Author Archives: scoutmag

100 Books Every Boy Should Read


For more than 100 years, Boys’ Life has featured thousands of great books for boys. Here are the 100 titles we think every boy should read.

Keep in mind that we will be constantly updating this list as new titles release. So, you may see some new books from time to time. Also, some books may require parental guidance. As always, before choosing a book to read, check with your parent(s) first. Click here to download the full list.


Here’s the full list:

  • The 39 Clues
  • Across Five Aprils
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
  • The Adventure of Tintin
  • Aesop’s Fables
  • Artemis Fowl
  • Babe the Gallant Pig
  • Billy Budd
  • Black Like Me
  • The Book Thief
  • Brian’s Winter
  • Bridge to Terabithia
  • Bud, Not Buddy
  • The Butter Battle Book
  • The Call of the Wild
  • The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
  • Charlotte’s Web
  • The Chosen
  • A Christmas Carol
  • The Chronicles of Narnia (series)
  • Crossing the Wire
  • David Copperfield
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid (series)
  • Defeat of the Ghost Riders
  • Discworld (series)
  • Doctor Dolittle (series)
  • Dune
  • Encyclopedia Brown (series)
  • Everybody’s Revolution
  • Falling Up
  • Far North
  • Football Genius
  • The Friendship
  • The Giving Tree
  • The Graveyard Book
  • Great Expectations
  • The Great Quarterback Switch
  • Grimm’s Fairy Tales
  • The Hardy Boys (series)
  • Harry Potter (series)
  • Hatchet
  • The Hobbit
  • Holes
  • Honus & Me
  • Horton Hears a Who!
  • The Hunger Games
  • James and the Giant Peach
  • Joey Pigza (series)
  • Johnny Tremain
  • A Light in the Attic
  • Lord of the Flies
  • The Lord of the Rings (series)
  • Magic Treehouse (series)
  • Maniac Magee
  • Maximum Ride (series)
  • The Maze Runner
  • Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIHM
  • My Father’s Dragon (series)
  • My Side of the Mountain
  • Of Mice and Men
  • The Old Man and the Sea
  • Old Yeller
  • On My Honor
  • The Outsiders
  • Percy Jackson & the Olympians (series)
  • The Tale of Peter Rabbit
  • The Phantom Tollbooth
  • The Red Badge of Courage
  • The River
  • Robinson Crusoe
  • The Sea Wolf
  • A Separate Peace
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events (series)
  • The Shadow Children (series)
  • Shane
  • Shiloh
  • Siddhartha
  • Sounder
  • The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairy Stupid Tales
  • The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
  • Stuart Little
  • Sunrise Over Fallujah
  • The Tale of Despereaux
  • Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing
  • The Time Machine
  • To Build a Fire
  • To Kill a Mockingbird
  • Travel Team
  • Treasure Island
  • Tuck Everlasting
  • Tuesdays with Morrie
  • The War of the Worlds
  •  Watership Down
  • Wayside School (series)
  • Where the Sidewalk Ends
  • Where the Red Fern Grows
  • Where the Wild Things Are
  • White Fang
  • The Wind in the Willows
  •  A Wrinkle in Time

 Think we missed a book? Let us know in the comments section.


BL Fiction: ‘Home of the Brave’ by Eric A. Kimmel

Rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air … Young Adam is witness to one of the most important moments in our country’s history.


Illustrations by Greg Newbold

Smoke stung my eyes. My nose and throat burned. I felt a blow to my chest like a prizefighter’s punch every time one of the big guns went off. Rockets screamed overhead. I clung to our little sloop’s rigging the way a drowning man clings to a lifeline, trying to hold the telescope steady.

“Can you see the flag, Adam?” Mr. Key called from the deck. I could hardly hear him over the battle’s noise. All I could see were rocket trails, exploding bombs, cannons flashing and thick smoke that blanketed everything, turning the night even darker.

“No, sir!” I called down. I saw no flag. Was there a flag to be seen? Did we still have a country?

How did I get here? I was no soldier or sailor. Hadn’t I just turned 14 this past spring, when I came to Washington to begin working for Mr. Francis Scott Key? Mr. Key was one of the best lawyers in the city. I was honored to be his law clerk.

Everyone knew the war with England was not going well, but I never suspected it might come to me. In the summer of 1814 the British fleet sailed into Chesapeake Bay. They burned Washington. The President’s Mansion, the Capitol and so many other buildings were left smoking ruins.

Mr. Key and I barely escaped into Maryland. We had hardly returned home when we were off again. The British had arrested a prominent Maryland patriot, Dr. William Beanes. They were holding him prisoner aboard their warships. His friends hoped that a famous lawyer like Mr. Key could negotiate his release.

“I will do my best,” Mr. Key promised. He asked me to go with him as his assistant.

The British were now sailing north to Baltimore, to do what they had done to Washington.

We sailed out to the British fleet in a small sloop, the Minden. I felt like a minnow among sharks. The British warships towered above us, bristling with cannon. Sailors and soldiers filled their decks.


How could our young country prevail against such power? Mr. Key and I both feared that Baltimore was doomed. And then? What would be left of the United States when the British sailed home?

But luck was with us. After some grumbling, Mr. Key persuaded the British commanders to release Dr. Beanes. However, we would remain their “guests” until they had captured Fort McHenry, the main fort protecting Baltimore’s harbor.

