This list is dedicated to all those boys who aren't sure they like to read -- but chances are just haven't found the right book.
Scholastic, $12.99, ages 9-12, 176 pages. It may be a little early for terrifying tales -- Halloween is still almost two months away -- but this interactive book is worth getting now. Why? Because it's about as boy friendly as a book can get. For one, It's a horror thriller, and for two, it encourages readers to get on the computer between chapters. The book is built around an exciting online concept based on the time 3:15. That time is significant by itself, but also because of what the numbers on either side of the colon represent, according to the book's fictional narrator Paul Chandler. First, 3:15 a.m. is when things might go bump in the night, so it suits a book of short horror stories. The 3 by itself refers to what readers do in the book: They listen, read and watch. At the beginning of every chapter is a website address and password for readers to go online and listen to an audio that teases a story, the "listen" part. Then it's time to read the chapter. That should take about 15 minutes, estimates Carman, hence the meaning of 15 in the time. Then at the end of the chapter, readers "watch" the conclusion. They're presented with a new code at the same address that takes them to an online video of how it all ends. Having said all of this, it's easy to lose track of the fact that there are stories going on here and not just a fun way of experiencing a book. But all you need to know about the book is this: the kids in it are about to make some grave mistakes. (Gulp.) For Carman fans, a fun sidenote -- the chapter "Night on the Dredge" is set in the world of his best-selling series thriller, Skeleton Creek.
Flat Broke (and other novellas), by Gary Paulsen, Wendy Lamb Books, ages 9-12, 128 pages. Paulsen is best known for his gripping Newbery Honor-winning survival novel Hatchet, but he's also come out with lighter tales that have just the right mix of high jinks and humor to snag reluctant boy readers. His latest gem, Flat Broke, is about teenage Kevin, a wannabe mogul, who overcame his knack for lying in Paulsen's book Liar, Liar, and is now about to face another round of mayhem and misunderstanding. As a result of all the lying he did in the first book, Kevin, 14, has lost his allowance, weekend job and babysitting money. And now his parents are divorcing and arguing about money. Without cash flow, he wonders how he'll ever win over Tina, "The Most Beautiful Girl in the World"? His solution: come up with some get-rich-quick schemes -- run some poker games and rent out his sister as stylist. But when things get messy, will Kevin have the business savvy to get himself out of trouble? Other great novellas by Paulsen, who the New York Times called "one of the best-loved writers alive," include Masters of Disaster about Henry, a 12-year-old boy who masterminds wild acts of derring-do, and Lawn Boy and Lawn Boy Returns, about a teen who invests his lawn mowing earnings in the stock market. The Lawn Boy books, in particular, use lingo that you might have to explain (like "day-trading" and "capital growth"), but the writing is breezy and fun, and the characters are, well, characters. In other words, they do crazy stuff that boys will think is pretty cool.