|The Web Home of Michael Sullivan
teacher, librarian, chess instructor, author, storyteller, expert on boys and reading.
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Books for Children
Raising Boy Readers
This game-changer of a professional book quickly cuts to the chase: most boys need “to be allowed to read in volume at
whatever level is comfortable for them while their brains develop at their own pace.” Sullivan’s cogent, thoughtful
observations incorporate refreshing doses of real-world common sense, such as that “…for all that we teachers and
librarians try to do, parents and families have so much more effect on developing readers.” While the author refers to boys
generally, he’s careful to note that no boy (or girl) is typical, further, the tactics he recommends (e.g., read aloud to children)
will work for both genders and that placing stress on a boy to read or overemphasizing reading often backfires. Instead,
Sullivan recommends relaxing and modeling reading behaviors. And his advice to parents of good readers is, basically: leave
them alone. The author is also eager to point out the importance of nonfiction to boys and is highly critical of America’s “test-
and-punish” educational culture (created by governments keen to simply rack up so-called ‘improvements.” Those interested
in this topic will also find food for thought in Amanda Ripley’s 2013 The Smartest Kids in the World. Indeed, a concise
argument is made that “grade-level reading is a pointless and arbitrary standard and relies on the Brain Lag effect,” wherein
boys’ brains develop later and thus they read about 1.5 years later than girls. In addition to five wonderful introductory
chapters, Sullivan’s annotated book lists (e.g., Christian fiction, ghost stories, etc.) are priceless. VERDICT Amazingly
readable, understandable, and direct advice. Anyone can get a lot from this, most of all teachers and librarians.
- Douglas Lord, Library Journal
By informing parents what is behind boys’ reading behaviors, the book helps build confidence and lower stress, and suggests
ways to help boys become lifelong readers.
- Parentbooks website, "Early Language & Literacy"
Sullivan, author of Connecting Boys with Books 2 (2009) and Serving Boys through Readers Advisory (2010, both ALA) writes
his first work for parents of boys. In a clear, conversational tone, he offers practical and reassuring advice on a range of
topics, including how fathers influence what their sons read, what kind of physical environment fosters reading, and why
reading large numbers of titles—even below grade level—is essential to making boys lifelong readers. The first half of the
book features five chapters, each addressing the “whys” and “hows” of boy readers, concluding with a “big question” that
pertains to the central topic. The chapter on “How Boys Read” discusses gender differences, brain science, the importance
of reading aloud, ADHD concerns, and encouraging boys’ writing. The chapter’s “big question” asks if e-readers benefit boys:
Sullivan says “yes” and makes a persuasive case. Detailed source notes at the end of each chapter demonstrate the author’s
thorough research and make information easy to find. The second half of the book is an annotated list of more than 300 titles
organized by grade level, elementary through high school. The same list is then reorganized by genre, subject, and grade
levels. An index includes all 300 titles in the booklist and is well-organized for quick reference; the bibliography is
comprehensive. While Sullivan’s stated audience is parents, educators and librarians will also find valuable insights in this
– Marybeth Kozikowski, School Library Journal
Serving Boys Through Readers Advisory
"...educators will get plenty of use out of this guide as they attempt to help male students connect with reading."
- Connecting Students to Texts: Books for Boys, Curriculum Review, April 2014.
The insight and knowledge imparted by this book will enable librarians to create their own great booktalks to engage
boys. It is appropriate not only for school and public librarians who work with boys; this book, as well as Connecting
Boys with Books 2, will give every librarian in a public setting better insight into this underserved population.
—Jenny Foster Stenis, Reference & User Services Quarterly, Fall 2010
Sullivan's book focuses on an important and sometimes overlooked area of youth readers'-advisory services, and his
knowledge of boy readers comes through clearly in all sections of the book. This short but information-packed guide includes
chapters on why boys are different, a definition of boys' lit, the readers'-advisory interview with boys, special circumstances,
booktalking for boys of all ages, and indirect readers' advisory. Each of these chapters contains unique materials targeted to
male readers, and the information will be useful to all youth- and teen-services librarians. The second half of the book is
devoted to fully annotated book lists in a variety of fiction and nonfiction subject areas, with each chapter further subdivided
into elementary-school, middle-school, and high-school readers. Essential reading for all librarians interested in providing
- Jessica Moyer, Booklist
If you think you didn't need advice on how to do a readers' advisory interview for a boy, think again. Sullivan challenges us to
throw out our preconceived notions about how to conduct such an interview. Methods of performing indirect readers'
advisory with parents and teachers are included. The excellent booktalks for elementary, middle school, and high school boys
alone make this a worthwhile purchase. The author also includes titles to suggest in place of a book a boy did not like or
would not read, and a list that will be helpful for those caught in a rut.
- Renee McGrath, Nassau Library System, Uniondale, NY, School Library Journal
In the latest book on a persistent challenge, Michael Sullivan offers readers’ advisory as a strategy to bring boys to the library
and get them to read. Serving Boys Through Readers’ Advisory explains “boys’ lit” and outlines how to use readers’ advisory
effectively. Librarians will appreciate the many boy-friendly booktalks and book lists.
