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I paid significant attention to updating the NONFICTION section of my "Books for Boys" page recently. Check it out.

Boy Book of the Month

Boy reading
For your reading pleasure...

No advertising... No selling... Just sincere, honest advice.

(How many 'book recommendation' sites can say that?)

January Boy Book of the Month
Something Rotten: A Fresh Look at Roadkill
By Heather L. Montgomery
 

What kid doesn’t see roadkill on the curbside and not want to take a closer look? Many, you say? Well, those aren’t the people this book is for.

 

For the rest of us, Heather L. Montgomery's—er, fresh take at splattered creatures reveals the—well, the inside story of this—um, track of the animal world. It’s an engaging, enthusiastic, storytelling-style examination that begins with a dead rattlesnake she discovered one day near her home. Unable to resist the snake's, um, charm, she digs right in and dissects it (noting, properly, that she made a few bad decisions in touching, let alone examining, the still-poisonous creature). From there, she reveals how her own curiosity led her to discover more about roadkill, and she takes us on the ride with her.

 

Montgomery is a wildlife researcher who shares her enthusiasm at every turn afterward through the southern half of America. Then she takes her show in the—well, on the road across the globe, inquiring of scientists and roadkill fans of their expertise. In Australia, there are biologists searching for the cure to cancer by examining Tasmanian devil carcasses; elsewhere, a scientist who discovered a previously unknown bird species by examining a solitary wing; and even a restaurant that serves up a tasty corpse du jour.

 

Throughout, Montgomery is unafraid to share that science can be gross, and that researchers need to get their hands, um, dirty, to come to any real discoveries. In that, this is a refreshingly honest narrative.

 

I suppose another iteration of this book would have more charts, graphs and—well, maybe pictures, and that would really make this irresistible, but the writing is so good that it's hard to not want to finish each and every chapter.

December Boy Book of the Month
Black Flowers, White Lies
By Yvonne Ventresca
 
About once a year, I discover a book with a female protagonist that may be primarily for girls, yet is not written with that kind of language/tone that says to boys, “You’re not welcome in our sorority.” (I am sure there are more, but I find about one a year.)
Yvonne Ventresca's riveting Crystal Kite-winning  Pandemic was one of my favorites, and iBlack Flowers, White Lies, Ventresca proves her broad appeal even as she goes deep into character psyche.
 
In this truly well-written psychological thriller, high school senior Ella Benton has to navigate her new relationship with her new stepfather, a brand-new stepbrother Blake, her too-good-to-be-true boyfriend, and—herself. In lesser hands, the story could be boilerplate fiction. But Ventresca is a fine writer, and she has a few tricks up her sleeve to make the story shine:
 
She introduces the supernatural connection early on, by having Ella keep her trips to her long-dead father's gravesite secret from her mother. Ventresca masters the psychological elements; because Ella has been keeping her own secrets, she is susceptible to mistrusting others, including her mother, who may not have told her the truth about her father’s death. Then, there's the supernatural symbol: a handprint mysteriously similar to the one she leaves on her father's headstone suddenly appears on her bathroom mirror. Is that a warning from her father from the grave, a sign that her boyfriend isn’t all he seems to be? Or the work of a handful of other characters masterfully placed in the novel? And what does Ella do once the signs and coincidences become more menacing? Especially when the evidence builds that none of this is really happening, and it just might be Ella having a nervous breakdown that maybe, just maybe, her father had endured, as well?
 
Boys need not be afraid of stories told by girls. In fact, they occasionally should dive into that world on purpose. They'll find stories as engrossing as those written with boys in mind, and female characters who in fact share the same kinds of feelings they do. They also will find insight into girls that they often are not encouraged to even consider. This story is one of the best for all these awakenings. I can think of few writers better than Yvonne Ventresca in which boys can find a mystery that moves as quickly, scares as easily and keeps readers riveted. Black Fkowers, White Lies is enormously rewarding for the reader who tries to unravel the mystery one step ahead of protagonist Ella.

 

November Boy Book of the Month

Nevertheless, We Persisted: 48 Voices of Defiance, Strength and Courage

By Multiple Authors

 

The title says it all. If you’re at all interested, get the book and read the stories that interest you most. Then try to resist reading the rest of them. My personal favorite (*right now. I reserve the right to fall in love with others as I reread them): “They didn’t succeed—I Survived” a story by ninety-six-year--old holocaust survivor Fanny Starr. Where others are not quite as strong, there are those, like this one, that make you understand immediately what persistence really means. It gives perspective to those who do not yet understand the word.