“It won’t be easy, Adam,” Mr. Key remarked to me. He pointed to the huge U.S. flag flying over Fort McHenry. “The men in that fort mean to fight.”

I hoped he was right. If Fort McHenry fell, nothing stood between the British and Baltimore.

We dined with the British officers that night aboard the HMS Surprize. Their carousing kept us awake most of the night. One song went on forever.

To Anacreon in heaven where he sat in full glee,
A few sons of harmony sent a petition …

Endless verses followed. I fell asleep before the end.

And well that I did. Over the next two days, I got no sleep at all.

The siege of Fort McHenry began. Two-hundred-pound bombs exploded in midair, showering the fort with shrapnel. The British tried a new weapon: Congreve rockets. They fired dozens at a time. Their fiery tails whooshed across the sky. We felt the shock as they exploded above and inside the fort.

“How can anyone survive?” I wondered.

Mr. Key handed me a pocket telescope. “Go aloft, Adam. Tell us what you see.”

I climbed into the rigging. Clouds of thick smoke covered the fort. A breeze came up. I briefly saw the flag.

“It still waves,” I shouted. A huge blast nearly knocked me from the rigging. A British bomb blew up one of the fort’s cannons. British sailors cheered. How much longer could Fort McHenry hold out?

The bombardment continued all night. Occasionally, I caught glimpses of the flag, illuminated by the red glare of the rockets and the yellow flashes of the bombs. I peered through the telescope until my eyes burned.

“Can you see the flag?” Mr. Key asked.

“Yes. It still flies,” I answered, hoping it was so.

Suddenly, the bombardment ceased. We saw British soldiers climbing into barges.

“They’ll attack the fort from the rear,” Mr. Key explained.

“Will they succeed?” I asked. Would we still have a flag? A country?

We would know in the next few hours.

Deafening booms ended all conversation. Fiery flashes lit up Fort McHenry’s walls, followed by more flashes on the land side. It went on and on.

The firing ceased. Dead silence followed.

“What does this mean?” I asked Mr. Key.

“Either the British have taken the fort.” He paused. “Or their attack failed, and Baltimore is saved.” The first light of dawn appeared over the horizon.

“The flag?”

I searched for the faintest glimpse of star or stripe. Then I saw it — our flag. Torn, tattered, but still flying!

“The star-spangled banner still waves,” I shouted. I started cheering. But not Mr. Key. I noticed him scribbling something on an envelope.


“To celebrate the occasion,” he said. He read the first verse to me.

O, say can you see
By the dawn’s early light
What so proudly we hailed
At the twilight’s last gleaming …

“That’s good!” I exclaimed. “Your words fit that song we heard aboard the Surprize.”

Mr. Key nodded. “Anacreon’s tune deserves better words.”

Stirring words they are. Mr. Key published his poem after we returned to Washington. People sing it every day. It is one of the few good things to come out of this dreadful war.

I expect that Americans will be singing Mr. Key’s “Star-Spangled Banner” for years to come.

And the star-spangled banner
in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the
home of the brave!

May it be so forever!

Enter BL’s 2019 “Say Yes to Reading!” Contest!

Read the winning book reports from 2017


Write a one-page report titled “The Best Book I Read This Year” and enter it in the Boys’ Life 2019 “Say Yes to Reading!” contest.

The book can be fiction or nonfiction. But the report has to be in your own words — 500 words tops. Enter in one of these three age categories:

  • 8 years old and younger
  • 9 and 10 years old
  • 11 years old and older

First-place winners in each age category will receive a $100 gift card from Second-place winners will receive a $75 gift card; third-place winners, a $50 gift card.

Everyone who enters will get a free patch like the one on this page. The patch is a temporary insignia, so it can be worn on the right pocket of the Scout uniform shirt. Proudly display it there or on another item such as a vest, plaque or trophy! In coming years, you’ll have the opportunity to earn other patches.

The contest is open to all Boys’ Life readers. Be sure to include your name, address, age and grade in school on the entry.

Send your report, along with a business-size, self-addressed, stamped envelope, to:

Boys’ Life Reading Contest
P.O. Box 152079
Irving, TX 75015-2079

Entries must be postmarked by Dec. 31, 2019 and must include entry information and a self-addressed, stamped envelope.

Read the Exciting Ending to BL’s You-Finish-the-Story Contest!

Unexpectedly, Rick’s field trip turns into quite an adventure. Read the exciting ending to our you-finish-the-story contest!

Boys’ Life asked readers to give this story, which originally ran in our October 2013 issue, the best ending, and we got a flood of entries. Judging was tough, but here are our winners:

FIRST PLACE: Thomas Mildon, 16, of Santa Clarita, Calif. He won a Kindle Fire HDX and $100 Amazon gift card. Click here to read his ending.

SECOND PLACE: Joseph Vozzo, 16, of Gray, Maine, who won a $75 Amazon gift card. Click here to read his ending.

THIRD PLACE: Jonathan Corbin, 16, of Palmyra, Va., who won a $50 Amazon gift card. Click here to read his ending.

Congratulations to our finish-the-story contest winners! You can read all their endings below.


By Maureen Crane Wartski and introducing BL contest winner Thomas Mildon, Joseph Vozzo and Jonathan Corbin

Illustrations by Greg Newbold

[dropcap]R[/dropcap]ick didn’t even have time to cry out. One moment he was walking along the narrow path; the next, he was stumbling and rolling down the mountainside.

