Monday, September 21, 2009

Books to Die For: A Nine Year-Old's List

This post has been in the works for a while. Ra's recent post highlighting her recommendations for a children's library gave C, my nine year-old son, the necessary kick in the ... er... motivation! So here, for your reading pleasure, is a list of some of C's favorite books (fiction) of the past year with his notes on the parts he liked or disliked. Although not as extensive, he has favorite non-fiction books as well. Perhaps in another post. My notes are in italics.

1. The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick: With over 230 pages of pure illustrations, Hugo Cabret is a fascinating book about a boy who wants to find out about his father's past and his automatons with the help of friends.

The book is enthralling and keeps you at the edge of your seat at all times. Hugo, who is so poor that he scavenges for food, goes on the adventure of his lifetime while finding out about other people's mysterious pasts as well.

C and I started reading this book aloud. It went too slow for his taste. He ploughed on ahead and then the book had to go back to his library. This is one I want to read as well. The illustrations are rich with detail and feeling.

2. The Mysterious Benedict Society Series by Trenton Lee Stewart, Carton Ellis (Illustrator): Reynie, Kate, Sticky and Constance all have something in common - they have to take down Mr. Benedict's evil brother, Mr. Z. This book is about how the four kids work together as a team, The Mysterious Benedict Society.

What I like about this book is that you never know what's going to happen next. There's always a dilemma. I can't wait for the third book in the series, The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner's Dilemma, to come out early next month!

3. George's Cosmic Treasure Hunt by Lucy & Stephen Hawking: This book is about three friends who find out that a rover is acting funny on Mars. They use their high-tech super computer to open hole into space. When they do that they find out that someone is trying to destroy earth.

This fun-filled adventure takes you all around the universe with amazing facts about outer space.

4. The Hardy Boys Series by Franlin W. Dixon: Two young boys, Joe and Frank, are following their father's footsteps by cracking mysteries by the minute. They risk their lives with every case they take on.

These action-packed books are amazing. My palms get sweaty as I turn the pages. A big must-read.

5. A Summer Adventure, The Hidden Treasure and The Only Witness (3 Novels) by Shashi Deshpande: Dhinu, Minu, Polly and Ravi are cousins. They lead normal lives until they get caught up in huge mysteries - one involving sinister robberies, the other involving their ancestors' treasure, and the last involving their friend's kidnapping and an encounter with mysterious bank robbers.

The setting is India, one of the busiest places in the world. The books' last minute captures and saves will keep your teeth chattering. (Thanks Chox!)

6. Gregor the Overlander Series by Suzanne Collins: This is a story about a boy and his sister who fall through their laundry shaft and land in a different world. There are several prophesies about this particular boy - he is supposed to slay several evil and disgusting creatures.

The books in this series (5 of them) are long and enchanting. They are about friendship and courage, and include a mystery about his father in the first book.

7. The Name of This Book Is Secret and If You're Reading This, It's Too Late by Pseudonymous Bosch: These two books are about two dashing and daring characters who get mixed up in a mysterious magician's life. Evidently they're not the only people going after the magician. Two evil doctors are on the hunt, searching for immortality. That means having to capture the magician.

These books take the readers nearly everywhere. These emotion-filled and sometimes hilarious books are simply oversatisfying!

8. Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Waterston: This comic book about an irritating boy and his best friend, an imaginary tiger, talks about 1980s politics and normal household life in the uttermost hilarious way.

Each book has over 50 comic strips with most funny twists bound into it.

9. Tintin by Herge: This series, to my utmost delight, is a set of jaw-on-the-floor-ing books about an amazing detective who cracks over 21 cases with the help of his old sea-dog friend, Captain Haddock, and his professor genius friend, Calculus, and his loyal and creative dog, Snowy.
These books have off-the-scale action and great characters with huge personalities.

10. Castle in the Attic by Elizabeth Winthrop: This emotional and heartwarming book about gymnastics and bravery is a great read, especially for those who think they are too short and not able to do many things.

This is a great mythical story about medieval times, about dragons and kings. It's a fantastic story about a struggling kid who tries very hard to overcome his challenges.

