One of the things I have been asked to help with, as Story Teller in Residence at our local primary school, is to find books that boys think are cool, and which will encourage them to read for pleasure.
I have extensive knowledge of picture books, because that is what my five year old reads, and I read to him. I do not have so much knowledge of what books older boys might enjoy, because both my older children are girls.
I picked up Silverfin from the local library because it is about the young James Bond. Lots of the older boys in school like the Alex Rider series (starting with Stormbreaker) by Anthony Horowitz, which are about a teenage spy. I thought Silverfin might be a logical progression for them.
I also thought that the children might be interested in them if they are already a fan of the James Bond films. Obviously, they are too young to read the James Bond novels, whose content is quite adult, but most children will have seen one if not all of the films before, which will give them a grounding and a level of comfort when it comes to trying the book.
I really enjoyed Silverfin. The story is well plotted and has some great set pieces, very like the action sequences in the Bond films.
In terms of what the children will tolerate I found it a little slow to start. I have found with reluctant readers you have to hook them in fairly early on and keep up the pace if you want them to persist. They are used to film, and television and computer games where the action is fairly constant.
It is also quite old fashioned. This is necessary due to the constraint of the fact that James Bond has to be born in a certain era in order for him to age appropriately and in synch with the pre existing novels. I liked the old fashioned quality of it. Whether boys will persevere I am not so sure.
As the story gathers pace and the action begins to unfold this slowness evaporates and the old fashioned elements become less of an issue. There are some fantastic, boy wish fulfillment scenes, such as when James is taught to drive an Aston Martin by his uncle. There are some excellent and gruesome fights and the villain, it unfolds is suitably mad, bad and dangerous to know.
The second half of the novel is everything a boy could wish for. It’s just getting him to stick with it long enough to be hooked that might be an issue.
I might suggest, were I to give this to a child to read, either briefly summarising some of the high points of the plot to them as a promise of what is to come, or simply reading one of the more adventurous passages to hook them in and keep them going.
If you can get them to read the first one, I think you will find they are hooked for the rest of the series.
The material is quite graphic in places in terms of violence and I would recommend this for top set primary only, so aged ten and eleven up.
Alongside the straightforward novel there is also a graphic novel of the book which might be a good place to start with boys who are less able to deal with pages of dense text.