He tried to grab for a bush, for grass, for anything that could break his fall. There was nothing. Then suddenly he came to a hard, jolting stop, and the world went dark.

[dropcap]R[/dropcap]ick could guess what had happened. He’d slid into some kind of cave, a hole in the rocky side of Dragon Mountain. He looked around him but couldn’t see much.

There was a small square of daylight not too far above his head, so maybe he wouldn’t have too hard a time climbing out. Rick started to get to his feet then gasped in pain.

“My ankle …”

Had he sprained it during that mad tumble? The ankle throbbed, and what he could feel of it told him it was already swelling. He hoped it wasn’t broken, but there was no way to tell here in the dark.

He tried yelling for Seth, but he knew it was no use. Seth was too far down the mountain slope to hear him. …

[dropcap]R[/dropcap]ick and his older cousin, Seth, had driven out to this part of the Wasatch Mountains early that morning. Rick hadn’t been impressed by the craggy peak of light-gray limestone ahead of them, but Seth had been excited and started bounding up the narrow mountain path.

“I know it doesn’t look like much,” he called over his shoulder, “but this is a fantastic place. These mountains were once covered by shallow oceans, and there are coral reefs here that have been preserved for millions of years.”

[quote float=”right”]There’s an old legend that says dragons used to live here and lay their eggs in the limestone caves.[/quote]

Rick grinned. A major in geology at the University of Utah, Seth thought rocks were the coolest things on the planet and was writing a paper on Paleozoic era fossils. His enthusiasm had rubbed off on Rick, who’d asked to join his cousin on a field trip into the mountains.

“Dragon Mountain’s supposed to be one of the best places to study fossilized stromatolites,” Seth was saying. “They’re prehistoric algae —”

“Dragon Mountain?” Rick interrupted. He looked up at the peak in front of them. It didn’t look like any dragon he’d read about or seen pictured.

Seth chuckled. “That’s not its real name. There’s an old legend that says dragons used to live here and lay their eggs in the limestone caves. It’s just a folk tale, Rick. Come on — let me show you how to find those stromatolites.”

For the next two hours, Rick followed his cousin up the steep slope looking for even layers of the light-gray stone.

“Bumps on flat rock surfaces are usually fossilized algae,” Seth explained. He worked his high-def camcorder, talking about his findings, while Rick took still shots.

[quote float=”right”]Legends usually were based on some fact.[/quote]

The noonday sun was blazing hot when they stopped for lunch. Afterward, Seth checked his handheld GPS to map out where they would work next, but Rick felt restless. Saying that he wanted to take a few more photos, he began to walk up the steep trail.

Dragon Mountain — how had the place gotten that name? Legends usually were based on some fact. Had great beasts once roamed Dragon Mountain? Not dragons, of course. There were no such things as dragons. Rick liked reading about those fantastic creatures with fiery red eyes — great, scaled beasts that could fly and puff out smoke and fire — but he didn’t believe they’d ever existed.

Rick was jerked out of his thoughts when a loose rock crumbled under his foot. He didn’t even have time to cry out. …

[dropcap]N[/dropcap]ow he was trapped in this cave.

“I’ve got to get out of here,” Rick muttered.

His voice was making eerie echoes in the dark, strange noises in the enclosed space. Rick tried to get up on his knees, but then stopped as blistering pain shot through his entire leg.

“OK,” he told himself, “I’ll crawl.”


As he began to move, there came that noise again. It was just an echo. Or … was it something else? No — yes! Something was moving behind him!

Rick glanced over his shoulder and froze.

Two flaming red eyes were staring at him out of the darkness.


[dropcap]R[/dropcap]ick could feel the breath of some ancient, gargantuan creature before him, hot and sticky against his face. He cried out in horror and, without thinking, scrambled away from the monster that he could not see but knew was there. His ankle felt like it was on fire, but he crawled away, following the cave. The hot glow of the fierce eyes burned in Rick’s mind as he crawled as fast as he could. Vaguely aware that he had dropped his camera, but not daring to go back and get it, he continued on, praying that there was some means of escape.…

There! A light! Rick scrambled toward the crevice. He managed to squeeze out of the crack, wrenching his ankle again. As he yelled out in pain and panic, Seth came racing from behind a rock formation and helped him out.

“What happened? Are you OK?” Seth asked Rick in a flurry. As he bound Rick’s ankle to prevent further injury, Rick tried to explain what happened to him.

“After I fell into the cave, I saw two red eyes staring at me. I could feel its breath, Seth. It was a dragon!”

“Hang on, hang on, I’m sure there’s another explanation. I’ll go back there and check it out,” offered Seth.

“No! Don’t go in there!” urged Rick, but Seth was already in the cave.

After what seemed like an eternity, Seth finally emerged from the cave holding Rick’s camera.

“I don’t know what you saw, but there sure wasn’t anything out of the ordinary in that cave,” he said. “What you saw could have been Arachnocampa luminosa, the glow worm. They live in caves like these and glow in different colors. That might explain the ‘eyes’ you saw.”

“Then what explains the breathing I felt?” Rick interjected.

“Well, oftentimes in caves, changes in temperature and air pressure cause wind currents that feel and sound a lot like breathing,” Seth offered. Seth helped Rick back to the car. “Let’s get you to a hospital and get that ankle checked out.”

