a talking horse from Narnia, eager to escape back to his homeland. Soon Shasta and Bree meet up with a young Calormene lady named Aravis, who is also running away with her Narnian horse. The foursome eventually get caught up in politics, racing to warn Narnia of an impending Calormene attack. And Shasta discovers his surprising, true identity.
The entire Narnia series is perfect for introducing your children to symbolism. Aslan, the great lion who rules Narnia from across the sea, represents Jesus. Shasta symbolizes each of us. We are born in slavery to sin, but freed and made children of the King.
The Horse and His Boy teaches readers to be courageous, humble, honest, compassionate, and persevering. It also demonstrates the need for making reparation and avoiding self-pity.
Recommended for ages 9 and up, or to read aloud to the whole family.
A zealot encounters Jesus
The Bronze Bow is a Newbery Medal winner by Elizabeth George Speare. I love fiction that has characters interacting with Christ during His earthly life. The Bronze Bow is the best example of this genre I have come across for children.
Seventeen-year-old Daniel lost his parents at the hands of the Romans. He joins a group of zealots in the mountains, waiting for the day when he can have his revenge. Meanwhile, his sister Leah stays at home with their grandmother. Leah is demon-possessed, afraid to go outside or talk to strangers. When Daniel hears about Jesus, he has two conflicting hopes: that Jesus will lead an army against the Romans, and that He will heal Leah. What kind of king is Jesus destined to be?
Forgiveness is the main theme of this novel. Daniel must learn that his hatred is as devilish as Leah’s fear.
Recommended for ages 12 and up, or for reading aloud to the whole family.
What does it mean to be a man?
David Copperfield was Charles Dickens’ favorite among his novels. It is essentially the story of a boy growing into a man. David is raised by his widowed mother–who is more like a playmate than an authoritarian figure–for his first several years. Then she gets married again, to the harsh and abusive Mr. Murdstone. Mr. Murdstone purposely drives a wedge between David and his mother. He sends David off to school. David’s mother dies while he is away.
Later, David marries the pretty, fascinating Dora, who is as young and thoughtless as the mother he lost. Life with Dora is not the idyllic one he expected. When Dora dies, he flees to the continent in sorrow.
David must learn that he can never have his happy childhood back. He must learn to confront evil as a man. He must grow into being “the hero of [his] own life.”
Recommended for high school and up. Children younger than 12 will probably find it boring (though I haven’t tested this hypothesis).
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