I am extremely pleased to tell you that I’m celebrating an addition to my personal list of books that I think of as “quintessentially boy.”
My list of books for boys, featuring characters that are “quintessentially boy,” runs something like this: The Hardy Boys (classic), The Sugar Creek Gang, Soup, The Three Investigators, Farmer Boy, and Rascal.
I think of these as books for boys even though girls love them too, because they accurately reflect the things boys care about: An appetite for adventure, the hunger to experience life and also to make it better, a taste for ridiculous humor, and the need to find a place in some kind of community and thereby the world.
I consider them excellent books for a few additional reasons. In these stories, the main characters have roots. Their fathers, mothers, and guardians are helpful and admirable people, not obstacles to the characters’ growth. The scale is small; boy-sized. Respect for your fellow man and fellow creatures is assumed to be the best posture toward the world. And the girls and women in these stories tend to be like real people; competent, integral, and individual.
My list is short because, while a lot of stories meet some of these criteria, not many books do it all. For a contemporary story to check all these boxes, and to do it in a way that is thoroughly pleasing, is a triumph.
I feel great pride in my friend Glenn McCarty, because this fall marks the fifth anniversary of The Misadventured Summer of Tumbleweed Thompson—a book that is exactly this sort of triumph. It’s funny, exciting, thoughtful, crazy, and down-to-earth. My whole family loves it (and the following series). If you haven’t yet met Tumbleweed, you really should.