I was recently asked for some reading suggestions for boys aged 10-15. This is when boys can sometimes stop reading, so I didn’t want to pitch them run-of-the-mill material. Nope, I wanted to hit them with the best of the best, so what follows are my top suggestions. Each includes a short description, and, in most cases, clicking on the title will take you to a longer review.
Classics Christian fantasy
We’ll start with a classic: Lord of the Rings might be a bit much to expect for this age group, but The Hobbit is a shorter, easier entry to Tolkien’s Middle Earth, and after that taste, who knows but that they might continue.
C.S. Lewis’ 7-book Chronicles of Narnia are well-known to most everyone, for good reason. A lesser-known imitator is worth a mention: Canadian author John White has written a good, if not quite up to Lewis-level, 5-book series called The Archives of Anthropos. Some kids eager for more Narnian tales will devour this reasonable facsimile, but it isn’t the sure-fire bet that some of the other offerings here are.
My favorite fiction author Sigmund Brouwer happens to be a theistic evolutionist and Arminian, which occasionally comes up in some of his fiction. But not in these two fantastic titles:
- Innocent Heroes: Stories of Animals in the First World War are all true tales, but lightly fictionalized in that they now all take place in just one Canadian battalion. Everyone in our family love, love, loved it!
- Wings of Dawn is older and might be hard to find but is worth tracking down. It’s a medieval setting with what seems like magic all around, but the magic is actually just new (to the time) discoveries like gunpowder and kites. Very clever!
Douglas Bond is another favorite, and decidedly Reformed. While I wasn’t as captivated by his early books, he keeps getting better. All four of these are really great reads:
- War in the Wasteland is a fictional account of C.S. Lewis’s time in World War I’s trenches back when he was still an atheist.
- The Revolt is about John Wycliffe (a Reformer who died more than 100 years before Martin Luther nailed up his 95 theses) and his times. It’s books like this that make learning Church history a joy.
- The Thunder is a fictionalized biography of John Knox. Bond helps this Reformation giant come alive
- Hostage Lands is really two stories in one, with the first about a boy who doesn’t want to learn Latin, but discovers a tablet in Latin telling a story going back to when Rome still ruled the British Isles.
Some favorite series include:
- Andrew Peterson’s The Wingfeather Saga is a 4-book series that has recently been expanded with a short story collection by the author’s friends (and the books are now being turned into an animated TV series).
- Jonathan Roger’s Wilderking Trilogy is another family favorite, inspired by, but not trying to be, the story of King David.
- S.D. Smith’s The Green Ember has 10 books in the series so far – 4 big and 6 smaller – and I got my kids interested by starting with one of the smaller ones, The Last Archer. That’s out of order, so I had to share a little bit of the backstory to clue them in. All it amounted to was telling them that the rabbits were preparing for war, and there had been a traitor in a prominent rabbit family, the Longtreaders, so the rest of the rabbits were suspicious of the whole family, even though the rest were not traitors. That was enough to get my kids started with this smaller, action-packed volume, which they all loved (and which we’ve read 3 times now).
- Stephen Lawhead’s In the Hall of the Dragon King is a trilogy. Also good is his Song of Albion trilogy, though it is a more magical series. The inclusion of magic in fantasy fiction can be fun, because it allows for normal rules (like gravity) to be broken. But it is limits that keep a story grounded and connected to the real world, so if a fantasy author doesn’t write with some restraint – if it is just magic, magic, and more magic – things can quickly get nonsensical and just plain weird. In Lawhead’s Song of Albion there’s more magic than In the Hall of the Dragon King, but still tight constraints on it. Those constraints fell by the wayside in Lawhead’s later books, which became increasingly odd. So this is not a recommendation for everything he wrote.
- Piet Prins’ Wambu is a 3-book series about a cannibal boy who turns to God, and then returns to his family (who might eat him!) to share God’s good news. This is an older series that might be hard to get.
Gripping graphic novels
Finally, I’ll include a couple of graphic novels suggestions that, despite the comic-book format, are weighty enough to require something from the reader. This is educational fare that most in this age group will be able to appreciate:
- Animal Farm – an all-time classic that might even be better in this more accessible format.
- The Hobbit: the Graphic Novel is a work of art, and if the original novel is a bit much for a boy, this graphic novel version might be a good alternative.
- The Giver – a dystopian take on a future 100 years from now when war has been eliminated by muting mankind’s emotions and by eliminating the conflict that comes when we have to make choices.
I’ll finish off what a potpourri of individual titles.
- Dangerous Journey is a retelling of John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress with modernized text suitable for teens, but pictures only suitable for boys (there are some grim ones!). Gary Schmidt’s Pilgrim’s Progress is a retelling that might also be good for this age, or for the ambitious, there is the lightly modernized (but to great effect!) edition edited by C.J. Lovik.
- Anne DeVries’ Journey Through the Night tells the story of the Dutch Resistance during World War II. This is a great book, but it’s older, which means it might take a little prodding from Mom or Dad, maybe reading the first chapters together, to help your son get interested.
- Ethan Nicolle’s Brave Ollie Possum is not nighttime reading, tackling, as it does, the things that go bump in the night. But many a teen boy will love it.
- Jonathan Renshaw’s enormous Dawn of Wonder is astonishing, but it is also only the first book in an as yet unfinished series, so here’s hoping the sequels don’t ruin it.
- Douglas Wilson’s Flags out Front might seem a bit old for this group, set, as it is, on a Christian college campus. But for 14 and 15-year-olds, beginning to anticipate life after high school, this will show them how, to glorify God in battle, Christians don’t need to seek out fights, but just have to be willing to fight the ones that God sets before us.