Thursday, February 23, 2012


Friday Fragments

The Dog has developed a habit of kidnapping The Girl’s stuffed animals.  We find them scattered around the house, sometimes with their eyes missing.  The motive is unclear, and the dog isn’t talking.


In a meeting this week, a frustrated professor described politics as “trying to get one group of rich guys to convince another group of rich guys to do the right thing.”  I thought he nailed it.


This year’s Daddy-Daughter dance was lovely, though notably different than the last few.  In previous years, The Girl danced only with me, and happily so.  This year, she alternated between dancing with me and dancing with her friends.

And so it begins...


Life’s little ironies.  My publisher has given me a fish-or-cut-bait deadline on the book.  I’m making better progress than I thought, but it requires some extended periods in which I shut myself in the dining room for some quality time at the keyboard.  So I have to tell the kids to leave me alone so I can write wry and insightful prose about work-life balance.

That just seems wrong, somehow.


Gremlins attacked the campus email system recently, so the system has been down.  Having been without it for a while, I’m not entirely sure I want it back.  Without email, I’ve been weirdly uninterrupted and able to complete a few thoughts.  Even better, I’ve been able to have longer-than-usual, unpressured conversations.  Yes, arranging meetings by phone is cumbersome, but if it cuts down on the number of meetings, this may not be altogether bad.  


From out of the blue, The Girl asked me what causes wars.  I said that wars happened when countries couldn’t use their words.  She said that was silly.  I couldn’t argue.


I’m looking forward to the League for Innovation conference in Philly in March.  If you want to find me, I’ll be the middle-aged white guy.


The Boy blasted through the Harry Potter and Percy Jackson books some time ago, and recently finished the Hunger Games series.  He’s looking for something new, but I don’t have any ideas.  Any suggestions for action-packed fiction for an unusually literate ten year old boy?

My 10 year old son and 13 year old daughter recommend Alex Rider, Pendragon, and Name of the Wind.
He might like "Dark Life" and "Rip Tide" by Kat Falls.
The Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer. Magic, science, explosions, saving the world, and a lovable nerd protagonist who's an evil child genius. Highly recommended for children and grownups.
The Shadow Children series by margaret petrraon haddix he may have read the first one in class...I vaguley remember doing so as a kid but the rest of the series is really good. The Rangers Apprentice books by John Flanagan. Garth Nix writes some good stuff. He may be a bit young still but Enders Game by Orson scott card might be right up his alley.
Scott Westerfield's recent series, Leviathan, Behemoth, and Goliath are good fun.
Your son's been reading the exact same books as my ten-year-old son. Right now, he's been alternating between reading old Three Investigator books and the Iliad (Lattimore's translation).
Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card (also the parallel novel Ender's Shadow). The Blue Sword and The Hero and the Crown, both by Robin McKinley. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. Any book by Tamora Pierce. The Dragon Riders of Pern books by Anne McCaffrey (might have slightly more mature material than a 10 year old can process, though. But I read them about that time and loved them, and have only realized some of the problematic stuff upon re-reading). And ditto on pretty much everything else everyone has mentioned.
Try the EARTHSEA trilogy. They're short and have the best-crafted prose out there.
Another blast from the past would be Susan Cooper's THE DARK IS RISING series. About right for that age group.
Name of the Wind might be a bit adult for him. It's a great book, so feel free to read it first.

Heinlein's YA fiction is surprisingly good -- "Have Spacesuit, Will Travel" is a classic. And of course "The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress" isn't YA, but restrains itself mainly to themes good for a 10 year old.

Lloyd Alexander's novels are good -- The Book of Three, The Black Cauldron, etc.

10 is a pretty good age for the original Dragonlance trilogy, by Weis and Hickman. Don't read much beyond the original trilogy and maybe the Twins novels that follow after. The shared world got abused.

Oh! Mercedes Lackey's "Arrows of the Queen" trilogy is excellent, as is her Vanyel trilogy.

Hm, what else. You could always throw "Snow Crash" by Neil Stephenson at him and watch his head explode. That sounds kinda fun.
I want to reinforce Blue Sword, but Ender's Game is DARK. Crazy brutal dark. I'd almost do Dune before Ender's Game.
Any suggestions for action-packed fiction for an unusually literate ten year old boy?

Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy (which is also fun for adults). TB is probably also old enough for The Hobbit; I read it around age 10, or maybe 11.