11. The Diary of a Wimpy Kid Series by Jeff Kinney: These are stories about a loser middle-schooler and his bully brother high-schooler, about how he manages to pull through every painful minute of his life and dreams of becoming famous some day.

These books have freakishly funny twists of comedy in them, and have great advice if you are in the wimpy kid's position.

12. Jake Drake, Bully Buster by Andrew Clements: This book is about a young boy who overcomes the challenge of defeating a super bully by gradually ignoring him and working together with him.
Another Andrew Clements classic and a very good read, but not the best. Frindle is the best.

13. Mansion in the Mist, The Dark Secret of Weatherend, The Lamp from the Warlock's Tomb (the Anthony Monday Series) by John Bellairs:
These books are about Anthony Monday and his eccentric friend. They solve mysteries of magic, mythology and sorcery by evil people.

They have so much scariness, you feel like putting them down even though you don't want to. They leave you feeling scared and excited!

14. Books on the nightstand:

Stoneheart by Charlie Fletcher

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle (reading it aloud with mom)

My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell (thanks a ton, Poppy!)

To be continued...


C's list definitely reflects the sensibilities of a boy who loves adventure and mystery. Lots of action and scary stuff. Increasingly he's also leaning toward fantasy. I helped out at the book fair at his school last year and I was delighted that the librarian at his school, the wonderful Ms. P, knew his tastes. She guided me down the aisles, pointing out books she was positive he would love. We did not go wrong with The Name of This Book is Secret.

Some of the books he read in 2008 include The Magic Treehouse Series, the Boxcar Children Series, the Classic Starts Series (with abridged versions of Sherlock Holmes, Oliver Twist, Treasure Island, etc.), the Secret Seven and Famous Five Series by Enid Blyton (he thinks they take too long to get exciting and they end too quickly). He did not want to include them here because"they're for young kids" (!).

If you have other suggestions for an adventure-loving boy, please do let us know. He (and I) will be delighted!

A final note - Sujatha of Fluff n' Stuff also wrote a post about her favorites here. Please do check it out.


ra said...

Wow, I didn't know kicks reached that far! Thanks C! I love Gerald Durrell too. And if you like fantasy check out Diana Wynne Jones...

Elizabeth Winthrop said...

How lovely to find my book on your very special list. Thanks so much for posting the brand new jacket of THE CASTLE IN THE ATTIC.

Elizabeth Winthrop

Sujatha said...

Thanks, for the shout-out, Suj. It's always fun coming up with these reading lists.
Before long, it will be time for another one, as the kids grow older and their tastes change...

Anonymous said...

Nothing Indian? Or in an Indian language? Shocking!

Sriram said...

Awesome list. Tintin is my fav.

This list has few books which I always wanted to read but never got a chance. I know what I am gonna be looking for in my next lib visit :D Thanks

MaureenHume said...

Thanks for the awesome list, C. We have a lot of boys in our extended family so I'm always on the look out for boy books, especially with Christmas looming fast.
Maureen Hume

Nino's Mum said...

bookmarked this.
much love to C - my flu-shot hero.

ra said...

Dear Anon,

1)Indian literature isn't that widely available, particularly for children-this has only just begun to change.

2)C may not have enjoyed the Indian literature that much (Karadi? I remember Sujatha doing a review some time ago about this series).

3) Indian stories are often transmitted verbally in Indian languages. My own bedtime stories came not from a book but from my parents in an Indian language.

4)Let's hope lots of well written, well produced children's books in lots of Indian languages come out. Books in English by Indian authors are already slowly making their presence felt.

I have an Indian author friend who wrote a lovely series for children, but it was so badly brought out by the publisher, that a child would automatically have skipped it for an English/American publication.

Sujatha said...


Do Amar Chitra Kathas qualify, or the Tenali Raman, Panchatantra, Jataka tales that the grandparents like to deliver by the kg?
They are so ubiquitous that we sadly forget to mention them in our posts, which are tailored to what 'other books' our kids might like to read.

Sujatha Bagal said...

Ra, believe me, they do! Thanks for the suggestion and for your patient response to the anonymous comment.

Ms. Winthrop, you're welcome. My son was thrilled to find your note when he returned from school. Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment.

Sujatha, you're welcome. And I'm sure!

