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Books, Battles, and Bullies

I have a tough time finding good fiction for my kids, especially my boys. Most of my favorites have zero appeal (he’s just not into Anne of Green Gables and Trixie Belden). My son is almost ten, and we’re in this awkward phase in which books like “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” are too easy for him and classics like “The Lord of the Rings” are too difficult. I’m wary of just grabbing books off the shelves, because I want him to be careful what he puts in his mind. I’ve also learned that he’s picky. He enjoyed the How to Train Your Dragon series, so he seems to enjoy fantasy. But he didn’t like the Legends of the Guardians series, even though he liked the movie. He devoured the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books, so he enjoys realistic fiction, especially about characters like him and his friends.

My parents fostered a voracious appetite for books in all three of us, and they are doing what they can to help encourage my kids to read too. My dad promised $1 per book read between Memorial Day and Labor Day for my two oldest kids this year. This has been quite motivating to them. But we ran into a snag when my oldest finished two book series he likes.

I have struggled to find him new books to read. I’ve handed him many of my favorites from childhood, only to be disappointed. I was excited to run across author Tim Hall and his “Lincoln Nabb” series. I read the first book, “The Truth About Lincoln Volume 1: Lincoln Nabb and the Bully’s Father” this summer, and I liked it a lot. I think it will be a good fit for my son. (He will especially like that it’s available on Kindle.)

It’s hard to pinpoint the genre – it’s mostly realistic fiction with a dash of sci-fi and fantasy. The main character, Lincoln, is a high-school kid who has been the target of the school bully, Jester, since elementary school. His father does high-level secret government work, and for reasons we just begin to understand at the end of this first book, keeps Lincoln at arm’s length. The story explores Lincoln’s daily struggle to survive school with the bully, and how he begins to uncover a secret about himself that has been lurking inside his daydreams for years.

I think the author has created characters we can relate to. They are still figuring themselves and life out, and they don’t handle things well. They are very human – not utterly evil, but not ridiculously good either. As a mother, I appreciated that even in the midst of a fight scene, when a character is swearing, the author chose to use phrases like “with a curse” instead of writing the swear words out. It’s real without being gratuitous.

At a few points during the story, told from Lincoln’s perspective by an invisible narrator, things get a bit muddy and unclear. Sometimes I couldn’t tell if this was intentional, to reflect the relative youth (and immaturity) of the main characters and how confused they are about what is going on, or if it reflects the weakness of the author’s writing, or if I’m unfamiliar with the characteristics of young adult writing. I normally read advanced work, so I’m unfamiliar with the criteria for lower reading levels. I suspect it’s a combination of all of these. That aside, I really enjoyed the story and especially the surprises and cliff-hanger ending. I look forward to seeing how the rest of the series plays out.

What books can you recommend for an older elementary-aged boy?

This post contains affiliate links. I received a complimentary copy of this book to review.


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