Sunday, December 2, 2012

Nice-Boy Heroes in Chapter Books

Books are always better when read with coonskin cap.
When I started reading chapter books aloud to N., it seemed to me that many of the classic children's books either have girls as the main characters (Betsy-Tacy, Pippi Longstocking) or feature boys who are troublemakers, don't like school, etc. (see a brief survey here).  While he enjoys the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books, my son is generally disturbed when kids do "bad" things in books.  And as much as parents of girls might look for models of femininity beyond Barbie, I seek positive models of masculinity for my son (while at the same time reading him lots of books with spunky heroines).  So I started keeping a list of books we've read starring good/smart/nice boys.  I'm not talking Little Lord Fauntleroy goody-goodies here. But these boys don't hate school, they're aren't especially violent, they don't mind being friends with girls, they are independent, competent, and accomplished in their own ways... in other words, they're a lot like the boy I read to.
  • Ginger Pye by Eleanor Estes
  • Rufus M by Eleanor Estes
  • Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • The Children of Green Knowe by L.M. Boston
  • Homer Price and More Tales from Centerburg by Robert McCloskey
  • The Railway Children by E. Nesbit
  • Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective (series) by Donald Sobol
  • Charlie and The Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
  • James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
  • The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden
  • Knight's Castle by Edward Eager
  • The Borrowers by Mary Norton
  • Seven-Day Magic by Edward Eager
  • The Borrowers Afield by Mary Norton
  • The Well-Wishers by Edward Eager
  • The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • The Saturdays and The Four-Story Mistake by Elizabeth Enright
  • Five Children and It and The Phoenix and the Carpet by E. Nesbit
  • Henry Huggins (and other "Henry" books) by Beverly Cleary
  • Swallows and Amazons (series) by Arthur Ransome
  • Ralph S. Mouse by Beverly Cleary
  • Runaway Ralph by Beverly Cleary
  • The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary
  • The Magic City by E. Nesbit
  • Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling
  • The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall
  • The Alley and The Tunnel of Hugsy Goode by Eleanor Estes
  • Winter Holiday by Arthur Ransome
  • The Coot Club by Arthur Ransome
  • Pigeon Post by Arthur Ransome
  • 26 Fairmont Ave. series by Tomie DePaola
  • The Adventures of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
  • Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick
  • My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George 
This isn't an exhaustive list, of course; it only covers what we've read aloud or N. has read himself to date.  There are additional good suggestions in the comments to my post on our 1st-grade read-alouds here.  What other nice boys are we missing?


Megan D. Neal said...

That's a great list. Here are some more "nice boys" books:
*The Book of Three (and the rest of the Chronicles of Prydain series) by Lloyd Alexander
*Adam of the Road by Elizabeth Grey Vining
*Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes
*Little Men and Jo's Boys by Louisa May Alcott
*The Giver by Lois Lowry
*Little Britches by Ralph Moody
*Rascal by Sterling North
*Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
*The Black Stallion by Walter Farley
*My Friend Flicka by Mary O'Hara
*The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White
*Carry On, Mr. Bowditch by Jean Lee Latham
*The Genie of Sutton Place by George Selden
*The Great Brain series by John D. Fitzgerald
*Rufus M. (from the Moffat series) by Eleanor Estes
*Over Sea, Under Stone (and the rest of The Dark is Rising series) by Susan Cooper
*Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli
*The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
*Edward's Eyes by Patrica MacLachlan
*Heart of a Shepard by Rosanne Parry
*Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Fanny Harville said...

Wow, Megan, yours is a great list. I already have some of them on our TBR list, but list gives me many more to add! Thanks!

Momand Kiddo said...

This is such a good list. I've been thinking for a while about making a list of books with great boy protagonists, but between you and Megan, I don't need to! Also, I am really looking forward to reading Wonder. Thanks for linking up this week.

Lindsay said...

64Great books. This is the 2nd "boys' books" listing I've seen recently, and I'm surprised that no one has mentioned the "Redwall" series.

Megan D. Neal said...

I forgot to include:
*The Mysterious Benedict Society series by Trenton Lee Stewart
*The Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

Anonymous said...

Gentle Ben by Walt Morey

We also like the sequels to My Friend Flicka:
Green Grass of Wyoming

The Good Master
The Singing Tree by Kate Seredy (childhood in rural Hungary)

Captains Courageous by Rudyard Kipling

Far Out on the Long Canal by Meindert DeJong (learning to skate in Holland)

The Children of Noisy Village by Astrid Lindgren (childhood in rural Sweden)

Fanny Harville said...

I remember being traumatized by Bridge to Terabithia -- not sure I could bear to revisit it!

We love Children of Noisy Village. And I think Lindgren has a bunch of books with boy protagonists but I've never read them (or seen them at my library).

We recently began reading Captains Courageous, so I'm glad this was mentioned here.

And we could start a whole separate list of Books With Nice Mouse-Boys: Redwall, Stuart Little, Mouse Guard, Ben and Me, The Cricket in Times Square...

Anonymous said...

Oh i loved Adam of the Road as a kid!

Keitha said...

Thank you so much for posting this list! My son likes to listen to books on cd in the car. Our library has a good collection but the main characters are mostly girls.