- Mary Ellen Quinn, American Libraries, April 19, 2010
"If you're looking for ways to get male students reading, look no further than Serving Boys through Readers' Advisory by
- Curriculum Review, March 2010.
Connecting Boys With Books 2: Closing the Reading Gap
I recommend Connecting Boys with Books 2 for any librarian or school teacher interested in the topic of literacy for boys and
who hopes to increase their knowledge of current research. This book contains many practical ideas that could be applied on
a personal level for parents who are concerned with their boys reading levels, and equally the methods could be integrated
into the library or educational environment.
- Kay Neville, Collection Building, 2010.
... insightful and thought-provoking book. A must-read for librarians, teachers, parents, and anyone working with educating
- Booklist, May 15, 2009
Sullivan makes a clear case for his belief that what boys like to read and what we think of as "good literature" are not the
same thing. His premise is that if we are to close the reading gap between boys and girls, the female-dominated professions
of teaching and librarianship need to embrace boy's literature, boy-friendly formats, and programming. This second volume
builds upon the work Sullivan has done since the first volume was published in 2003. He states that while a lot has changed in
five years—"people are not only willing to talk about boys and reading, they are eager to do so"—ultimately all this recognition
must translate into action. He describes a successful "Literary Lunch" program he implemented. Other programs are
included, along with ideas on how to expose boys to story, promote reading to them, and create a culture of literacy in order
for them to succeed. The author gives a clear definition throughout the book of the differences between boys and girls and
how to apply this knowledge to closing the reading gap. A must-read for all librarians and media specialists.
—Renee McGrath, Nassau Library System, Uniondale, NY. School Library Journal, June 1, 2009
Sullivan has many good suggestions for promoting reading to boys. His ideas for boy-friendly book groups and how to operate
them make a lot of sense... The author's suggestions for books boys will like are spot-on... I strongly recommend this title.
Sullivan has an easy style, and his many sharp anecdotes point up the various arguments he presents.
- John MacRitchie, The Australian Library Journal, November 2009
Whether one agrees or disagrees with Michael Sullivan’s theories, he provides an alternate perspective to viewing male
behavior, male development and learning. He suggests new ideas for programs and approaches that create more inclusive
spaces for males in schools and libraries.
- Sheila Kirven, Education Libraries, Winter 2009
The Sapphire Knight
The Sapphire Knight: The Bard Series is a 123-page fantasy novel written especially for young men - a book meant to kindle
the joy of reading in boys. A rousing saga of good versus evil, quests, magic, fierce battles and a mysterious beautiful girl, The
Sapphire Knight is an adventure sure to excite and enthrall to the very last page. Highly recommended, especially for public
library children's collections.
- Children's Bookwatch, February 2009
The story starts off with a young man traveling through the night, who stumbles upon an old man huddled by a campfire. The
older man offers to tell a story and share the campfire in exchange for food. Grudgingly, the traveler gives up an egg and a
chunk of bread to hear the incredible tale that is THE SAPPHIRE KNIGHT.
I enjoyed THE SAPPHIRE KNIGHT. While we never learn too much about the knight himself, the reader follows along on the
journey to save the music that’s being stolen from the knight’s hold. Along the way, he comes to realize that its not only there
that the music’s been stolen away from, its being zapped from everywhere and its up to him to set it free. Mr. Sullivan creates
an interesting and vivid world to set the story. From the Lady in White to the supposedly evil Queen of May, the characters are
intriguing, especially the Lady in White’s castle and her defense systems. I especially liked the part where the knight first
meets the Queen of May.
I was glad to see that this is the first book in a series. Hopefully we’ll learn more about the mysterious knight in future books.
An enjoyable historical, THE SAPPHIRE KNIGHT will appeal to readers who enjoy a hint of sorcery and magic mixed with heroic
- Enchanting Reviews, February, 2009
Escapade Johnson and The Witches of Belknap County
I bought this book for my seven-year-old who is just beginning to actually like reading. I thought this looked like a lot of fun for
him and ended up reading it myself - just to be sure. Of course, I can't resist reading books on witches! I really enjoyed the
book, thought it did a good job teaching kids about not jumping to the wrong conclusions or to quick judgments, but in a fun
way, not a lecturing way. I plan to buy the other books in the series.
- Kay Ellis on Amazon.com, May 17, 2009
This is the third book on the Escapade Johnson series and I loved it as much as the other two books. Sullivan knows exactly
what will capture a young reader's imagination with Escapade and his friends. There is enough suspense and action to keep
young readers turning the pages and a delightful story that also teaches a very important message about judging people
before getting to know them. I highly recommend this book and the whole series for your kids.
