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By Tom Palmerauthor

Author of the new Football Detective series, reviews a selection of books for boys

Tom Palmer

Tom Palmer — author of the new Football Detective series

Tangshan Tigers: The Stolen Jade by Dan Lee (Puffin, £4.99, PB)

The Tangshan Tigers: The Stolen Jade

Suitable for: boys; younger readers; older readers; reluctant readers; more able readers; reading aloud.

The Tangshan Tigers – a group of young martial arts trainees based in Beijing – have two challenges: to win their next tournament and to solve the mystery of a stolen jade dish. And what a great story! As well as action, suspense and strong child characters, readers learn a lot about the martial arts; mostly the importance of control, respect and intelligence. The best character in the book is an adult – Chang Sifu, the calm and wise teacher, who acts as a superb role model to his students and readers. The story gathers pace as it reaches its climax when a mystery is solved and right overcomes wrong. And – best of all – the next mystery is set up. Great stuff.

The Flea Thing by Brian Falkner (Walker, £4.99, PB)

The Flea Thing by Brian Falkner

Suitable for: boys; older readers; reluctant readers.

Daniel Scott can run fast. Really fast. At 12 years old, he signs for the top Rugby League side in New Zealand. But there’s a price to pay. As he becomes the world’s most famous Rugby League star, his childhood friendships falter and his fantasises switch: from wanting to be a famous sportsman to wanting to be an ordinary boy with ordinary friends.

Although the story is sometimes a bit rushed, this is an otherwise great read with a very sympathetic hero. And unique – as far as I know – as a children’s story about Rugby League.

Shoot to win by Dan Freedman (Scholastic, £4.99, PB)

Shoot to win by Dan Freedman

Suitable for: boys; older readers; more able readers.

Jamie is good at football. One of the best at Kingfield School. The school has made it through to the cup final, but Jamie is not in the team: the coach has dropped him. And to make it worse, Jamie’s great enemy – Dillon – has been picked up by a professional team. Exactly what Jamie wanted for himself. Add in a tricky step-dad-step-son relationship and a reappearing real dad, and you’ve got a good novel about boys, dads and football.

As with many football stories, Shoot to win ends with a nail-biting cup final. And – unlike many football stories – with a couple of surprises along the way.

Jack and the dragon’s tooth by Lily Hyde (Barrington Stoke, £5.99, PB)

Jack and the dragon's tooth

Suitable for: boys; younger readers; reluctant readers; reading aloud.

An easy-to-read story about two brothers – one foolish, one wise – published by Barrington Stoke, who specialise in making books accessible and exciting for reluctant readers.

The King is worried. Soon he will have to hand over his kingdom to one of his sons. He knows they will fight like cat and dog once he’s gone. So he tries to work out which son will be the best to succeed him.

During the story we meet dragons, friendly mice, wizards and talking mosquitoes. A fairytale which – although rambling at times – is a satisfying read.

The Bare Bum Gang and the Football Face-Off by Anthony McGowan (Red Fox, £4.99, PB)

The bare bum gang and the football face-off

Suitable for: boys; girls; younger readers; reluctant readers; reading aloud.

Four boys, led by Ludo, have a den in the woods. Collectively they are The Bare Bum Gang. But another gang – of older boys – wants the den, too. So the two gangs play a game of football to decide who keeps it. But the real hero of the book is a girl, Jennifer. Her Taekwon-do sees off the bullies after they cheat in the match.

On the surface, this is a story about boys, gangs and football. But it is really about friendships, loyalty and bravery. Anthony McGowan – known for his hard-hitting books for older children – writes a pacy plot with humour and heart.

Don’t forget you can win all these books in our Giveaways section.

Grizzly Tales: Nasty Little Beasts by Jamie Rix (Orion, £5.99, PB)

Grizzly Tales: Nasty Little Beasts

Suitable for: boys; older readers; reluctant readers; reading aloud.

A set of cautionary tales in which lazy, naughty and greedy children get punished in grim ways. Narrated by the host of Hothell Darkness. Illustrated with severed fingers, eyeballs and dirty underpants. Part of a series.

Cosmic by Frank Cottrell Boyce (Macmillan, £9.99, HB)

Cosmic by Frank Cottrell Boyce

Suitable for: boys; older readers; more able readers.

Another great story from Frank Cottrell Boyce, who puts children into extreme situations. Liam is tall. So tall people think he’s a man. Then he finds himself pitched into outer space. Can Liam prove he is the best boy for the job?

Astrosaurs Academy: Contest Carnage! by Steve Cole (Red Fox, £4.99, PB)

Astrosaurs Academy: Contedt Carnage! by Steve Cole (Red Fox)

Suitable for: boys; younger readers; reluctant readers; reading aloud.

A group of vegetarian astronaut dinosaurs compete in a comical Olympics which gets serious when a carnivore tries to spoil the fun. But, by working together, the herbivores’ teamwork means they win the day.

Jimmy Coates: Survival by Joe Craig (HarperCollins, £5.99, PB)

Jimmy Coates Survival by Joe Craig

Suitable for: boys; older readers; more able readers.

Book five in the Jimmy Coates series. Jimmy has been genetically engineered by the Government to be a super boy. But Jimmy doesn’t want to be a government assassin. He just wants to be normal.

Venom Rising by Gary Murray (Quest, £5.99 PB)

Venom Rising

Suitable for: boys; younger readers; older readers; reluctant readers.

A special agent story with a difference. To save humankind the reader must crack codes and find out facts from glossaries in the back of the book to access a linked website. Easy to read and broken into small chunks, it’s a great interactive story.

Our reviewer

Author of Puffin’s new Football Detective 9+ series, Tom Palmer, hated books when he was a boy, but his mum used football to get him into reading. The first book in his series – Foul Play – is about a boy who solves football crimes. In 2009, Tom’s 7-9 series – Football Academy (also Puffin) – launches. Tom also works for the National Literacy Trust, the Football Foundation and the Reading Agency. Visit www.tompalmer.co.uk

Foul Play by Tom Palmer

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