This list was no easier to whittle down that yesterday’s list of 20 fave female characters. But as the Lit Mama of three beautiful boys, I have to tell you some of my favorite male characters so you can introduce your littles to their incredible attributes. So without further ado…
- Oliver Twist from Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
If you’ve been following this blog for long, you know that the Littles and I read the book this year and that I am a huge fan. Oliver’s goodness, even in the face of so much treachery and filth and rottenness, is an amazing grace to watch. Though not stupid, Oliver is believably naive. It makes him more hopeful than he otherwise might be and I think goodness and the ability to keep hope are important in every situation we may ever find ourselves in.
2. The bat-poet from The Bat-Poet by Randall Jarrell
Listen, if no one has ever turned you on to this gem, let me be the one. Especially if you’re teaching your kids about poetry, this story is a winner. The bat-poet is truly a bat who lives with a group of bats on a farm. When cold weather comes and the rest of the bats move from the porch to the roof of the barn, the little brown bat-poet stays on the porch because he is afraid he will miss it if he moves. He tries to get his friends to come back, but they refuse. The little brown bat sleeps alone for a while, but soon he begins to wake up during the day because he is lonely. He hears a mockingbird sing and tries to emulate him but he is unsuccessful. So he decides to use words to capture what he sees and how he feels about the daytime. His friends criticize his poem, so he tries to get daytime animals to be his audience. He makes up poems about many different creatures until finally he takes inspiration from his own life and writes about a baby bat and his mother. When he flies to the barn to share it with his friends, he finds them hibernating. As he snuggles in with them, he begins to forget his poem. What I love about The Bat-Poet is his willingness to experience what others of his kind reject. He is shy and sensitive and willing to see what others might consider painful or difficult and put it into words. And his sleepy forgetfulness at the end, when he is getting all warm and cozy and his life is going back to normal… Well, that has its merits, too. You can download a free pdf of the story here, but I recommend getting the book illustrated by the magnificent Maurice Sendak. Because it’s a keeper.
3. Mr. Tumnus from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
I’m sure many of you are going, “Mr. Tumnus?! Really?!” Because there are so many characters to love in this book. But this is My Favorite List, and Mr. Tumnus is my favorite character. I like him because 1) he’s a faun, and that’s cool, and 2) he really is a good guy who doesn’t want to turn Lucy over to the White Witch. He is inherently good though fear causes him to make bad choices. Mr. Tumnus could make a good character study for your littles–what makes a good person do bad things? Also, James McAvoy darn near made Tumnus hhhhot in the film. You know, to counter all that winter.
4. Eeyore from Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne
Eeyore melts my heart. His steadfast belief that no one truly cares is both wistful and adorable. Littles who often feel out of place can relate to Eeyore and his whole, “Thanks for noticing me,” attitude. He’s a pretty pragmatic dude, too–when his house disappears, he doesn’t get mad or throw a tantrum. He just happens to mention it to Christopher Robin the next time he sees him. I love all the characters in the Pooh stories, but Eeyore is my absolute favorite.
5. Max from Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
I don’t have any boys like Max, though Littlest comes closest simply because of his mischievous spirit. For the most part my boys are well-behaved. They never talk back or wish wolves would eat me up. At least not to my face. Nonetheless I always secretly wanted a little boy who caused such trouble. Because Max has Such Fun when he’s being bad. And some of the monsters are so cute I just want to hug them. And in the end, Max realizes his behavior was wrong, so it all comes out okay. Now, if only they hadn’t made that awful, depressing film….
6. Abel from Abel’s Island by William Steig
I still have my original copy of Abel’s Island. And we used it when we read it last year. And it was awesome. Abel is a regular Robinson Crusoe, getting trapped on a desert island and surviving until he can get off. We actually read Crusoe the year before we read Abel, which may be a bit backwards since Abel is so much easier a read. Abel is a cheeky little mouse with lots of ideas of how to survive on his island. Like Crusoe, his main objective is to get home, and he gets his happily ever after in the end.