 

October Boy Book of the Month

Rabbit & Robot

by Andrew Smith

 

It may be Andrew Smith's wildest and craziest book yet, but don't let that scare you. It's also more accessible than some of his latest work, which was wild and crazy but also dense.


The novel takes place on board the Tennessee, a spaceship orbiting a war-torn, ruined earth. Addict Cager Messer has been transported here by best friends Billy and Rowan to get him clean, but the weirdness on board here is as bizarre as any drug trip he'll ever have.


In no particular order, Cager confronts: world destruction; haywire Douglas-Adams-esque spaceships; hyperemotional cannibalistic robots; quirky blue shapeshifting aliens; a bisexual French giraffe (my favorite); pessimistic tigers and self-centered apes with Boston accents; horny robotic personal assistants; enough gender fluidity and artificially intelligent life forms to keep one's head delightfully spinning; and the possibility that he, Billy and Rowan are the last humans in existence (well, until computer programmer Meg Hatfield and her best friend come aboard).

 

This is the kind of book you will want to read if you feel like laughing out loud and reading passages out loud in outrageous accents to your friends, who will then also laugh out loud. And when your teachers show concern that you're having too much fun reading, you'll discuss the ending with them, to show that humor and mayhem are the best ways to confront some of the biggest questions of existence: in this case, what does it mean to be human?


The cover, by the way, tells you a lot about what's inside--a creative conglomeration of stuff all over the place! Only Andrew Smith could write this book and keep it together.

September Boy Book of the Month

Long Way Down

by Jason Reynolds

 

I have read and held onto this book for a while now. See, the thing is: it's not for everybody. It's not for someone who hasn't experienced loss, who has never felt anger, who has never been driven by the need for revenge, or who doesn't care to think about consequences.
That being said, Long Way Down is a powerful short novel in verse (don't worry, the poetry is not intrusive). When it opens, teenage Will's brother Shawn has been shot and killed. As it turns out, Shawn's death is the latest in a long string of violence that started years and years ago. But Shawn is determined to get revenge. He gets Shawn's gun, leaves his apartment, and takes the elevator downstairs to enact the rules of the street: no crying, no snitching, get payback. What Will is not prepared for during the long trip down is a series of supernatural visits from victims of violence that have affected his life without him knowing any of it. Now, however, he is going to know the truth. Once armed with the truth, will he remain a pawn in an endless game of chess that has no winners, or will he break the pattern and claim life?

Long Way Down is certainly Reynolds' most disturbing book yet, but still retains the mastery and beauty of storytelling.

Boy Book of the Summer #1

Sandwiches: More Than You've EVER Wanted to Know about Making and Eating America's Favorite Food

by Alison Deering and Bob Lentz 

 

It's a nonfiction summer, mostly for middle-schoolers and younger. Each of these books is written with a sense of fun imbued in them, and each is the kind of book kids can pick up randomly and just keep reading. This one includes recipes for rainy summer days, to keep kids occupied in a great way.

Boy Book of the Summer #2

Marine Science for Kids 

by Josh and Bethanie Hestermann 

 

It's a nonfiction summer, mostly for middle-schoolers and younger. Each of these books is written with a sense of fun imbued in them, and each is the kind of book kids can pick up randomly and just keep reading. This one includes a series of scientific activities for summertime fun.

Boy Book of the Summer #3

When the Sky Breaks: Hurricanes, Tornadoes, and the Worst Weather in the World

by Simon Winchester 

 

It's a nonfiction summer, mostly for middle-schoolers and younger. Each of these books is written with a sense of fun imbued in them, and each is the kind of book kids can pick up randomly and just keep reading. If you don't know Simon Winchester, you should, for he is one of the finest nonfiction writers for kids on the planet. He knows how to make information interesting and fun, and once you discover one of his books, there are a lot more to come, most of which are easy to find in the library for free.

Boy Book of the Summer #4

Whale Quest 

by Karen Romano Young 

 

It's a nonfiction summer, mostly for middle-schoolers and younger. Each of these books is written with a sense of fun imbued in them, and each is the kind of book kids can pick up randomly and just keep reading. Is there a kid in America who doesn't love whales?

Boy Book of the Summer #5

A Beginner's Guide to Coding

by Alison Deering and Bob Lentz 

 

This is not your father's childhood—or even your own. Kids today should at least be introduced to the idea of computer coding if they are going to be full participants in the "world of tomorrow" (which, by the way, is the actually here today). Another book written with a sense of fun imbued in it— the kind of book kids can pick up randomly and just keep reading. Interesting lessons here can give kids a sense of what coding is all about, and the experiments start quite easy.

Please see the <Books for Boys> link at the left for the complete list of suggestions from the past 20 years of children's/YA writing.