5 Great Classics for Teenage Boys and How They Came to Be

Disclaimer: I received the 5 books mentioned in this post from the publisher for free.

5 Great Classics for Teenage Boys and How They Came to Be

Love books? I have a giveaway at the end of this post!

I’ve noticed a pattern when it comes to our mail carrier. She seems to have a magic ability to know when a box contains books and when it doesn’t. It’s strange, like a sixth sense. If the box doesn’t contain books, she’ll put my regular mail in the mailbox and drop the box off on the porch. If the box does contain books, she’ll come up and ring the doorbell, wait for me to answer, and kindly hand me all of my regular mail plus the box. It’s almost like she is their guardian and wants to make sure the precious books make it safely into the house.

A couple of weeks ago, a box arrived from Candlewick Press and it honestly seemed like she didn’t want to hand it over. She then said, “I buy books from here for my grandkids” and an immediately kinship was formed.

What Makes a Classic a Classic?

Contrary to some beliefs, “classics” are not just books like the Iliad and the Odyssey. “Classics” include fiction and non-fiction stories from all genres and decades, biographies, poems, documents, and speeches. ALL subjects have these sources, so all subjects have classics. A book becomes a classic when it is widely acknowledged to be a superb piece of literature. These are the books that we find ourselves wanting to reread over and over again, and with each reading we learn more about ourselves and the world around us. We want to collect multiple editions of it and recommend to anyone who will listen.

Why Should Your Teen Read Classics?

I am a firm believer that everyone, no matter the age, should be exposed to classic literature. We started off with an abridged series of books for young kids. Short, abridged versions provide a gentle start to classic literature. Through reading them, my son learned the general story, so reading the originals became easier when he was ready.

The classics will make your teenager love reading even more. Classic books are named that for a reason. They are superb works of literature that pull the reader in and leave them feeling full of life and emotion at the end.

Classics give us the opportunity to experience the mistakes and triumphs of human history. If we learn from these, we’ll make fewer mistakes and have more successes. Through classic texts and books, we learn to experience tragedy and joy through the eyes and hearts of others. Since literature requires us to think, ponder, analyze, and feel, exposure to classics can change your ideas and your faith.

5 Great Classics for Boys and How They Came to Be

5 Great Classics for Boys and How They Came to Be: The Jungle Book from Candlewick Press

The Jungle Book

The Jungle Book has always been a favorite of mine. English author Rudyard Kipling penned the tales while he was living in America. The fables of The Jungle Book use animals to teach moral lessons.

This gorgeous version of The Jungle Book includes three out of the seven original stories, unabridged in Rudyard Kipling’s words, accompanied by stunning full-color illustrations by Nicola Bayley. This book is simply beautiful and deserves to be called a collector’s edition.

Rudyard Kipling, an Englishman born in India in 1865, moved to the state of Vermont after he married this wife, Carrie, in 1892. They named their little house Bliss Cottage. When speaking of the room in which the stories of the junlge and Mowgli came to life, Kipling once said, “The workroom in the Bliss Cottage was seven feet by eight, and from December to April, the snow lay level with its window-sill. It chanced that I had written a tale about Indian Forestry work which included a boy who had been brought up by wolves. In the stillness, and suspense, of the winter of ’92 some memory of the Masonic Lions of my childhood’s magazine, and a phrase in Haggard’s Nada the Lily, combined with the echo of this tale. After blocking out the main idea in my head, the pen took charge, and I watched it begin to write stories about Mowgli and animals.”

The stories written by Kipling were published in magazines in 1893–1894.

5 Great Classics for Boys and How They Came to Be: Moby Dick from Candlewick Press


Moby Dick is a very popular sea-faring adventure tale for boys. The photo above is a shot of the beginning of chapter 14 in Candlewick Press’ adaptation of Moby Dick. I love this version so much, because it really helped me to understand the story. It is unabridged, meaning it contains the author’s original content, but summary passages by renowned author Jan Needle are included throughout the book. The artwork by illustrator Patrick Benson is simple gorgeous, don’t you agree?