(Also: the catpcha system works really poorly. I've had to re-enter about six times so far.)
Retro? Try the "Tom Swift" series if he can handle a half-century or century old view of the present, but I have no idea how easy the older ones are to find. I have "Deep Sea Hydrodome" (a walking deep-sea robot), which is pretty much what people are working on today to develop deep-sea tourism. I wish I had the one about his photo-telephone.

With "Potter" under his belt, he might be ready for the Ring Trilogy -- to read something similar, yet different. Or, if he prefers to devour books in one swallow, serial fiction like Perry Mason, Kinsey Milhone, or Sherlock Holmes might be fun if a library stocks a near-complete set.
I remember being a fan of the Alvin Fernald books by Clifford Hicks around that age. The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin may also appeal to TB.
Consider this another vote for Artemis Fowl. I enjoyed those books, and I'm a 45 year old with no kids.

Can I just say that I hate the fact that there are all these amazing books for kids/teens these days; I am so jealous.
Seconding Earthsea, Tamora Pierce, and Lloyd Alexander, though I recommend branching out beyond The Book of Three to the Westmark trilogy and the Vesper Holly series. Westmark, especially is likely to appeal to him - a little dark, but not too much so. Try him on Madeleine L'Engle, too. If old fashioned language doesn't put him off, try E. Nesbit's books - Five Children and It, etc. I think I devoured Sherlock Holmes at that age - it's surprisingly innocent and non-gory compared to modern mysteries. Joan Aiken's Black Hearts in Battersea series is very good, too.
David Eddings' "Belgariad" books?
It's hard to know what target to aim at for a 10 year old, but if he's anything like me when I was that age (at just the right time to get engrossed in Timothy Zahn's take on Star Wars), TB might enjoy Naomi Novik's "Temeraire" series, the first book of which is "His Majesty's Dragon". The books are often described as Aubrey/Maturin-style Napoleonic era historical fiction with dragons thrown into the mix. It's a hokey premise, but they're full of charming characters and well-crafted narratives.
If he enjoys Harry Potter, he might also like the novels of Diana Wynne Jones. Howl's Moving Castle is great and deservedly gets a lot of attention, but Jones' Chrestomanci and Derkholm series could be worth checking out as well.
Garth Nix
Keys to the Kingdom (Mr Monday etc.)
I second the Ranger's Apprentice series. Also, our dog does the same thing.
Try Scott Westerfeld's "Leviathan", continued in "Behemoth" and a 3rd to come. A steampunk Germany and a genetic engineering England are close to war in 1914.

(There are two young heroes, a German boy and an English girl who is a tomboy, I think both boys and girls will like it.)

I have no idea if you can get Alan Garner's Weirdstone of Brisingamen or anything of Rosemary Sutcliffe's except 2nd hand these days, but if history and magic are his thing, you should try them.
I second the Robin McKinley books, the Belgariad, and the Hobbit - I think I was ready for all of those at that age, and I love them all still.

Also, the Chrestomanci books by Diana Wynne Jones.

Also, if he hasn't read them already, C.S. Lewis' Narnia books and Madeline L'Engle's Wrinkle in Time series.
Has he read the Redwall books by Brian Jacques? There are about 20. It's classic good vs evil but all the characters are animals. (These are great audio books, too. They're done in full cast, with lots of gorgeous British accents.)

I'll 2nd or 3rd Leviathan, Behemoth, and Goliath by Scott Westerfield.

I love Ranger's Apprentice by John Flanagan. I think there are 10 books in that series.

The Young Samurai series by Chris Bradford is good, too.

Has he started reading the Kane Chronicles series (Egyptian myth) or the Heros of Olympus series (Roman myth)? Both are by Rick Riordan, the author of Percy Jackson's books.

For a 10 yo boy who wants to start Tamora Pierce, I'd suggest the Circle of Magic series. Be careful, though, as the Circle Opens series (which comes next in the same world) is all about solving murders by serial murderers. It might be too much. I love her Tortall books, but they're really aimed a bit older than 10 yo. I'm not talking writing style -- I'm talking content. There's girls getting their periods, getting birth control charms, etc.

I just finished reading the Books of Pellinor (4 books) by Allison Croggan, which have a big Tolkien influence.

The Chronicles of Ancient Darkness by Michelle Paver are 6 books set in America thousands of years ago.

The Knight and the Rogue series by Hilari Bell is fun and funny.

He might like Christopher Paolini's Inheritance books.

Megan Whalen Turner's The Queen's Thief series has some interesting twists and turns.