[dropcap]I[/dropcap]t had been a week since the day at Dragon Mountain, and Rick still couldn’t get what he had seen out of his head. The doctor had told him that his ankle was sprained, and to keep off of it for four weeks. Curious about Seth’s explanations of natural phenomena, Rick was researching caves and cave life on his computer.


Arachnocampa luminosa,” the online article title read, “These cave-dwelling creatures are not actually worms, but bioluminescent insects. Found only in New Zealand…”

Wait a minute, Rick thought to himself. If these glow worms are only in New Zealand, what did I see?

Later that day, Rick received a package containing the developed photos he took. They were all ordinary, except for the last one.

Must have been taken when I dropped my camera, Rick thought.

It was blurred, and the quality was bad, but Rick thought he could make out a mouth with rows of sharp white teeth.…


[dropcap]R[/dropcap]ick started to crawl faster, terrified. The memory of those hypnotic and flaming eyes occupied his mind completely. He’d felt like a deer looking into headlights — helpless.

Rick scrambled toward a beam of light ahead, coming from the surface. He reached it.

The light shone down, illuminating a face out of legend.

The thing stepped forward cautiously, and Rick could see the head that possessed the eyes he’d been so terrified by earlier.

The head was scaly, green and angular, like the geckoes Rick and Seth had chased when they were younger, but with the same types of vicious teeth that had been used by the carnivorous dinosaurs Seth had been interested in. Rick could feel heat radiating off it.

Even though the thing was 10 feet away, Rick felt that it was entirely too close.

The thing stepped forward, and Rick could see its majestic body, strong, lean, perfectly proportioned to hunt. Its feet had wickedly sharp claws on them, sheathed like a cats, and its back had spikes running down it.

The spikes and claws were red, matching the eyes, as were random scales throughout the body. Rick could hear the creature’s tail swishing back and forth. The body itself was undulating. The entire effect was extremely hypnotic, and it was all Rick could do to shout “D-D-D-DRAGON!”

The creature stepped forward, making an odd thumping noise every fourth step. Then he saw it; the dragons left wing and rear leg were savaged, scabby and oozing blood.

The dragon stepped forward until its face was barely six inches from Rick’s, and made eye contact, desperation in those eyes. At that moment, Rick realized that if the dragon wanted him for dinner, he would be helpless.

The dragon laid down, head on Ricks knees. It almost appeared to be crying. He felt something slip into his hurt ankle. It stung, like the antiseptics people always used on small scrapes. He looked down at it, and was amazed to find that his injury was rapidly healing, the wet blood scabbing and then fading away.

In a matter of moments, there was just a scar on his ankle and lower leg.

The dragon turned, trying but failing to reach its own injuries with the healing tears, barely coming close.

Rick reached into his pack and retrieved an empty bottle. Rick put it to the dragon’s eyes, letting the tears fall into it. He stood up and walked around to the dragon’s injured side.

Rick began pouring the tears onto the dragon’s wounds and they began to heal just like his own had. The dragon turned and began walking away.

”Wait!” Rick cried, “Don’t go!” But the dragon was already out of sight. He looked down at the still quarter-full bottle.

Above, at the opening in the cave roof, he heard footsteps. “Hello?” someone shouted, “Rick? Are you alright?”

Rick made a decision.

“Seth? I’m fine. Throw down a rope,” he said, and emptied the rest of the tears.


[dropcap]R[/dropcap]ick screamed and flicked on the flashlight at his waist as he crawled back, but stopped short when the light fell upon the glowing eyes. They weren’t eyes at all.

Rick crept forward, breathless, as he peered at the small red jewels that lined the cave wall. There were dozens, even hundreds of the gems all along the limestone.

He thought back to what Seth had told him during the car ride there.

“These mountains are known to contain all sorts of fossils and gemstones, Rick,” Seth had said, “Red horn coral, amethyst, beryl …”

Rick remembered the descriptions Seth had given of the gems and nearly fell over as he realized what he was looking at. The hexagonal crystals, slightly transparent color … there was no doubt. It was red beryl, a gemstone rarer than diamond that had only ever been found in the state of Utah. And here he was staring at an entire wall of it. He slowly dragged himself along the wall, gazing at the sparkling crystals.

“No way….”

Mesmerized by the abundance of gems, Rick nearly passed by two rocks that sat in an alcove in the wall. They were intricately patterned, flecked with orange and strangely shaped. They were almost like … eggs. Rick’s eyes widened.

The world went dark once again as the floor gave out beneath him.

Rick could feel himself tumbling, wincing every time his leg struck a rock. He was sliding through some sort of tunnel, but it was too dark to see anything. His flashlight had tumbled away somewhere in his fall and he was moving so fast, Rick doubted it would help him much anyway.

Light poured through a hole up ahead, and Rick soared through the opening and out into blinding sunlight on a road. The same road he had taken up the mountain! Rick clutched at his leg as he pulled himself to his feet. A sound from behind him made him start.

“Rick!” It was Seth. “Rick, what’s wrong with your leg?”

“I … uh, I fell. Kind of.” Rick blinked at Seth. Was this a dream?

“You fell while taking pictures?” Seth grinned. “Never mind. You’ll never believe what I just found. Look!” Seth pulled out a bag of small rock fragments. “It’s petrified cedar wood! Cool, huh?”

