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The Ultimate Guide

Classic books to delight boys

Lots of young male readers can’t resist stories filled with adventure, humor, heroism — and heart. These classic titles are sure to captivate a boy — from youngsters to older kids. Read more

“Man o’ War” / Walter Farley

This 1962 book by Syracuse-born horse story spinner Walter Farley takes the true-to-life history of Man O’ War, one of the greatest racehorses ever to grace a track, and tells it in an engaging and relatable way, using the character of a young boy who cares for Big Red. Farley, who also wrote “The Black Stallion,” is great at conveying the scope of equine achievement – as well as the details of what goes on behind the scenes in racing.

Mr. Popper’s Penguins / Richard and Florence Atwater

This 1938 book tells the story of the Poppers, a happy-go-lucky clan in which the father, Mr. Popper, is a fan of arctic expeditions but can’t go on them because he has to support a family. Then one day, Mr. Popper gets his own penguin in the mail. Mrs. Popper and the children cope with this development remarkably well, and the whole family goes out on the circuit with performing penguins. Fun, light, different.

“Lad: A Dog" / Albert Payson Terhune

Think your young man won’t pay attention to anything that’s not flashing across a tiny screen? Give him a few minutes with this 1919 classic about a collie and his bravery, and see what happens. The downside: readers will immediately want dogs of their own, preferably collies. The upside? Hmm – maybe that is the upside, too.

“Stuart Little” / E.B. White

This novel gets less attention than one of E.B. White's other works, “Charlotte’s Web,” but there is heart and hilarity in his 1945 tale of a plucky mouse who sets off on a quest to help a friend – and finds adventures of many kinds. The chapter – funny and philosophical – where Stuart fills in for a schoolteacher is one of the best.

“The Once and Future King” / T.H. White

This epic four-part work about England’s legendary King Arthur will have boys wishing they could join in the swordsmanship, chivalry and fun. Parts 1 and 2 of this mammoth 1958 work (yes, more than 600 pages in my paperback copy) are best for young readers, as they tell the story of the young “Wart” who would one day be king.

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