- Reading With Monie, www.readingwithmonie.com
Escapade Johnson and The Coffee Shop of the Living Dead
"Like the writing of Roald Dahl, Sullivan's prose begs to be read aloud because it's laugh out loud funny. Young readers will
appreciate how poor Escapade, meaning no harm really, gets into trouble again and again... Full of action and antics — a
homework strike gone horribly wrong, a non-life-threatening but dramatic car crash, and a good old-fashioned egging — "The
Coffee Shop of the Living Dead" has clear (but not preachy) messages like sometimes it's unwise just to go with the flow (or,
it's good to have backbone), and even really, really old people can be cool (or, don't judge a book by its cover.) Although if you
judged this book by its cover and think, This is a really, really funny book for kids, you'd be right."
- Rebecca Rule, The Portsmouth Herald
When eleven year old Escapade Johnson gets detention for being one of the three students participating in their fifth grade
class homework strike, he inadvertently gets stuck walking home with trouble makers Davy and Jimmy. Of course trouble
ensues when they cross paths with two girls and begin teasing them. Next thing you know the trio causes a car to crash and
Jimmy breaks the window of Joe’s Cup of Joe. As punishment the three boys are forced to pay off the cost of the damage by
working at “The Coffee Shop of the Living Dead”
Over the next 10 weeks Davy and Jimmy do nothing more than try to get Mr. & Mrs. Peterson to fire them to no avail but along
the way Escapade learns some good lessons.
This book was a real treat. It reminded me of the books I would read as an elementary school student that would lead to my
fascination and love of books. It has the right amount of humor and adventure while ending on a lesson taught. I highly
recommend this book for all elementary and middle school readers.
- Reading With Monie, www.readingwithmonie.com
Escapade Johnson and Mayhem at Mount Moosilauke
Fifth grader, Escapade Johnson, is in for an adventure. His class will be going on a five hour hike up Mount Moosilauke. From
the moment the class steps onto the bus to the top of the mountain Escapade and his pals Jimmy, Benny and Davy face one
mishap after another some of which include “bear poop, a poisonous belt, teddy bear underwear and a peanut butter
sandwich that saves the day”. I loved this Escapade Johnson adventure just as much as I loved The Coffee Shop of the Living
Dead. It's a cute story that would appeal to both girls and boys that read on a 4th-7th grade level. This was actually book one in
the Escapade Johnson series but it there isn’t any disconnect from reading them out of order.
- Reading With Monie, www.readingwithmonie.com
Connecting Boys With Books
"We've all read articles and studies lamenting the loss of boys in the library, and this book is a practical look at ways to try
and change that."
- Saleena L. Davidson, School Library Journal
"In this brief, highly readable treatise, author Sullivan outlines both the tenets of successful programming for boys in the
tweens--ages 8 to 12--and methods that can be used to put theory into practice. Covering genres that appeal to boys, the
power of reading-related games, sports-themed library programming, and a well-run chess program, this compendium of
ideas and recommendations will help both school and public librarians reach their young male constituents. The combination
of practical programming recommendations and philosophical and statistical background makes for potent advocacy."
- RBB, Booklist
"This is an important book that forces us to examine how we inadvertently discriminate against boys through our failure to
understand their needs and natures. And if our professional ethics aren't enough to compel us to serve them better, consider
this: boys will turn into men who pay taxes voluntarily only to support institutions they get value from."
- Marylaine Block, Ex Libris: an E-Zine for Librarians and Other Information Junkies.
"From playing chess to swathing the walls in butcher paper to give boys a physical space to respond to books, Sullivan's
practical ideas and developmentally astute insights show librarian and teacher colleagues how to make vitally needed
connections with this underserved population."
Sullivan... has written an important book for children's and young adult librarians to help them reach the often underserved
population of boys... His recommendations... can only strengthen public library programs and services by helping librarians to
draw in kids of both genders whose interests and temperaments may fall outside a library's usual scope of service.
- Rachel Quenk, Library Journal
As a librarian at an all-boys school, I read this with great interest. Sullivan has thought long and hard about how libraries can
reach boys, and his ideas are well worth listening to and implementing.
- Paula Rohrlick, KLIATT
The Fundamentals of Children's Services
"If you work in a public library in any capacity, you need to understand how vital effective children's services are building your
present and future clientele. Read this book. And remember, the author is Michael Sullivan. Which means you'll even enjoy
- Marylaine Block, Ex Libris: an E-Zine for Librarians and Other Information Junkies.
I would recommend this book to anyone just entering children's services and to anyone looking for an articulate argument for
expanding or enriching a children's department. Sullivan makes a strong case for developing and funding a stellar children's
services department. As he writes, "The quality of a community--and that community's pride--are usually tied up in the quality
of life for its children".
- Ellen Moore, Public Libraries, November/December 2006
Sections on homework, interlibrary loan, and reference services are especially well done, and lists of good story hour books
for infants and toddlers as well as for older children are valuable. Appendixes contain several ALA documents, including
"Competencies for Librarians Serving Children in Public Libraries." This book deserves to be used in library school courses
as well as by librarians, library administrators, and teachers.
- Sharon E. Cohen, Booklist