Rick just stared as Seth rambled on about the fossilization process and walked ahead down the road. “… and then sediment fills in the pores and … Rick! Are you coming?”

Rick turned back and looked at the mountain. He about what he had seen and wished he still had his camera so he could’ve shown Seth everything, but then changed his mind.

Whatever secrets Dragon Mountain held, they should remain in Dragon Mountain.

“I’m coming, Seth!” Rick smiled and limped after his cousin, who hadn’t stopped talking about the petrified wood. From behind the peak of the mountain, a puff of smoke rose up toward the sky.

2013 Boys’ Life reading contest winners

Here are the winning essays from the 2013 Boys’ Life reading contest.


1st place: Nathaniel Carlson, Bloomfield Township, Mich.

timespiesI really liked Time Spies: Bones in the Badlands by Candice Ransom. In the Time Spies series, the main characters Sophie, Maddie and Alex travel through time using a magic spyglass and help someone. In the book Bones in the Badlands, they help famous archaeologist Walt Granger (a real person!) figure out who is trying to steal his fossils.

The three friends thought the bad guy was one of Walt’s helpers. In order to catch the bad guy, Sophie had the great idea of setting a trap. The three friends said they found an Allosaurus skull hoping to lure the bad guy, but he didn’t fall for it. Instead it was the stationmaster, Otto, who fell in the trap. I was shocked, but you find out later that Otto was with another museum trying to get its hands on the fossils. The awesome part about the trap was that the three friends actually did find a baby dinosaur bone.

My favorite parts of the book were the fact that the main characters have a magic spyglass, that there was a surprise ending and that it included some real history. The idea of a magic spyglass to travel through time was cool. If I had a magic spyglass, I would want to go where important baseball events happened. I would check out Justin Verlander’s no-hitter, Armando Galarraga’s near-perfect game and when Ty Cobb got into a fight with a fan. I would also like to see the very first Cub Scout pinewood derby race.

The book was even more interesting to me because I got to visit the Badlands in South Dakota this summer. On my visit to the Badlands, I saw dinosaur bones in the museum and attended a program led by a park ranger where we got to look for fossils. With the history included in this book, I got an even better sense of what the first discoveries in the Badlands must have been like. Overall, Time Spies: Bones in the Badlands was a wonderful book that I would recommend.

2nd Place: Timothy Swenka, Manchester, Iowa

I read The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. What I like best about the book is the tree that is giving her stuff to the boy. She gives him her things because she loves him. The boy loves the tree and knows if he needs help the tree will be there for him. And even though the boy is gone for the long groups of time, he always comes back to the tree because they love each other.

I think this book tells boys and girls that they need to love each other and be together for each other and keep helping each other even if you can’t be together all the time.

The tree is good to the boy. She gives the boy her stuff so he can get the things he wants. When he was little he could climb on her and eat her apples and make her happy.

As he gets older she gives him her apples to sell so he can have money so he would be happy. She gives him her branches so he can make a home so he would be happy. She gives him her trunk so he can make a boat and sail away so he would be happy.

And when he is old she has nothing but her stump, but that is all he needs because he is old and needs to sit a lot, so now he can sit and just be with her and make her happy.

So we all need to help make each other happy because we should love each other.

3rd Place: Dorian Griffith-Shy, Snellville, Ga.

The best book I read this year was Up on the Housetop. I like this book because it has pictures and words to a song that makes me happy. The song makes me happy because it has nice words and is about Christmas. I love Christmas, and I like Christmas songs. I like Christmas because it is Jesus’ birthday.

The story talks about Santa Claus. Santa Claus put toys in the stockings of Nell and Will in the story. Will got a ball, a whip and a whistle in his stocking. He also got a hammer and tacks. Nell got a doll that can cry, laugh and shut her eyes. Nell also got a teddy bear. I learned that Santa comes at night and puts toys in your stocking. I never knew that he puts toys in stockings!

My favorite part of the book is when Santa jumps down the chimney. If he comes through the door then people will hear noises. It is much better to come through the chimney so nobody will wake up. Santa can put the toys quietly in the stocking.

Up on the Housetop is a good book and a good song. I would recommend it to my friends so that they can learn the words and see the pictures. I think Santa and the elves would make good Cub Scouts because they are also nice to other people.


1st place: Nick Habakus, Middletown, N.J.

phantomIn The Phantom Tollbooth, Milo went on an amazing adventure that changed his life. He used to be a sad and depressed kid. He didn’t enjoy anything, not even friends or toys! I would not want to be friends with Milo at the beginning of the book. It is hard to be friends with somebody who never wants to play.

I love adventure because I like to explore and I like surprises. Milo’s adventures were really great. He went to magical places, like Dictionopolis, where they eat words. He met strange people, animals and insects that could do amazing things, like Alec Bings, who grows down not up; Tock the Watchdog who makes time fly; and Chroma the Conductor who makes music appear in colors. The king called Milo an ordinary boy, but his life with the tollbooth was not ordinary. Sometimes I feel ordinary and I wish I could go on an adventure like Milo’s.

After his adventures, Milo completely changed. He became a more positive boy. He learned that trying new things is fun. I also know how it feels to be bored. I am bored when I am doing things that aren’t interesting to me. This is why I like books about magic, monsters and special powers. I like the way I feel when I’m reading a good book, and I don’t want to put it down.

