Bookish Holiday Gifts for the Middle Grade Boy

I’ve heard many teachers and parents mention how hard it is to get middle grade boys to read. These boys, from age eight to twelve, are enticed by other media like video games, TV, and sports, and reading is (alas) not regarded as cool.

What books can snare reluctant readers? My son’s 6th grade social studies teacher told me that almost everyone has read the Wimpy Kid books. My son has read many of those books, too. I cannot classify him as a reluctant reader–he takes after me in a lot of ways, the poor kid–but he is a picky reader. He loves funny books–illustrations are a perk. He’s autistic and is strongly drawn to nonfiction, too, such as atlases and math books.

Therefore, I’m scanning his shelves for some of his new favorites, as well as revealing some Christmas gifts that will come his way. (Shh! Don’t tell him.)


If you read and love the comic strip Pearls Before Swine, check out Stephan Pastis’s middle grade series about Timmy Failure. These books are fully illustrated and include the same dry wit as his Pearls comics, though tailored for a younger audience. Kids and parents will enjoy this one!

Hilo starts off a graphic novels series about a mysterious boy with superpowers who crash lands on Earth and makes friends with human kids. It contains lots of action, and a fair share of whimsy, too, as Hilo learns about how kids act. Since my son is autistic and struggles with social skills, books like this offer him a great way to be entertained and learn something, too.

(Small disclaimer: I received a free Advanced Reader Copy of the second Hilo book at Book Expo America in Chicago. My son loved it and asked for the first book.)

The Vordak series is among my son’s favorites! Vordak is a villain plotting world domination from his parents’ basement, but as you might imagine, things do not go as he deviously plans.


If your kid-in-need-of-gift loves video games, look for manga series from Japan that have been translated and released in English. This Mega Man Megamix series is a favorite in my household, along with graphic novels for Pokemon and Kingdom Hearts.

Shh. We’re in gift territory now. I was really excited to find out the Super Mario comics series from Nintendo Power Magazine from 1992-1993 had just been released in book form. I LOVED these comics when I was his age, and I bet he’ll get a kick out of them, too.

I saw a lot of buzz about this Everything You Need to Ace series when they debuted earlier this year, and I have my eye on a couple of them. Take a look at the preview mode on Amazon–these books break down information with lots of illustrations and notes. There’s a friendly feel to it. This might not be a book for a child to sit down and casually read through (though my son will likely do that), but it may prove to be a good reference during the school year.

Happy holidays!


Breath of EarthBeth Cato hails from Hanford, California, but currently writes and bakes cookies in a lair west of Phoenix, Arizona. She shares the household with a hockey-loving husband, a numbers-obsessed son, and a cat the size of a canned ham.

She’s the author of THE CLOCKWORK DAGGER (a 2015 Locus Award finalist for First Novel) and THE CLOCKWORK CROWN (an RT Reviewers’ Choice Finalist) from Harper Voyager. Her novella WINGS OF SORROW AND BONE was a 2016 Nebula nominee. BREATH OF EARTH begins a new steampunk series set in an alternate history 1906 San Francisco.

Follow her at BethCato.com and on Twitter at @BethCato.

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