Maybe Fire and Graceling by Kristen Cashore?
I second the Dragonriders of Pern or anything by Anne McCaffrey. The Talent series or the Ship Who Sings might be a good starting place. Also, ANYTHING by Andre Norton. I read the Warding of WitchWorld when I was his age for the first time. But she does more SciFi stuff too.

I also second the Narnia series and Lord of the Rings. Has he started the Star Wars books. He seems like he would like that. I would avoid the "first 3" but start with the original 3 in book form and then go from there.
ha ha on the innovation conference ;-)
Most of my suggestions are already here, let me second the Dragon Lance series as a successor to Harry Potter. Also loved Sherlock Holmes.

For something different, my kids really enjoyed Laura Ingalls Wilder books at that age.
That was my son at 10, too. I could not keep up with his reading habits. The public library was a god-send for us, including the really excellent "young adult" librarian who always had a new suggestion or two up her sleeve.

At about that age, my son discovered mythology. That lasted us for a good, long, time. Norse mythology became his favorite. Pretty action-packed stuff!

(And I love the community of readers, here! I hope you'll do a post on "what to read next" for book-loving adults, too.)
I second the suggestion about Sherlock Holmes...he might really like the Hound of the Baskervilles. Brian Jacques' Redwall series is awesome (I still re-read them occasionally, just for fun). I'd also suggest some more old-fashioned choices, like the Sword in the Stone or Johnny Tremaine.
I read Lois Lowry's The Giver when I was 12 and it's still one of my favorite books. She published 2 more in the series after I sort of aged out of it so I haven't read them, but I bet the whole trilogy would be good.

Also, TB might be a little old for "The Great Brain" books because I may have been 9 or so when I read them, but I highly recommend them if not.
Starship Troopers.
I second the recommendation of "Starship Troopers." Many people have only seen the movie. The book was a tale of the dangers of an overly militarized society. Hollywood managed to turn it into Beverly Hills 90210 in Space.

Later, when he sees the movie in its hideous, unedited glory, he'll understand why he should never trust someone else to interpret good fiction for him.
Just had another thought--Tarzan, beginning at the beginning. They are available free from iBooks, in the public domain.
The series Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators is great if you can find any copies. I read several of the books from age 10 to 12. The Hobbit is also very good; Lord of the Rings may be a little much right now although it really depends on him.
I second the Heinlein. He wrote about a dozen sf for juveniles: Rocketship Galileo, Between Planets, Red Planet, Citizen of the Galaxy, Have Spacesuit--Will Travel, The Rolling Stones, Tunnel in the Sky, Time for the Stars, and a host of others. Some of his adult fiction (aka Stranger in a Strange Land) might be a bit much, but the juveniles were geared specifically to adolescent boys--and they are still a great read. NASA engineers became NASA engineers because they grew up reading Heinlein.
When I was roughly that age (for context, I read The Hobbit and LOTR at age 9, so I was also an advanced reader) I liked:

- The Last Unicorn, by Peter S. Beagle

- Pretty much everything Lloyd Alexander wrote, although I probably liked either the Prydain books (starts with The Book of Three) or The Remarkable Journey of Price Jen the best.

- Pretty much everything John Christopher wrote (he wrote a bunch of what I guess are post-apocalyptic YA in the 60s and 70s) - my favorite was Empty World, which was about a plague but he's best known for the the Tripods books, which are about an alien invasion - they start with The White Mountains. (As an adult my main critique is that none of his books seem to have any female characters that actually do something other than die and/or create a romantic entanglement of some kind, generally while also betraying the hero. Ok in small doses, but trying as a repeated message.)

- Pretty much anything by Jim Kjelgaard. These are not SF or fantasy but rather dog stories - most feature a boy or man and his dog going hunting in the wilderness. I liked that kind of thing at that age. I also read a lot of Walt Morey and, when I got to be more around 11 or 12, Jack London during this phase. Kjelgaard's stuff is pretty easy to read and may be below your kid's reading level already. They also suffer from the complete lack of female characters problem if that's a concern for you. I think they were mostly written in the 40s and 50s.

- Some of Tanith Lee's books - be careful with this author. She both writes some wonderful YA books and some wonderful adult dark fantasy/horror books, so I suggest having an adult screen the specific books before handing them to a kid that young rather than just letting your kid blindly rummage through the library's entire collection. Good YA choices would be The Dragon Hoard or Piratica.

- I also really liked some of the Narnia books, but they're not something I generally recommend because I found the 7th book so off-putting (I am not a Christian and was not raised with the Christian mythos - I'm told it's a better read if you're familiar with that).