Learning new things is boring when I have to do it someone else’s way. When I study math, I don’t like doing lots of equations and taking tests. But I do like math. In school, we played games to learn about estimating. In camp, we played a math game to earn the last piece of cake. In Pokémon battling, we have to do math calculations to figure out who will survive. These are fun ways to learn math.

Like Milo, I always want to find ways to learn. I would love to be in Milo’s adventure. I would keep the Mathematician in my pocket so he could teach me how to do any math problem. I would become friends with the Spelling Bee so I could learn how to spell words I don’t know. I would learn new stories from the Witch about things like Rhyme and Reason, and use them in them in my book reports. Kids can have fun and still learn lots of things.

2nd place: Joseph Nelson, Fullerton, Calif.

The best book I read this year is A Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne. It is an exciting tale of mystery, danger and survival skills. It is the story of an uncle and nephew who find a parchment in an old book that tells them how to get to the center of the Earth. They have to go to Iceland and hire a guide who helps them enter an old volcano to find the passage to begin their exciting journey. Right away that reminds me of Cub Scouts. We have a Cubmaster who acts as our guide and teaches us important lessons during hikes and camping trips.

This story taught me a lot of survival skills that are important to Scouting. First, the characters in the story learned how to find water underground. In the story, they heard rushing water and their guide taught them how to get to it. Since they didn’t have shovels, they used a crowbar to break through the wall and get to the water. The story also informs the reader of important tools needed for climbing and descending mountains. For example, they brought with them a pickaxe, a silk ladder, rope, a crowbar, a thermometer, a compass, lanterns and rifles. The Scouting motto is Be Prepared, so like Scouts, they were prepared for the journey. The story teaches the importance of rationing food when you have a limited supply. In the book, the characters were down to one drop of water and a scrap of food per meal.

In the end, the characters use TNT to blast loose rocks out of a hole, and the water rushes in and pushes them into a volcano. The water rises rapidly and they are blasted out. They were very lucky to not get hurt and get out alive. They go back home and show people evidence of life in the center of the Earth. They tell of their adventures and become very famous. I recommend this book to anyone who likes to read about mystery, adventure, surprises and happy endings. It is a great book!

3rd place: Samuel Tuggy, Fredonia, N.Y.

If you like reading and camping, you should read Camping & Wilderness Survival by Paul Tawrell, because it will help you to Be Prepared. In the first aid chapter, they tell you how to do the Heimlich maneuver, how to treat wounds, how to treat sicknesses and how to treat people with broken bones. The book makes it look easy. It is important to learn first aid so you can treat other people’s wounds and your own.

It also is important to learn how to pack your gear, because if you don’t pack the right stuff, you could die. You should always pack extra stuff like clothes and ponchos, in case one gets ripped, or you lose one. It also tells you how to make shelters in deserts and forests.

It is important to learn how to identify trees and other plant life. The book tells you what plants are poisonous and what plants are not poisonous. For instance, mushrooms are sometimes poisonous. The book also tells you what animals are dangerous. It is really helpful.

The book tells you important things like how to build a campfire, what tinder is best for fires and how to cook food over a campfire. It has a section on how to use a compass and what tools you should bring, like a Scout multifunction camping knife. Camping & Wilderness Survival is really helpful — all 1,060 pages. Be Prepared!


1st place: Joshua Max, Covington, Wash.

journeyThe best book I read this year was Jules Verne’s famous novel A Journey to the Center of the Earth. Its simple plot full of vivid imagery, detailed scientific descriptions, suspenseful adventure scenes and realistic characters captivated me for hours as I plunged deep into the bowels of the earth.

I especially enjoyed this book since I love science fiction stories that incorporate enough factual elements to make them appear well researched and realistic. The two main characters are Professor Lidenbrock and his nephew Axel, who live during the 19th century. During this era, there was a common interest in the pursuit of dramatic new scientific discoveries through any means possible, several of which were quite daring and dangerous. Since Professor Lidenbrock is a renowned geologist at the local university, his occupation naturally encourages his unquenching thirst for the secrets and surprises of science while his fanatical personality makes him a perfect example of the overly zealous scientific curiosity typical of this particular time period in history. Axel, on the other hand, is quaint, timid and cautious. Their frequent arguments throughout the book provide snippets of interesting scientific theories that made me ponder whether such knowledge could actually exist. Captivating my imagination, this book felt more like peeking into the private diary of Axel as he trudged alongside his uncle on this dangerous and daring scientific expedition to the center of the earth.

While rummaging about in an antique store, the adventurer Otto Lidenbrock discovers an encrypted runic manuscript. Axel is able to decode a message that was written by an Icelandic alchemist named Arne Saknussemm, who had supposedly discovered a passage to the center of the earth years earlier. Motivated by his adventurous and courageous spirit for scientific discovery, Lidenbrock arranges an expedition to venture into the center of the globe and drags reluctant Axel along. The fantastic imaginary underground environment full of prehistoric animals, luminous caverns, vast subterranean oceans and dense forests of peculiar vegetation are particularly exhilarating. Inside the storyline, Verne explains the workings of many different scientific phenomena, while providing evidence for his emerging scientific theories.