7. Bilbo Baggins from The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
If you don’t already know that Bilbo is one of my Favorite Characters Ever, this is your first visit to my blog. 🙂 Bilbo starts out a stubborn, timid rabbit and quickly becomes a valiant, daring hero. Bilbo’s desire to save everyone at the end of the book and make things right shows his kind character and true heroism. Sure, he might be the boss against trolls and gollums, but his real value? Caring. And that’s what we want our littles to learn.
8. Hazel from Watership Down by Richard Adams
I love, love, love Watership Down. I love Hazel for being brave enough to take off into the unknown to save at least some of his warren from destruction. But what I love most, of course, is his love for and support of his brother. He never doubts Fiver, and never lets anyone else doubt for long. He is a strong and kind leader, and when held up against the leaders of the other warrens the rabbits encounter, his type of leadership is a stark contrast. Hazel can teach your kids how to be wise and good and how to think things through to develop strategies for life.
9. Merlin from The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart
If you’ve never really read anything about King Arthur or Merlin and you want a gorgeous, encompassing introduction, look no further. I’ve already admitted I have over 100 books about the Arthurian legends. Some are good, some are great, some are not.. so… good. This book and the three that follow it are Excellent. They are my very favorites and I have read them too many times to count. Why? Because they’re the only books in which Merlin is depicted as a real person. This first one follows Merlin’s childhood, his introduction to his magic, his years of study, and his rise to a position in which he could help the future king. I’m pretty sure Arthur isn’t even alive yet during this book. It’s historically accurate as far as Britain’s enemies and the geography of the island during the time when Arthur is supposed to have lived. I can’t recommend this book enough. When I call it gorgeous, I mean the imagery will stay with you For. Ever. And so will the main character. In fact, you might just buy another hundred books looking for one that compares.
10. Will Tweedy from Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns
I love southern novels. I think To Kill a Mockingbird did that to me 30 or so years ago, but there you are. Southern settings are incredible. Will Tweedy is a resident of Cold Sassy, Georgia, so that earns him points right there. He’s a curious, sometimes mischievous kid who regards his family with a certain measure of amusement and affection. He adores his grandpa, who certainly causes some scandal in the book. In the form of marrying a Much Younger Woman. Three weeks after his first wife dies. Will’s not outraged like the rest of the town, though. He tries to understand his grandpa’s new marriage. And he eventually finds out that things aren’t always what they seem. Will also has a couple of adventures of his own in the book that are pretty hilarious and/or shocking. He’s a good character to teach your littles how to handle gossip and how not to pass judgment.
11. Sam Adams from Johnny Tremaine by Esther Forbes
Johnny Tremaine is hands-down the best Revolutionary War book for kids; that’s why everybody uses it. Getting to see the real-life characters from a kid’s point of view makes the whole thing make more sense to littles. Sam Adams is my favorite character because of the things he says in the book. Obviously, he’s already a hero and one of the reasons us U.S. folk have a country. He wrote the pamphlets that ignited the spark. But when Adams stands in front of his fellow rebels and says, “…We fight, we die, for a simple thing. Only that a man can stand up.” Ah! I get goose bumps. May we always fight so that a man (or woman) can stand up. May that always be important to all of us.
12. Pip from Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
I think I’ve mentioned before that Great Expectations was my first Dickens ever. So Pip stays with me and has for a very long time since I was 12 when I first read his story (I’ve read it many times since. It rivals The Count of Monte Cristo for my All-Time Very-Top Favorite Book Ever). Pip is a kind, if bewildered, soul throughout the book. His inability to understand meanness when he sees it stays with him through adulthood, and I can definitely relate to that. He sees the good in people when they don’t really have any good. He feels for compassion for people when he maybe shouldn’t. He makes some mistakes, but for the most part he loves with his whole heart and treats others accordingly. Can you say good role model?
13. Jem from To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Jem. When I first read about him he reminded me so much of my own older brother I wanted to cry. His steadfast strength, his friendship with Scout, his protectiveness of her… if you want your littles to learn how to treat their siblings, have them read about Jem and Scout. Their stout love for each other and their father is one of the most inspiring relationships in literature. No wonder Harper Lee only needed to publish one book until this year (have I said that before?).
