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Old 08-28-2013, 06:40 PM
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Book Suggestion? pre-teen, non-fiction


I need book suggestions for:
  • A 10 year old boy
  • Non-fiction
  • Centered around a kid who has struggled with circumstances in his life (big things, like poverty, war, etc.)

My son has been struggling lately with appreciating what he has and, after a long talk, he's agreed to read a book about someone who has had a rough road. [this is one way we're approaching the issue, but not the only one]

He reads above grade level [for example, he read and understood The Hunger Games]. We watch & discuss the news and he's been involved with social action work through our UU Fellowship, so he's not sheltered from world events. But, he's still a 10 year old boy.

Any suggestions for something he could read? I thought about Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, but I think all the girl stuff (especially the puberty-related things) might turn him off. But something along those lines.

Any suggestions?
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Old 08-28-2013, 06:41 PM
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Maybe "The Giver"?
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Old 08-28-2013, 06:44 PM
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Biographies are good places to start for that age, because they can read up on someone they admire before the biographies turn into the "the person you admire was really a monster" type that adults tend to read.

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Originally Posted by nearwildheaven View Post
Maybe "The Giver"?
That's non-fiction now?
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Old 08-28-2013, 06:45 PM
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There's a very good YA biography of Robert H. Goddard, dating from maybe the late 1960s. I found it very inspiring and intriguing in the day.
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Old 08-28-2013, 06:53 PM
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Sorry! I just saw that he'd read "The Hunger Games".

For a while, my niece was reading anything she could get her hands on about Elizabeth Blackwell, the first American licensed woman physician. Marie Curie was quite a pioneer in her time too.
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Old 08-28-2013, 07:05 PM
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I think I need less "inspiring" and more "see how rough these kids have it? your don't get to say you have it worse than anyone because you can't use the ipad right now."

The Hunger Games was actually pretty good, because we were able to discuss kids in poverty vs. the people in the Capital. We talked about how the author may have been commenting on what was going on in our culture and world. I think something with similar themes, but non-fiction, would be ideal.

I think they're going to have to read "The Giver" in school this year.
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Old 08-28-2013, 07:28 PM
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Originally Posted by Amateur Barbarian View Post
There's a very good YA biography of Robert H. Goddard, dating from maybe the late 1960s. I found it very inspiring and intriguing in the day.
Do you mean "Rocket Man"? That looks good - I'm going to put that on my wish list for him.
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Old 08-28-2013, 07:39 PM
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Any suggestions for something he could read? I thought about Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, but I think all the girl stuff (especially the puberty-related things) might turn him off. But something along those lines.

Any suggestions?
Friedrich is the first thing that comes to mind. It is actually historical fiction, but it is essentially the equivalent of Anne Frank for boys, targets the right age group, and hits the points that you're trying to make. Our teacher read it to my 6th grade class, and it has stayed with me ever since.
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Old 08-28-2013, 08:17 PM
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For sheer misery you can't beat Angela's Ashes but not really an age appropriate choice.

Soldier's Heart is not strictly a biography but its largely based on real events and real people. Has some violent parts but no more so than "The Hunger Games."
  #10  
Old 08-28-2013, 08:23 PM
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Boy by Roald Dahl, the autobiography of his early life. His struggles aren't as big as war (that comes in his adult biography) but there's poverty, tragedy, and a rather brutal school.
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Old 08-28-2013, 08:35 PM
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These are all great suggestions.

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Originally Posted by Hello Again View Post
Soldier's Heart is not strictly a biography but its largely based on real events and real people. Has some violent parts but no more so than "The Hunger Games."
This one, especially, looks good. My son has read Hatchet and Brian's Winter and loved both. A Gary Paulsen book will spark his interest.
  #12  
Old 08-29-2013, 09:57 AM
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The Endless Steppe by Esther Hautzig is about a pre-teen Jewish girl from Poland who is exiled to Siberia with her family in the late 1930's. It's a true story, and well worth reading.
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Old 08-29-2013, 10:27 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by C3 View Post
I think I need less "inspiring" and more "see how rough these kids have it? your don't get to say you have it worse than anyone because you can't use the ipad right now."

.
OK, not what you expected, but what about Farmer Boy, by Laura Ingalls Wilder, based on the boyhood of her husband? This might be interesting because Almanzo knows that he has it pretty good, but you can compare what "pretty good" meant then and means now.

The actual non-fictiveness is a separate discussion, though.
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Old 08-29-2013, 12:10 PM
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Farmer Boy is a good selection that makes the point without being depressing. His family was considered well off but he's expected to pull his weight for real. In one scene Alonzo is training calfs to plow. At some point you realize he's only 7 or 8.
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Old 08-29-2013, 12:30 PM
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Do you mean "Rocket Man"? That looks good - I'm going to put that on my wish list for him.
I think that's a newer one than I meant but I can't find a certain title and link to mine - I think it was just "Robert H. Goddard" and there are several early-1960s bios that could be the one I read. Try "Rocket Man."

The interesting thing is that there is a shortage of adult biographies of Goddard - at least, I never found one in years of looking. Something might have been published in the last ten years or so.

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For sheer misery you can't beat Angela's Ashes but not really an age appropriate choice.
I don't know what age is appropriate for that book. My wife went crazy over it and bought about six copies for people including me (her copy was on her Kindle). After about the fifth time the father lost everything the family had to booze and dragged them down another notch, I gave up and practically had to call the suicide hotline.