As teenagers, my friends and I often rely on videogames to provide indoor excitement when we can’t be outdoors with Scouts. Reading this great book full of adventure and scientific jargon turned out to be just as exhilarating as gaming, while still helping me develop my own imagination. Since I want to be a scientist one day, I will need the resilience to try something, possibly fail, try something else, and hopefully succeed eventually. Being transported into a magical world full of captivating circumstances and characters helps develop that tenacity in an entertaining way. The next time I seek the thrill of a videogame, I will first further my future success by seeking the thrill of a good book.

2nd place: Ethan Smith, Moorhead, Minn.

The best book I read in 2013 was The House of Hades by Rick Riordan. The heroes of this book face plenty of difficulties in their effort to defeat a seemingly unconquerable foe. Themes of commitment and courage emphasized in the Scout Oath and Scout Law are integrated throughout the novel.

The House of Hades is the fourth book in The Heroes of Olympus series, a follow-up to Riordan’s previous Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. The Heroes of Olympus takes place after the war with the Greek titans was won and a new threat has shown itself: the Giants. Gaea, the Earth herself, is out to topple the Greek gods and is almost awake. She has accumulated forces of the Giants, some titans, monsters and even some demigods (children of a god and a mortal) of the past. The key advantage the enemy has is that when one of them is killed, he quickly comes back to life. In the Heroes of Hades Percy and his demigod friends must take a journey to close the “Doors of Death” so that their enemies do not quickly revive after being killed.

The House of Hades is a truly captivating novel, as are the books preceding it. Riordan weaves fantastic tales of friendship, heroism, romance and more. He paints pictures with words that draw the reader in to live the book, rather than simply read it. When reading these books, I am oblivious to my surroundings due to my spellbound state.

While the story engages the imagination and piques the interest of readers, there are elements of it that hold a different sort of appeal than action and fantasy. As readers learn of the characters’ personalities, they can see what they admire about the character and can translate that to the kind of person they want to be. They may see Percy’s unwavering dedication to helping others as he treks through Tartarus, and strive toward that ideal that is also seen in the Scout Oath. Readers may notice the bravery, loyalty and thriftiness of the heroes, qualities in the Scout Law, when faced with so many bleak situations. I find the inspiration toward self-improvement and introspection is an appealing aspect of many quality novels.

The House of Hades is a wonderful book, shown in multiple facets of its plot and characters. It prompts the use of imagination. It stimulates introspection. Anyone and everyone who has any appreciation for fantasy novels should definitely read this book and find the adventure that awaits.

3rd place: Ian Habakus, Middletown, N.J.

The best book I read this year was The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan. In literature and popular stories, there are many examples of the ordinary person who goes on an adventure and is transformed. He solves a mystery or saves the world while also revealing new qualities, like strength, courage and wisdom. Jonas in The Giver, Alex Rider and Milo in The Phantom Tollbooth come to mind. The Lightning Thief follows the same format. The difficulties that Percy Jackson experienced completely altered the way he looked at the world. They changed Percy’s understanding of his own life. Percy doesn’t get swept away by these events; he learns from his exploits and holds control over his own destiny.

During Percy’s quest to save the world from war, he learned some important ideas that develop his character. One of these big ideas is the courage to stand up for ourselves and fight back. Two examples come to mind. First, Percy proved that he wasn’t a thief by finding and returning the master bolt to Zeus. Second, when Ares played a trick on him, Percy challenged him to a duel and won.

Another big idea is Percy’s realization that he has the ability to accomplish great things. At first, Percy didn’t think much of himself. He was passive and insecure. After discovering that he was a half-blood, however, he stopped a world war. During the quest, Percy learned that he was capable, intelligent and powerful. He saved Grover and Annabeth multiple times. He even rescued his mother from death.

I am a little like Percy, so I could relate to him. I know how it feels to be bullied. Instead of enduring spitballs and a revolting stepfather, I was teased and tripped on purpose. Percy and I both endured bad treatment and learned how to stand up for ourselves. I loved it when Percy confronted his bullies and beat them. I was cheering Percy on.

Percy switched from Yancy Academy to Camp Half-Blood. I also switched schools. Changing environments and trying new things can make a big difference. Percy mastered sword fighting, breathing underwater and talking to animals. After moving to a more supportive school, I also tried new activities that I never would have tried at my old school. I played organized sports for the first time. I didn’t like baseball as much but I contributed to the team and finished the season. I really enjoyed basketball and improved tremendously! Similarly, Percy tried new things, didn’t like some of them (i.e., wrestling), and made great progress in others (i.e., sword fighting).

Percy is a good role model. He refused to be a victim and he also helped other people. Only a brave and daring kid would face down his fears and take on the things Percy did. I like to think that I can also be brave and daring. Just because I’m scared doesn’t mean that I can’t try new things and excel at them, too.

Congrats to Our “Killer Species” Winners!


THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED. Congrats to the following folks, who each won a copy of Michael P. Spradlin’s new book, Killer Species #1: Menace From the Deep!

Sharon K., Wausau, Wis.

Ifeanyi A., Belleville, N.J. 

RJ E., Portland, Ore.

Dylan S., Lewiston, Me.

Conner H., Cocoa, Fla.

Daniel A., Seven Fields, Pa.  

Asa M., Egg Harbor Township, N.J. 

Mike E., Grand Ledge, Mich.

Brett S., Reading, Mass.

Nicolas D., Katy, Texas

Here’s the synopsis:

Emmet Doyle is not in the best mood when he arrives in Florida City. His father is a wildlife biologist, and has been summoned to the Everglades, dragging Emmet along with him. Though still in mourning from losing his mom a year ago, Emmet’s trying hard to keep a good attitude.