- Similarly, I really liked some of the Madeline L'Engle books but they also became very Christian partway through so I'm careful about who I recommend them to. (My favorite as a kid was actually Many Waters, which is a retelling of the biblical flood story, which I wasn't otherwise very familiar with.)

I was also very into Greek mythology at that age, but found Lattimore's translation of the Iliad (mentioned by another commenter) too difficult to read without support (I think I was 11 at the time). I think I could have made it through if a family member had been helping me understand it and discussing it with me, but it's a pretty dense thing to expect a kid to read on their own (and also not particularly kid-appropriate in content, obviously).
seconding the suggestion of Chronicles of Ancient Darkness by Paver. They were very good. We also enjoyed the Inkheart series by Corneila Funke (actually we've enjoyed all of her books so far, but start there).
For the hard core sci-fi kid I'd refer back to the classics but stick to short stories. Ray bradbury's October country is one example. Isacc Asimov, Aurthur C. Clark also have some good short stody collections (robot dreams is my favorite but there are others). Piers Anthony wrote a series in the world of Xanth that is pretty good (and about 20 volumes long) but his other stuff is more mature. Lawrence Watt-Evans is also good with odd accidental heros and Christopher Stasheff manages to combine poetry, fantasy and Catholocism in his wizard and warlock series. If the boy hasn't exhausted Roald Dahl, I'd make the effort.

There's also Kidnapped, Treasure Island, Lord Jim (or anything by conrad), The Jungle Book, the tatooed man (if you can find it) Alice in Wonderland and Through the looking glass.

Most of these are old enough to find at used bookstores or the library.
Oh yes! My son got a book of HG Wells short stories somewhere around age 10-12 (can't remember exactly) and he adored them.
+1 to Madeline L'Engle, Tamora Pierce, Lloyd Alexander and Philip Pullman.

Also, the Earthsea trilogy by Ursula LeGuin.
Terry Pratchett has some YA stuff that works, too.
If short stories are the thing, you might also try Poe and O'Henry. Twain - especially a Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court is also good for a chuckle or two.
I second (3rd?) Dragonlance books. Also along those lines is anything by R.A. Salvatore. He writes Forgotten Realms books, but all of his books about Drizzt are great (there's like 12 of them, so look them up for chronological order before you buy them). Piers Anthony's Xanth novels are good-lots of silly puns he'll enjoy. I liked his "Incarnations of Immortality" series, but there's a lot of morality stuff in there that might be a bit heavy. I think I was 11 or 12 when I started them, but enjoyed them thoroughly.
Heeeuwww...there is a lot of seriously messed up sexuality in the Xanth books after the first few. It's kinda like Jack L. Chalker -- there's good stuff going on, but you might need to have a little talk after the book's over.
Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser.
Don't forget about Gary Paulsen. Different, but honestly one of my favorite authors to recommend for stretching a kid's reading beyond the comfort zone. Laurie Halse Anderson's "Forge" might be a little older, but it's amazing. I'm going to second the plug for finding a Young Adult Librarian in your area. Mostly this is because no one gets to know the latest books for kids like the YA Librarian- and they genuinely love to talk about all kinds of books- which is something that all kids should get to do with someone who isn't a parent or teacher.
With all due respect, the sexual politics in Piers Anthony are not something I'd want my 10 year old boy internalizing. Actually, ditto for some Heinlein (though I'll make a distinct exception for Podkayne of Mars, since I read that one about that age and it was part of what got me into adult science fiction).
The Dragonlance books were incredibly enjoyable when I read them as an older teen, but again they are not precisely something I would encourage for a 10 year old, for much the same reason.
If puns are the thing, I remember Robert Asprin's Myth Adventures series as a bit more wholesome (although with an occasional wink/nudge), but I didn't read them young (although Google tells me somebody mentioned them in a "4th grader reading at 11th grade level" question thread, so maybe that's a good sign?).
Yeah, the Xanth novels are brutally cisgendered to start. The real issue is the commitment to pedophilia after the first half dozen, though.

Plus, of course, puns are highly culture dependent. So they just aren't as funny to someone who didn't grow up in the same world.
I'm given to understand that Tamora Pierce is excellent, though I have little personal experience.

The big thing with Misty Lackey is her focus on abused children. This is because of her background, and because there are a lot of abused children in the world, and the novels are actually a good introduction to the idea. But be prepared for a few questions and some tears.
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