Anonymous, perhaps you'd like to read the post again. If you're really interested in Indian books for children here's something -

Sriram, thank you for that lovely, encouraging comment. Happy reading. :)

Maureen, thank you! And Pizza Gang sounds like a wonderful book! I'll show him your page this afternoon.

NM, how sweet!

Ra, thanks again. :)

Sujatha Bagal said...

Sujatha (F-n'-S), thank you!

Gosh! This is going to get confusing again, isn't it?! :)

Unknown said...

I love Tintin, Asterix comics, Chandamama, Amar Chitra Katha, Hardy Boys...

Thanks for the list madam

-A perpetual 10 yr old

Unknown said...

OH... forgot to add Jungle Book, and maybe, just maybe I would have enjoyed Jim Corbett's stories of the jungle and Ruskin Bond. I definitely enjoy them now! :D

San said...

A richly diverse list. I didn't know that Stephen and Lucy Hawking had authored such a book. And I love that it's so near a Hardy Boys title in the list.


Midlife Roadtripper said...

I miss strolling the aisles of the children's section and reading to my kids. TinTin was a favorite around my house also.

Seems your son is developing his own taste in literature. What fun to observe and follow.

Praba Ram said...

Very nicely compiled and C's taste in the different genres is simply amazing! K's is just starting to bud. We are into classics - charlotte's web, wind in the willows, and some mainstream series - arthur and friends, ivy and bean, geronimo stilton etc...anything that's funny and school based or neighborhood based it has to be... If you could you a list of must-read classics before 10, that would be great, Suj!


Poppins said...

Wow that's an extensive list! Am ashamed to say that I haven't read half the books on this list or for that matter on Ra's list! Must remedy :)

Oh, and you're welcome - I hope he enjoys it.

Pallavi said...

Walking down nostalgia lane.. :) though I still love reading some of them..

Lavs said...

I echo Poppin's mom...I have not read half the books in your list and Ra's list...bookmarking your post for reference. Thanks Sujatha

Sujatha Bagal said...

ASk, you are welcome, saar. And don't I know! :)

San, I didn't know either! I was so pleasantly surprised when I happened upon it in the book store. And C, as I guessed, LOVED it!

Julie, yes, that is the most gratifying part - even more than the fact that he is a voracious reader - that he is very confident of his tastes.

Praba, those are such lovely books that K is into! As for lists, here's one that looks interesting. C's read some of the books on it and other books very similar to the ones on the list.

I feel, though, that if you ask 10 different people you'd get 10 different lists. At this stage, my focus is on getting the kids excited about reading, which means letting them follow their nose with some gentle guidance about what's appropriate or not. It's turned out OK so far! He's way, way, way ahead of where I was at that age! :)

Poppy, well, I will have to join you then. I haven't read many of the books he reads either, but in our defense, they were not around when we were growing up! :)

Pallavi, :)

Lavs, you're welcome, and I'm in the same boat as you! :)

Deepa said...

Nice to see some of our books in ur lis. My sonny would've read George secret key at least 20 times. It is a marvellous book and give a loot of information too. C&H is always our family's fav.

Nagesh.MVS said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Sujatha Bagal said...

Deepa, thanks for reading!

Choxbox said...

lovely list Suj!

has he read the stephen hawking book that comes before cosmic treasure? its called george's secret key to the universe.

glad he liked the shashi deshpande :) Fb also enjoyed the ones you guys got for her.

also been meaning to tell you - we'd got this awesome book by ruth heller from san diego zoo one time. i googled and found that she has done a whole lot of other stuff. will be more suitable for D i guess. not easily available outside the US though.

Choxbox said...

and book-marking this.

Chitra said...

Tintin? I love Tintin. It's a must for all ages :-)! Had to leave my entire collection behind after I moved to the US though.

Sujatha Bagal said...

Chox, I think he got that one from the library. Thanks for the Heller recommendation. Will look for it!

Chitra, :)

Eni said...

Enid Blyton's Secret Seven was detective-like, while The Famous Five were very adventuresome. My admiration for The Famous Five has led me to publish a book titled, The Famous Five:A Personal Anecdotage (

Stephen Isabirye