Yes, it's fabulous writing. But it's *so* *bloody* *awful*.
  #16  
Old 08-29-2013, 12:39 PM
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OK, not what you expected, but what about Farmer Boy, by Laura Ingalls Wilder, based on the boyhood of her husband?
I was actually tempted to suggest this. Wilder's "Little House" books in general are good for demonstrating how people lived back in the days before modern conveniences, but the others are girl-centered enough to possibly dissuade boys from reading them.
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Old 08-29-2013, 01:34 PM
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I thought about Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, but I think all the girl stuff (especially the puberty-related things) might turn him off.
Night by Elie Wiesel comes to mind, but ten years old may be too young to read it. Whether it should be classified as a fictionalized memoir or a semi-autobiographical novel is a matter of debate.
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Old 08-29-2013, 02:30 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hello Again View Post
Farmer Boy is a good selection that makes the point without being depressing. His family was considered well off but he's expected to pull his weight for real. In one scene Alonzo is training calfs to plow. At some point you realize he's only 7 or 8.
I believe that he celebrates his ninth birthday in the book. He gets to stay home from school without doing any work other than his normal chores. His material present is a sled so that he can haul things like wood and nuts.

There's also a part where Manny asks his father for a nickel so that he can buy lemonade at the fair. His father gives him a talk about what a nickel and half dollar actually represent, which is the amount of work that was needed to earn that money. This might be an excellent talking point, as well as a way to point out how prices go up.

I think that all of the Little House books are good about showing how the homesteaders and farmers had to live back then.
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Old 08-29-2013, 03:06 PM
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Number the Stars is fiction, but it's very historically grounded. It's not nearly as girly as Anne Frank, and it might be what you're looking for.
  #20  
Old 08-29-2013, 03:19 PM
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My Name is America. A series of books written in the form of a young boy's diary about historical American events. Absolutely wonderful, even for adults (I just bought five of the companion series The Royal Diaries from our library).
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Old 08-29-2013, 06:09 PM
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Night by Elie Wiesel comes to mind, but ten years old may be too young to read it. Whether it should be classified as a fictionalized memoir or a semi-autobiographical novel is a matter of debate.
I actually taught this book to a 9th grade Honors English class (a long time ago). This might be a little advanced for him, but it's a fantastic book. They read Hiroshima that semester, too. They were floored by both.

I love all of these suggestions. My friend's son, 12 years old, recommended Red Scarf Girl, which is about a girl growing up during the Chinese Cultural Revolution. It wouldn't have been something I would have normally picked, but the kid who suggested it said it really affected him and he has a lot in common with my son, so I'm hoping it will be a good reading experience for him.

I bought that one, but I've added almost all of the above suggestions to our library wish list. I have a 7 year old boy, too, and every few months, I'll read a novel that I pick out to both of them. I think Farmer Boy is going to be the next book I pick. We read Where the Red Fern Grows (one of my childhood favorites) this summer and they were completely hooked.
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Old 08-29-2013, 11:22 PM
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It's not nonfiction, but it's historical fiction: what about Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes. I listened to it on an audiobook a few years back and IIRC it wasn't bad. It's set during the Revolutionary War and tells the story of a 14-year-old boy and various trials and difficulties he overcomes.

Last edited by Infovore; 08-29-2013 at 11:23 PM.
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Old 08-31-2013, 08:54 AM
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Again, fictional, but I Am David, by Anne Holm.
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Old 08-31-2013, 10:16 AM
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It's fiction, but there's "Diary of a Part Time Indian" that has become one of my favorite books.
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Old 08-31-2013, 05:31 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Infovore View Post
It's not nonfiction, but it's historical fiction: what about Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes. I listened to it on an audiobook a few years back and IIRC it wasn't bad. It's set during the Revolutionary War and tells the story of a 14-year-old boy and various trials and difficulties he overcomes.
You mean Johnny Deformed?
Quote:
Marge Simpson: I think you might like this. It's about a boy who goes to war. His hand is deformed in an accident.
Bart Simpson: Deformed? Why didn't you say so! They should call this book "Johnny Deformed''!
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Old 08-31-2013, 05:54 PM
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Manchild In the Promised Land by Claude Brown.

I read it in high school, so memory's kinda fuzzy, but it's the true story of a young African-American teen from a poverty stricken, violent neighborhood faced with a decision to change his life for the better.
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Old 08-31-2013, 06:15 PM
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Homer Hickam's Rocket Boys is a pretty good read. He's a retired NASA rocket scientist who grew up in a dirt poor coal mining town. As a teenager, he and his buddies got interested in rockets. They designed and built a series of them, learning as they went along. At first, they were just hacking around, blowing stuff up, mostly, but as they progressed they wound up doing serious research, winning first the local and then the state science fairs and earning his way into college.

His father was a superintendent at the mine, so they were a bit better off than some, but were still in very tight circumstances.

Don't bother to watch the movie, which changed the family relationships considerably.
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Old 08-31-2013, 06:58 PM
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Quote:
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... to read a book about someone who has had a rough road ...
How about some newspaper articles instead of a book? I am talking about features telling the stories of actual, individual, ordinary children affected by circumstances and events, not the "big picture"-type news that you mention "watching and discussing".

The newspaper I read (the Chicago Tribune) runs those kinds of pieces all the time, as do most major papers. Follow-up stories, too -- sometimes uplifting, sometimes even sadder than the original coverage.

Last edited by FeAudrey; 08-31-2013 at 06:59 PM.
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