As an avid reader, you might be able to imagine the heartbreak I felt when my oldest son (age 9) told me at the beginning of summer 2016 that he was “not a fan of reading.” My wife and I do push back a little bit because we know the benefits that strong reading skills offer to students in other subjects, but we don’t push hard. He does his reading for school assignments, but we just don’t see him reaching for books that aren’t required reading… reading for pleasure has not been something we’ve spotted.
But in the past few months, I’ve noticed a slight change, and it really came down to simple trial and error and realizing I’d made a HUGE assumption about my son that wasn’t true. I love fiction, so I’m always on the lookout for fiction series that sound interesting (at least to me) and that might grab his attention. I just ASSUMED that he would enjoy reading a series, science fiction or fantasy or mystery or whatever, once we found the right one. It turns out that my son just isn’t into fiction… he likes non-fiction!
My son seems to have a very strong interest in history. He likes true-life tales, but he’s also really big into technology. He still has to be nudged to get reading, but it’s not as difficult to get him going. The secret now is trying to find books that he’ll enjoy. He’s not much into browsing at the bookstore, so that adds a little difficulty to the process. Constant questions about “what are you studying that you would like to know more about?” and “are there any time periods or famous people you’d like to read more about?” are asked weekly. And slowly but surely, my son seems to be starting to discover for himself the joy of reading. I hope.
Below, you’ll find three new titles that have grabbed my son’s attention and held on. I can tell you that there are dozens and dozens of books that he’s not finished, but the ones below were read cover to cover, and all I can hope is to find many more like them.
Mystery & Mayhem Series — Survival: True Stories by Tom McCarthy
Nomad Press has a TON of history-themed books, and my son and I are going through the online list to identify some new titles after he recently finished two of them. The first book he tackled was Survival: True Stories, a 124-page paperback that provided amazing details on five different tales of survival. The first survival story is about Captain Ernest Shackleton and his men and their incredible tale of survival after their ship, Endurance, got trapped in the ice of the Antarctic coast. Next, the tale of Captain Bligh and a small group of men dropped into a boat after the crew of the Bounty mutinied is told. The story of William Lewis Manly’s trek across Death Valley after leaving Salt Lake City is followed by Charlotte Picard’s story of survival after the Medusa shipwrecked in 1816. Finishing up the book’s five tales is the story of George Donner and the men, women, and children who chose to follow him in 1846 and their battle to survive against the elements and hunger.
Each of the five tales provides a close-up map of the journey and a thumbnail map that shows the story’s location with respect to the continents. The chapters are not sensational in any way… each tale is told clearly and fairly, with nice summaries that should help with the “what happened to them?” questions. Finally, each chapter closes with a “What Else Is Going on In [Year]?” to provide readers with some additional facts that could possibly spur more reading on a particular time in history. (There’s also a glossary at the back of the book.)
Mystery & Mayhem Series — Pirates and Shipwrecks: True Stories by Tom McCarthy
This Mystery & Mayhem series has really grabbed my son’s attention. The second book he enjoyed was Pirates and Shipwrecks, another 124-page book filled with five true tales involving ships and pirates. In these pages, he read about Daniel Collins encounter with pirates after his captain and crewmates shipwrecked. The tale is not for the faint of heart, with its gruesome details of the crew’s fate at the hands of the pirates. I thought my son would toss the book away after we read that first chapter together, but apparently young boys know what to expect when it comes to true tales of pirates… he was hooked. This led to him reading more about a search for a long-lost captain and crew, a female pirate who dressed as a man, an island of cannibals(!), and the closing tale of the most infamous pirate of all, Barbarossa.
As with the Survival book, each chapter opens with some maps and closes with a “What Happened Next?” summary, some other historical events for the time period, and a glossary.
I asked my son which was his favorite of the two Mystery & Mayhem books–it was the Pirates and Shipwrecks book, of course! He was also quite pleased when I told him that there are two more books coming out in the series in May 2017–Weird Disappearances and Daring Heists.
Super Cool Tech from DK
The first think my son noticed about this book was its overall appearance–Super Cool Tech looks like an ultra-thin laptop with its silver covers and metallic-painted page edges. The book is even designed to open up like a laptop; all the content of the book is displayed in landscape mode, with large eye-candy where the “laptop’s” screen would be and the majority of the text down where the keyboard would be located.
As with any DK book, the content and visuals are well balanced, providing a good level of information detail along with over 250 pieces of imagery that include cutaways, closeups, infographics, and more. The book is 190 pages in length, in full-color, and is divided into six categories:
PLAY — covers 15 topics that include HoloLens, 3D pens and printers, RFID tags, and OLED TV.
MOVE — covers 15 topics that include hoverboard, SpaceShipTwo, Orion rocket, Jet Wing, and Beluga Airbus.
CONSTRUCT — covers 13 topics that include Icehotel, Cantilever Bridge, Lotus Temple, and Magic Materials.
POWER – covers 10 topics that include Raspberry Pi, Bionic Suit, Large Hadron Collider, and Jet Engine.
LIVE — covers 14 topics that include Rotating House, Bionic Limbs, Activity Trackers, Living on Mars, and ISS
FUTURE — covers 12 topics that include Becoming Invisible, Hyperloop, AI, Quantum Computers, and Gravity Waves
REFERENCE — Includes glossary and Index as well as a “What’s Next?” section that briefly mentions upcoming ideas for military, transportation, energy, space, and communications.
My son LOVES this book. LOVES! He took it to school to show his teacher, and he told me that a few of his friends asked if they could borrow it. He jumps around a bit, reading what interests him, but I am blown away by how engaged he is with reading the text that is associated with all the images (I’m including some sample pages below). I’m quite taken with the book, too… and I’ve been enjoying reading about some of the tech that my boys will consider boring when they’re my age.
If you’ve got a kid who loves technology, this is the book to put in their hands… just incredibly well done.
Note: I requested review copies for these three books.