I know boys who won’t touch the Magic Tree House books, but LOVE the Time Warp Trio (TWT) series. Both involve magic books and adventures in time travel, but with its fast-paced mixture of adventure and off-the-wall humor, TWT is seriously boy-friendly.
Most of the books open with action: three friends, Joe, Fred, and Sam, are about to be killed –skewered, shot, trampled by cattle, attacked by a giant chicken, zapped by a robot, or eaten by a three-headed dog, among other less-than-pleasant endings. Just when you think they’re goners, the second chapter jumps back and describes how they ended up there. You see, Joe’s uncle, a magician, gave Joe a magic book (aptly called “The Book”) for his birthday. Every time the boys wish on The Book, it spits out green mist and they end up somewhere and somewhen they didn’t expect. In order to get back, they have find The Book in whatever time they’ve landed. In the process, they make friends and enemies of some famous historical characters, nearly get killed, and have to use their wits to escape.
In Knights of the Kitchen Table, the boys end up in King Arthur’s Britain, where they find themselves facing the Black Knight. They knock him out through some fast footwork and a stick swung like a baseball bat. Acclaimed then as mighty enchanters by Arthur, they get the job of defeating a foul-smelling giant and a fire-breathing dragon who are both converging on the castle at the same time. They trick the giant into fighting the dragon, and the resulting explosion rains pieces of fried giant and dragon down on the castle.
The chapters are short, and most end with an “uh-oh!”: a cliffhanger, where you’d better read on to find out what happens. TWT is my favorite series to recommend to older boys (4th grade+) who are reluctant readers; they’re short, funny, and fairly easy, but not childish. Also, the books were turned into an animated TV show in 2005-2006. The website still has video clips, games, and educational resources for parents and teachers.
And a note for parents: In some of the books, the names of the bad guys sound just enough like something else in English to make boys (including Joe, Fred, and Sam) snicker. In Tut, Tut, the priest is Hatsnat. In Viking It and Liking It, one bad guy is Bullshik, and another is Fulluvit. Those are the only two names to which some parents have objected in reviews on Amazon. If that is a concern for you, your son won’t miss anything by skipping that book and reading the others.
Scieszka (pronounced SHESS-kuh) is not only a very funny author, but a man-on-a-mission to promote reading among boys. His website, Guys Read, has booklists for boys and other helpful information. (And I LOVE to hit ‘refresh’ over and over on the homepage to see the header picture change!)
- Knights of the Kitchen Table
- The Not-So-Jolly Roger
- The Good, the Bad, and the Goofy
- Your Mother Was a Neanderthal
- Tut, Tut
- Summer Reading is Killing Me!
- It’s All Greek to Me
- See You Later, Gladiator
- Sam Samurai
- Hey Kid, Want to Buy a Bridge?
- Viking It and Liking It
- Me Oh Maya!
- Da Wild, Da Crazy, Da Vinci
- Oh Say, I Can’t See
- Marco? Polo