Best Picture Books to Engage Boys

If you know me, you know I LOVE to do author studies as part of my balanced literacy program. I always want to engage ALL students in the process.  In my experience, there are a few "types" of books that seem to engage boys more than any other type.

One type of book is the book for "cool" kids.  No boy wants to read about princesses...or do they?  This twist on the common princess story is called Once Upon a Cool Motorcycle Dude by Kevin O'Malley.  It is hilarious!! A girl and boy have been assigned to write a story and they argue over what to write about.  The boy tells his perspective as a big tough motorcycle dude - because it's cool.  The girl tells her part as a tough princess.  The boy keeps interrupting with stereotypical "female" traits and the girl keeps coming back with modern strong female characteristics. The boys LOVE this story because it challenges their attitudes. The girls love it because they get to be strong and because the boys are laughing so much!

Once Upon a Royal Superbaby is the sequel to Once Upon a Cool Motorcycle Dude.  The boys like this one EVEN better! Once again the students are challenged with writing a story and this once carries on where the other one left off.  The girl names the baby Sweet Piper, the boy, Sweet Viper.  It tells of the escapes of the baby who can talk to birds in one perspective (guess whose?) and a baby who has cool wrestling moves, sunglasses and a motorcycle. 

Another type of book that boys enjoy are animal stories and in particular, animal adventures.  Nina Laden writes fabulous stories with dog and cat characters that really engage the boys because they are well written and the adventures that the dogs and cats go on are just sophisticated enough to hold their attention and make them think but also feed their sense of adventure.  A favorite Nina Laden story in my class is The Night I Followed the Dog. This story is all about what this boy's dog does AFTER everyone goes to bed. The boy ends up following the dog to his club where the dog is the big boss.  It's a twist from the usual "dog as subservient".  I usually follow this up with "The Night I followed the ______" writing prompt from my Interactive Writer's Notebook set where students can brainstorm a few different ideas and then write their own.  You can grab a copy of that page here.

Who knew that an animal version of Romeo and Juliet would interest a group of squirmy boys?  Well Nina Laden's one sure does!  Why?  It's because again, it tests the thoughts of what should be and the stereotypes of life.  First, it has the cat as the boy (even though we all know that dogs CHASE cats).  Secondly, the two animals fall in love but Drooliet's brothers try to break them up in true tough fashion. (Cool, right?) Lastly, there is huge tragedy at the end BUT a happy ending.  Need I say more?

Another type of book that grabs my boys' attention is "the struggle".   Those are the ones that show someone (animal ones are the most popular) struggling to learn how to do something. Eric Drachman is a master at this!  His book A Frog Thing is one whole class book that I have used every year in the first couple of weeks of school for the last 5 years.  Frank is a frog and he wants to fly but his parents tell him he can't fly because he's a frog. In the middle of the story Frank saves a baby bird that falls into the water. As pay back, the mother bird offers to do anything for Frank. Frank says he wants to fly.   Two birds hold a twig on either end and Frank holds the middle and "flies". He realizes in the end that he can't fly but he is very good at swimming and he accepts that.  Erich Drachman's book comes with an audio cd. He also has several more with the same "struggle" and learning theme.  The boys love them!

Another heartwarming (and struggle-based book) that is popular in my class is The Worm Family.  This family tries so hard to make friends in the neighborhood but the neighbors are so mean!  They keep moving from place to place and they are not accepted.  Finally, Uncle worm tells the family they are not moving anymore and they will just need to be strong and love themselves for who they are.  Finally, everyone accepts the worms and everyone is happy. Acceptance tends to really engage the boys in my room.

And finally, who can not love humor books?  I know almost everyone must know this series.  Mo Willems writes the Pigeon books.  These books are classically simple yet effective. They are funny and boys find them ridiculous which they love.  Last year, we read some Mo Willems books and did some Halloween Art called Don't let the Pigeon Go Trick-or-Treating. :) When a bus driver takes a break and the pigeon jumps in to save the day the laughter begins. Kids love it as they get to answer out loud during the read about the pigeon's fate.

You have probably looked at this list and said to yourself, "My girls love these books too!" Well, you are right about that. My girls love them too.  For the most part, I find boys can be harder to engage so I usually try to use books that I know will engage boys and the girls usually like them too so it's a win win.  You can check out the books I discussed below if you are interested.

Happy reading!

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1 comment

  1. Just pinned this to my Boys and Reading board! I'll invite you to pin!


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