14. The Mad Hatter from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
I don’t know if it’s the Hatter so much as Carroll’s amazing skill with words… Just kidding. I’ve been passionately in love with the Mad Hatter since I was very small. He’s so… crazy. Maybe it’s the way he pokes fun at adults with his actions. Because surely a tea party was confusing to little kids when they happened, and the Hatter’s tea party is one of the most confusing scenes in the book. I think a lot of it is his manner of speech—completely illogical in a comical way. And the fact that he doesn’t seem to have the right rules. Or any rules. When I was little, that was the most Awesome Thing Ever, and now that I’m grown, well, I’m still a fan. Oh, and Johnny Depp plays a dope Hatter, so watch the film.
15. Ged from A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. LeGuin
This is another book of which I still have the copy I first read at 13 or 14. Ged is a good example of a person coming into his own. From the beginning of this amazing trilogy he knows he has powers, but he has no idea what he’s getting into when he jets off to wizard school. It’s riveting to watch this good-hearted guy get himself out of scrapes that he never could have predicted. And he’s a good example of how to handle power while keeping your heart intact.
16. Tobias from Divergent by Veronica Roth
Tobias is, in my opinion, the best love-interest written in the last decade. There have been several big action/romance trilogies that have come out, but Tobias is the best character of those. Why? He has real depth. He is not only Tris’s love interest, he is a guy who survived childhood abuse, who has learned how to deal with the political machinations of the factions, who has Real Feelings about the world, not just about Tris. For me, learning about Tobias was as interesting as anything else that happened in Roth’s series. And the best part? His girl didn’t up and fall in love with someone else halfway through the story. I hate the love-triangle schtick. Ugh, if women were that mercurial, there wouldn’t be any marriages. Please, writers, give us some credit.
17. Tom Sawyer from The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
Everybody loves Tom Sawyer, right? That adventurous boy with a lot of snark that gets into trouble without batting an eye and gets back out of it like a boss. He is the ultimate Good Bad Boy. No wonder Becky Thatcher couldn’t stay away from him. What’s really cool about this character, though, is that he reminds Littles how fun life is without technology. Get out and play like Tom. Maybe don’t cause so much trouble, but cause a little trouble, if only in your imagination. Climb trees. Explore. That’s what Tom Sawyer teaches.
18. Guy Montag from Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Oh, Guy. How could you stand yourself, burning all those books? It must have crushed your soul. Watching Guy go from the big, mean Fireman to the Guy who loves books and questions everything is a true delight. And Littles should learn to do that. Question everything. Get to the bottom of it. Learn the truth. And listen: This is from the Wikipedia article about the book– “Over the course of several decades, people embraced new media, sports, and a quickening pace of life. Books were ruthlessly abridged or degraded to accommodate a short attention span while minority groups protested over the controversial, outdated content perceived to be found in books.” (I don’t usually approve of Wikipedia, but it’s a perfect description.) Don’t your littles deserve to learn that speeding up isn’t always a good thing? I mean, before it’s too late.
19. Thomas from The Maze Runner by James Dashner
Thomas is a well thought-out character who starts out surprised and grows to be full of surprises. He Uses His Brain when he’s in the maze instead of becoming the complacent citizen the other boys expect him to be. No matter what he’s up against, he refuses to just take things as they come. So admirable. Plus, he tries to save everybody, much like Bilbo Baggins does in The Hobbit, even the people he doesn’t like. How many people in the world are like that? All of us should be.
20. Sirius Black from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Askaban by J.K. Rowling
Now, I love Hagrid. But if I have to pick a fave from the Harry Potter series, it’s going to be Sirius. Maybe it’s because of his affect on Harry. But I think it’s his open heart that enfolds Harry from his introduction. His strength in standing by Harry’s side and supporting him. His feelings about the importance of Family. Plus, he was just cool. I admit, I spent the rest of the series hoping he would somehow come back so Harry would still have some family. I understand that Rowling wanted to make it as realistic as she could, and no one was safe, but Sirius’ death is the one I truly regret.
There you have them. Twenty of the most awesome boys ever written. Make sure your littles get to the know them all. My life would not have been the same without them. It would have been a lot more boring, too.
Again, if I’ve left your faves off the list, let me know in the comments. In the meantime,