Fall 2014 book search for Timmy and Nora (Part 2 – books for Timmy)

As I mentioned in my post about books for Nora, it is becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish books that would work well for Timmy vs. books that Nora would enjoy. Every year, the overlap between the two lists increases. Here are the books that I decided were most appropriate for Timmy this year.

The Ruins of Gorlan – The Ranger’s Apprentice Book 1

On the surface, this doesn’t seem to have a lot going for it. It’s formulaic and it only develops a small handful of the characters beyond a brief descriptive paragraph. Somehow it works quite well, though. I enjoyed it greatly, and apparently others did as well because there’s 12 books in this series now.

A word of caution: there is some pretty severe bullying in this book, and there is also some (adult encouraged) pretty severe retribution for said bullying. I didn’t quite find it inappropriate, but it did make me just a bit uncomfortable.

The Prisoner in Cell 25 – Michael Vey Book 1

This book is a hormonal high school geek’s fantasy. Michael is unpopular, and constantly bullied for his whole life. Unbeknownst to the rest of his school, though, Michael has a secret super-power. He can manipulate electricity. Taylor, the gorgeous, popular cheerleader, discovers his powers and reveals to him that she also can manipulate electricity. Together, they go on a quest to find others who share their gift.

Quite a fun read, actually. Reminds me a lot of the Lorien Legacies series, except geared toward a younger audience.

The Paladin Prophecy – Book 1

This is yet another book about impossibly talented teenagers battling against an evil corporation or government agency. I’ve been reading a lot of these recently…

I enjoyed The Paladin Prophecy. It’s well thought-out and executed, and the characters and plot are both interesting. The book contains situations and terminology that I don’t quite consider appropriate for Timmy yet, though. This is one to keep in mind for the future.

The Iron Trial – The Magisterium Book 1

Callum comes from a family of prestigious wizards, but something sinister happened in the past, killing his mother when he was just a baby. Now his father has raised him up to be suspicious and fearful of all things magical, but Callum has just been recruited to be a pupil of the head Wizard of the Magisterium.

What happened to turn his father away from magic? How was his mother killed? How does Callum fit into the picture? Follow Callum and his two teammates as they try to uncover the truth about the past and discover together the wonders of the magical world.

After my tirade on comparing books to Harry Potter, I can’t help it with this one. The structure and events in this book are very reminiscent of the Harry Potter series. That’s not to say that this is not an enjoyable book. It is.


This book is different from your typical YA boys’ novel… until it turns out to be more of the same.

It starts out as a horror story. Charlie is having nightmares every night about a truly terrifying witch, and it seems as though his dreams might be crossing over into the real world. Then, the dreams get shelved for several chapters while Charlie does emotional warfare with his new step mother, dragging his younger brother and father through the mud with him.

The book ends in an all-out battle in dream land, where The Normal Boy, The Girl, The Smart Boy, and The Jock take on The Ultimate Evil. Not a bad book, but not great either.

The Trouble with Chickens: A J. J. Tully Mystery

J. J. is a dog. He is also a private investigator. He is hired by a chicken named Moosh to help find her missing chicks, Poppy and Sweetie. It seems as though Vince “The Funnel” has taken them hostage, but for what purpose? Lots of plot twists in this fun novella.

This is a hard book to classify. It’s very short. It’s also a challenging book to read, even for an adult. It’s written in a strong 1940s hardboiled style, with lots of obscure similes, and a difficult vocabulary. It’s brief enough that it’s not exactly the type of book that I am seeking for Timmy, yet I think any of my younger children would likely have trouble following the narrative.

The Boundless

An incident with Sasquatch and an avalanche sends Will’s father rocketing to a top position in a large railway conglomerate, where he is put in charge of a new breed of steam locomotive, named The Boundless. The engine of this train is capable of pulling several miles of cars and thousands of passengers.

On its maiden voyage, Will unintentionally uncovers a plot to rob the train, and he must navigate what is essentially a moving city to inform his father of the danger. Along the way, he enlists the help of some circus members, including the lovely escape artist, Maren.

This is definitely a book for the older child, tween to teen range. There is some mild adult language, as well as a few somewhat questionable situations. The main characters are not always the best of role models, and don’t make the wisest decisions. I have to admit that I loved it, though. It has a strong sense of mystery and adventure, in an almost-believable steam punk / historical setting.


August is an ugly kid. Though the author doesn’t give a complete description of his facial features, you can form a rough image from various implications throughout the story. He is grotesquely, frighteningly deformed. Because of his appearance, he has been home-schooled all his life, until now.

He and his parents have together decided that he should start attending a private middle school with other kids his age. The story of his experiences during the first year of integrated education unfolds through a progressive series of overlapping vignettes, each from a different main character’s point of view.

No magic or fantastical events here, except those of the type that happen all around us every day.

Timmy Failure: Now Look What You’ve Done!

I mostly tried out this book because of the protagonist’s name: Timmy. It’s a short, simple read, with a lot of action and humor. That’s about all it has going for it, though.

The title character, Timmy, is a highly-delusional, super-messed-up kid. He spends the entire book performing one inane, senseless act after another, getting himself further and further into trouble. Ever wonder what Inspector Gadget was like as a child? Then pick up this book.

Counting by 7s

The book starts out with Willow’s parents dying. She is an only child with no surviving relatives, and no close friends. Willow is a super-genius, introverted, and socially awkward, and now she’s a foster child at age 12. Follow her story as she learns to cope with grief, inspires the adults around her, and finds a new family in the process.

This really is a fantastic book. I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone in grade school, because of the challenging, slightly disturbing subject matter. Read it with your middle-school child. There will be plenty to talk about.

Doll Bones

Unlike Nightmares!, which turned out to be a super-kids-save-the-day book disguised as a horror novel, Doll Bones is a truly spooky ghost story. Three friends set out on a quest to put to rest the remains of a dead girl whose ghost is haunting them.

I’m conflicted on this one. I enjoy a good scare, and this book delivers on that, but the activities that the group engages in  ‒ running away from home, avoiding authority figures, lying, stealing ‒ all in the name of their quest… I don’t know. It reminds me a bit of Stand By Me, but with a ghost story thrown into the mix.

The Zombie Chasers

The fact that this is a short novel, combined with the goofy, cartoony cover art might lead you to think that it’s a comedy, geared toward 3rd to 5th graders. At least that was my expectation. Don’t judge this book by its cover.

The Zombie Chasers is a true zombie horror story. Think The Walking Dead, except that all the main characters are middle and high school students. People get mauled, maimed, and eaten throughout this story, and these incidents are described in gruesome detail.

Also, just like any good zombie story, it doesn’t end. Our heroes get to their destination, but is it the safe haven they had hoped for? You’ll need to pick up the next book in the series to find out.

– danBhentschel

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