You’re probably reading this article because you’ve found that spending quality time sharing stories is one of the best ways to connect with the ‘speed-of-light’ growing boy in your life. Between the ages of 7 and 9 is an amazing sweet spot where your boy is both charging forward to the tween years and also clinging to the innocence of young childhood. My son is an excellent reader but there is no doubt that he prefers when I read to him. Years of our nightly reading ritual has done wonders for his comprehension, inflection and vocabulary but far more than that, it’s given us a guaranteed time to connect at the end of each day. 

With that said, it’s sometimes tough to know what will connect with the young reader in your life. Because I’ve also searched the internet for ‘books boys 7-9 will love’, I decided to write my own series, sharing the stories we’ve been reading in our home and letting you know how successful they’ve been in terms of the child’s engagement and my experience as the reader. 

I’ll start with a classic, The Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell. This work of historical fiction was a Newberry Medal winner in 1961, and chronicles the life of 12 year old Karana after she is tragically left behind on her island and must devise her own plans for survival. My son was enthralled by this book, mostly because he is in a phase where he loves to hear any story of young people who experience adventure in remote and dangerous settings. 

The story takes place over approximately 18 years, and is loosely based on the story of a mystery woman who lived on her own off the coast of California on San Nicolas Island. By the time she was discovered and brought to the mainland, there was no one who could understand her language. Because of this, the book is by and large a work of fiction but easily draws readers in with its rich description of Karana’s daily survival routine. Young readers will thrill in the story of her near escape from the island on a leaky raft, delight in the friendships she makes with animals both on the island and in the surrounding waters and be inspired by her grit and determination to make a life for herself. A word of warning: Karana lives briefly on the island with her 6 year old brother Ramo who is tragically mauled by wild dogs at the end of chapter 8. My son was saddened by this part of the story but more sensitive children may be quite devastated. Just keep your young reader in mind to determine whether this story is appropriate for them.

Additionally, at the heart of the story is a situation in which Aleut otter hunters come to the island and then kill many male members of the tribe, rather than honoring their promise of payment at the end of the hunt. Again, this may be too graphic for some children but in our case, it opened up the opportunity to discuss why the tribe trusted the hunters, what should have happened between the two groups, how this terrible event set the stage for Karana’s amazing tale and more. When consideration is made as to the appropriateness of your particular child, The Island of the Blue Dolphins can be a fantastic tale of courage and strength in the face of isolation and adversity.

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