Books to teach boys virtue

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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

Front CoverThe 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

Front CoverThe 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?

Front CoverDavid 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).

Connie Rossini

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14 Responses

  1. Monica @ equippingCatholicfamilies

    Hi there…I just had to mention this book. It’s really geared to 8-12 year olds…especially boys. It teaches the sins and vices in a unique style…giving them “dragon” names and offering advice how to conquer them and grow in virtue. It profiles 23 different Saints as the “Dragon Slayers of Old”, our mentors who model how it’s done and it quotes from the “Ancient Manuel”, the Bible. It’s a great book…I happen to include a free PDF progress report to those who purchase through me, that can be copied for all the kids who use the book in your house!

  2. Linda Stanton

    Have you ever read ” A Philadelphia Catholic in King James’ Court”? About a young Catholic teen who finds himself among a group of Evangelicals and forced to defend the Catholic faith. I’m not a teen, but I really enjoyed it.

  3. Manny

    Hi Connie. My son is not quite four so it’ll be a while before he gets to read these. But I’ll keep them in mind. I was thinking that David Coperfield might be a bit much even for a 14 year old, not so much with the difficulty, but because it’s so long. At that age I’m not sure I could have hung onto to a book that long that didn’t have knights or some sort of boy adventure.

    • Connie Rossini

      It probably depends on the person and what sort of books they’ve read before. I read my first Dickens in 10th grade. We have the BBC miniseries, so my boys will know the basic story before reading it. We’ll have to see.

  4. Marcia

    The “Bronze Bow” is such a powerful and poignant story of forgiveness, love, and genuine strength of character. My older children have read it, and I’d like to believe that the book left an impression on them. You are right; it is perfect as a read-aloud. I should do that with my youngest daughter. Thank you for your list and recommendations 🙂

    By the way, “I am David’ by Anne Holm is another story of a boy way beyond his years in maturity and resilience.

    • Connie Rossini

      Looks interesting, Helen. I put it in my wishlist. I can’t make any promises right now about a review, but I’ll let you know. Thanks for visiting.

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