Written by American Herman Melville and published in 1851, Moby Dick is a story narrated by the main character, a sailor named Ishmael. Ahab, the captain of a whaling ship, is obsessed with hunting down a whale that bit off his leg on a previous voyage.

Moby Dick took a year and a half to complete and draws on the author’s own experiences as a sailor on a whaling vessel. Fascinated with whales, Melville studied every whaling book he could get his hands on and also drew inspiration from the Bible, Shakespeare, and Homer. In addition to his own experiences, the sinking of the ship Essex in 1820 (caused by a sperm whale) and the 1830s slaying of a sperm whale named Mocha Dick, served as two more influences for his story.

5 Great Classics for Boys and How They Came to Be: Treasure Island from Candlewick Press

Treasure Island

Treasure Island is hailed as one of the greatest adventure stories of all time. This unabridged version of Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic contains stunning illustrations by the talented John Lawrence. Lawrence’s illustration technique is known as woodcuts, which is exact what it sounds like. Lawrence carves his images into a block of wood with deep gouges. The block of wood becomes the printing template.

Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson had just returned from a stay in America and, while looking at one of his hand-drawn maps, was daydreaming on a rainy day at home in Scotland. The idea of an adventure story for boys popped into his mind. Writing furiously, he completed 15 chapters in only 15 days. His writing streak was only halted because he fell ill. The novel was eventually finished with the assistance of his father and was published piece by piece in a magazine for children during 1881-1882. It was published under Stevenson’s pseudonym “Captain George North”. In 1883, Treasure Island was finally published as a full book.

Treasure Island had enormous influence on everyone’s opinions of pirates, treasures, tropical islands, and seamen. Popular views forever changed once this book came out.

5 Great Classics for Boys and How They Came to Be: The Odyssey and The Iliad from Candlewick Press

The Odyssey and The Iliad

The Illiad and its sequel The Odyssey are epic tales written by the legendary Greek author and poet Homer.

The Illiad tells the tale of the Trojan War, the seige of Troy, King Agamemnon, and the warrior Achilles.

In The Odyssey, Odysseus, King of Ithaca, is returning home from the Trojan War. His return home is plagued with storms, shipwrecks, a Cyclops, deadly Sirens, and of course Poseidon.

Candlewick’s versions of The Illiad and The Odyssey are perfect for gently leading middle or high schoolers into reading the original. Gillian Cross, a Carnegie Medalist author, is an expert at retelling stories in a way that really speaks to the modern reader. Her renditions are simple and easy to follow, but thoroughly action-packed. The illustrations by Neil Packer are unique and really help the reader dive into the story.

Very little is actually known about Homer and there is actually some debate on whether or not he was a singular person, or a combination of authors who wrote both of the tales. But on the whole, it is generally accepted that he was a blind Bard who lived and composed the tales in the 8th century BC. This places The Odyssey and The Iliad among the oldest works of Western literature.

Why I Love Books From Candlewick Press

Candlewick Press has been in the publishing field for 25 years. Started by a Londoner in his spare bedroom in the 1970’s, Candlewick is not only one of those companies that you want to devour books from, but one of those companies that you truly feel good about supporting. They are independently owned by the employees, authors, and illustrators, and they have a staunch commitment to not publishing what we homeschoolers like to call twaddle.

Learn more about Candlewick Press by signing up for their newsletter.  You might also be interested in learning more about these great book series for young readers: SPARKS for New ReadersJudy Moody and StinkRead & WonderBrand New Readers, and Candlewick Biographies


What Books Should Your Teen Read?

Honey for a Teen’s Heart: Using Books to Communicate with Teens by Gladys Hunt is one of the best resource guides I’ve ever read. I recommend buying the print version so that you can highlight, pencil in notes, and use sticky tabs.

*Disclosure: this post may contain affiliate links.

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