Thursday, February 14, 2013

Birthday Books for a Precocious 8-Year-Old Boy

No, I didn't suddenly acquire another child.  But my daughter was invited to a birthday party - for a boy!  What do I know from gifts for boys?  But this boy, he's a reader.  He's read at least some of the Harry Potter books as well as The Hobbit.  From what I know of him, he's not just reading way above his grade-level, but his maturity level is up there too. And so, our only problem was that we had too many ideas for which books to get him.

Because of my own biases, I ruled out The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, anything by Diana Wynne Jones, and some other books in darker and more fantasy-minded genres.  I also ruled out The Mysterious Benedict Society, but only because of budgetary limitations!

Instead, we ended up with the classics.  First, From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, not just because it's one of the best children's books ever, but because the birthday party is a scavenger hunt at the Met! What could be more perfect?  Afraid that he'd already read it and that it was the inspiration for the party, I checked with his mom and the answer was no.  He's in for a treat!  In anticipation of the party, I also gave it to my 7-year-old for Valentine's Day.

I chose Frindle, the only one of these books that my daughter has read so far, because it is also an amazing book and because she loved it so.  It is a book about an idea and about language, not just identity, friends, and family, as so many middle-grade novels (rightfully) are.  The story of a boy who decides to call pens "frindles" and how the word takes on a life of its own - and influences his life - gets kids thinking about the power - and arbitrariness - of language and our own power to make meaning by the way we use and even coin words.  George Orwell, anyone?

The Phantom Tollbooth is filled with puns and wordplay, I thought the birthday boy would get a huge kick out of it.

Finally, every time I ask my husband for "boy" book recommendations, he cites The Great Brain, which, incidentally, I also read and loved as a kid.  A now often-over-looked classic, set in a time and place unfamiliar to many kids today (Utah in the late 19th century and early 20th), it is another great read.  I had no idea that the original illustrations were done by Mercer Mayer!

What books would you get this boy as a gift?


  1. How to Train your Dragon by Cressida Cowell

  2. These look like great books. I really enjoyed reading The Phantom Tollbooth (as an adult, unfortunately, I didn't get to read much as a child). Norton Juster has done some great picture books as well.

    I hope the boy enjoys them! I've had other people recommend Frindle, but haven't gotten a chance to read it. I think I'll need to check it out soon

    Thanks for the great post!

  3. The boy definitely enjoyed his books (... and he will let you know in person soon). Thanks for such thoughtful gift - and for being a team leader at the Met!