Upon their arrival, however, things quickly get weird. Dr. Rosalita Geaux, the Park Superintendent, wastes no time in revealing the reason she called Emmet’s father to Florida. A strange creature was recently found dead in the park, and upon seeing it, it becomes clear to everyone that this is not a native species. This is man-made.

Deep in the swamp, someone has been experimenting to create a new breed of apex predator. And they’re about to set them loose.

You can buy a copy of the book HERE.

Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children

Miss“Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children” by Ransom Riggs is one of the best young adult books I’ve read in years, filled with inventive storytelling, unique characters and an epic mystery.

What makes it so unique? For starters, the author blends fantastical fiction and a real-life collection of scary photos, to tell a story unlike any you’ve ever read.

The story follows sixteen-year-old Jacob, who grew up listening to his grandfather’s bizarre nighttime stories about a mysterious orphanage. He’s always wondered if his grandfather’s scary stories were true, or just the ramblings of an old man? After Jacob’s grandfather passes away, he decides to hunt for the infamous orphanage, and find out the truth once and for all. But what Jacob discovers is unlike anything he imagined, a spooky fantasy world of odd monsters, time loops and constant danger around every corner.

If you love fantasy, horror or good old-fashioned mysteries, “Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children” is for you. If you are 13 or older, I highly recommend checking it out. If you are under 13, you should discuss the book with your parents before reading it. While the book offers valuable lessons on good and evil, and some very exciting and one-of-a-kind storytelling, it also features adult situations. Visit Common Sense Media for more information on the book’s content. (As always, I recommend checking Common Sense Media for any books, movies, games, websites or music that you may be unsure of.)

The paperback version is in stores now, featuring more peculiar photos and the first chapter of the forthcoming sequel to “Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children.” Take a look at the spooky book trailer below for more info on the book.

— Clay Swartz



Fold the Perfect Paper Airplane

I don’t know about you, but every time I make a paper airplane it won’t go more than about 10 feet. Often the plane just twirls and whirls straight into the ground.

That’s why I recruited the help of the Paper Airplane Guy, John M. Collins, to enlighten us all on how to build the perfect paper airplane.

Collins set the world record for Paper Airplane Distance in 2012, throwing a plane more than 200 feet through the air before landing. He’s been at it for years, and there is likely no better source for paper airplane excellence. So, without further ado, check out his video tutorial below.


51Wo2DBJVmL._SL500_SS500_If you’re interested in building and launching more paper airplanes, including the world record-breaking design, be sure to read The New World Champion Paper Airplane Book by John M. Collins.

The book features detailed step-by-step instructions on 24 awesome airplane models. Ten Speed Press, $16.99 softcover. All ages.





The Best Adventure and Mystery Books?

We recently received a great question from reader Paul, who asks, “Which are the best adventure and mystery books?”

Let us start by saying that this question is a tricky one because there are thousands of great mystery and adventure books out there. But we will give it a shot.

Take a look below for some of our favorites. Some suggestions will require parental guidance.

  • The 39 Clues (series)
  • Billy Bud by Herman Melville
  • The Call of the Wild by Jack London
  • Dune by Frank Herbert
  • Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
  • The Hardy Boys (series)
  • The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • Hatchet by Gary Paulson
  • Harry Potter (series) by J.K. Rowling
  • Huckelberry Finn by Mark Twain
  • The Lord of the Rings (series) by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • The Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  • Percy Jackson & the Olympians (series) by Rick Riordan
  • Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
  • The Time Machine by H.G. Wells
  • Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
  • White Fang by Gary Paulson
  • A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’EngleDid we miss anything? Feel free to ask questions about the books we chose in the comments below. And as always, if you have a burning question type it into the box on the right side of this page.

Check Out The Latest From “The Maze Runner” Author


They say, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” but this is one cool cover.

“The Eye of Minds” by James Dashner (author of “The Maze Runner,” “Infinity Ring” & “The 13th Reality”) doesn’t hit stores until October, but I’ve got the first chapter for you now.

What’s it about? Here’s a synopsis:

Michael is a gamer. And like most gamers, he almost spends more time on the VirtNet than in the actual world. The VirtNet offers total mind and body immersion, and it’s addictive. Thanks to technology, anyone with enough money can experience fantasy worlds, risk their life without the chance of death, or just hang around with Virt-friends. And the more hacking skills you have, the more fun. Why bother following the rules when most of them are dumb, anyway?
But some rules were made for a reason. Some technology is too dangerous to fool with. And recent reports claim that one gamer is going beyond what any gamer has done before: he’s holding players hostage inside the VirtNet. The effects are horrific—the hostages have all been declared brain-dead. Yet the gamer’s motives are a mystery.

The government knows that to catch a hacker, you need a hacker.
And they’ve been watching Michael. They want him on their team. But the risk is enormous. If he accepts their challenge, Michael will need to go off the VirtNet grid. There are back alleys and corners in the system human eyes have never seen and predators he can’t even fathom—and there’s the possibility that the line between game and reality will be blurred forever.

Sound good? Check out the first chapter of “The Eye of Minds” by James Dashner, by clicking the link below:

Eye of Minds: Chapter 1

For more info on the book, including videos, click here.

What did you think? Will you be buying this book when it comes out? Read more Q&A with James Dashner HERE.