Summer’s here! And summer means no school; long, lazy days for our kids to relax and…do what?

I’m not a fan of summer brain drain, but it can be difficult to know what activities to suggest for boys, especially when they get older (my son is 15) and have strong opinions about how they want to spend their time.

So what will teen boys enjoy? What will be good for them and won’t cost too much? Even better, what’s free?

Enter ‘Stories and Snacks‘.

It’s free, it’s tasty, and your boys will love it. (Well, they won’t complain too much because it comes with snacks and it’s short stories, not novels.)

All you need is the stories (below), and a list of questions to answer (also below).

Here’s how it works:

1. Decide which format your son will like best: one-on-one with you or with 1 or 2 friends.
2. Decide on the tasty treat (this year we’re going with FroYo. Last year it was iced caramel lattes at Barnes and Noble).
3. Agree to read and discuss one short story a week.
4. Set a deadline – pick a day, time and place each week to discuss (we’re going to the library this year).
5. Pick the stories from the list below (these can be printed or read online by clicking the links)
6. Answer the questions. (Note: there are no wrong answers, each person’s response is valid and it’s best to read each story at least twice; once to find out what happens, the second time to answers the questions.)

Questions to answer:

1. What did you think of this story, did you enjoy it? Did you like the main character? Why, or why not?
2. What did you think of the language? What passage stood out most to you?
3. Is this a situation and/or character you can identify with, if so how?
4. Did you learn something you didn’t know before?
5. Do you feel as if your view on a subject has changed by reading this text, or have you had a life-changing revelation from reading this text?
6. What major emotion did the story evoke in you as a reader?
7. Name your favorite thing overall about the story. Your least favorite?
8. In your opinion, what’s the one thing this story is missing?

2012 List of Stories

1. ‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty‘ by James Thurber (being filmed with Ben Stiller 2012)
2. ‘Araby‘ by James Joyce
3. ‘The Valley of Spiders‘ by H. G. Wells
4. ‘The Short happy Life of Francis Macomber‘ by Ernest Hemingway.

For more free stories online, here is last year’s (2011) list of stories

1. ‘Vanka’ by Chekov. CLICK HERE.
2. ‘Powder’ by Tobias Wolff. CLICK HERE.
3. Also by Tobias Wolff, ‘A Bullet in the Brain’. CLICK HERE.
3. A Child’s Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas CLICK HERE. (There are 3 separate pages to print.)
4. The Mask of the Red Death by Edgar Allen Poe CLICK HERE
5. A Little Cloud by James Joyce CLICK HERE
6. The Upturned Face by Stephen Crane CLICK HERE

Optional Add-On: A 30-Minute Writing Workshop

The perfect time for writing exercises is when the voice of a classic author is echoing in our kids’ heads. And, as Aristotle said in ‘Poetics‘, “Imitation comes naturally to human beings from childhood (and in this they differ from other animals, i.e. in having a strong propensity to imitation and in learning their earliest lessons through imitation); so does the universal pleasure in imitations.”

How it works:

1. Choose and print some prompts from the resources below, cut into strips of paper and put in a small bag.
2. When the story discussion is over, have each kid choose a prompt.
3. They should write for five minutes, then stop. (Choose one person – an adult may be best – to time the writing exercise).
4. If they wish to read what they’ve written, fine. If not, also fine.
5. Since this is a casual workshop and the goal is simply to have fun writing, any comments after a piece of writing has been read should focus on what stood out, what was clearly pictured by the listeners, and not questions or criticism.
6. Choose another prompt and repeat. Three to five times is ideal because kids will find they like some of their own pieces better than others, and thus will experience the natural ebb and flow of creativity.

Creative Writing Solutions
Creative Writing Prompts
Writing Forward



Free audio books for teens organized by genre HERE.
Free audio books for teens who already enjoy reading: Lit2Go
Free sci-fi and Neil Gaiman stories at OpenCulture.
To buy more fun reading for boys, go to by Jon Scieszka.
Also buy great audio books for boys at GuysListen.

Short Story Collections:

Color Color of Absence: Twelve Stories About Loss and Hope (2001)
Popular teen authors write about young people experiencing different kinds of loss.

Crutcher, Chris Angry Management (2009)
Like Athletic Shorts (1991), these stories feature old and new characters from earlier Crutcher novels.

Dahl, Roald Skin and Other Stories (2000)
Introduces teens to the adult short stories of Roald Dahl.

DeLint, Charles Waifs and Strays (2002)
Magic, vampires, deception, and good versus evil collide to form a well blended book of short stories.

Destination Destination Unexpected (2003)
Tales of intriguing teen journeys are spun by ten outstanding teen authors.

Every Man For Himself: Ten Short Stories About Being a Guy (2005)
An anthology of stories about such things as family problems, sexuality, and courage by well-known authors.

Firebirds Firebirds Soaring (2009)
Third in the collection of original stories by today’s finest fantasy and science fiction writers.

First Crossing: Stories About Teen Immigrants (2004)
Stories of teens from countries around the world who have immigrated to the United States.

Gaiman, Neil M is for Magic (2007)
Eleven stories that involve strange and fantastical events.

Half Half-Human (2001)
Stories about creatures who are part-human and part-animal or part-plant and their identity struggles.

Hearne, Betsy Gould The Canine Connection: Stories About Dogs and People (2003)
Twelve stories that reflect the varied ways that dogs and humans relate.

Levithan, David How They Met and Other Stories (2008)
A collection of eighteen stories describing the surprises, sacrifices, doubts, pain, and joy of falling in love.

Lanagan, Margo Red Spikes (2006)
Supernatural stories that delve into the crevices of nightmare, temptation, and helplessness.

Link, Kelly Pretty Monsters (2008)
Weirdly wonderful with a touch of horror, nine stories take readers into realistic worlds with a fantastic twist.

Lubar, David Battle of the Red Hot Pepper Weenies and Other Warped and Creepy Tales (2009)
Fourth book in the “Weenies” short story collections that include funny, scary, and bizarre tales.

Myers, Walter Dean 145th Street (2000)
Ten stories portray life on a block in Harlem.

Oates, Joyce Carol Small Avalanches and Other Stories (2003)
12 short stories that feature tales of seduction, abduction, miscued love, family tragedy, and reconciliation.

On On The Fringe (2001)
Well-known young adult authors write about kids who are geeks, emotionally fragile, and loners.

Outside Outside Rules: Short Stories About Nonconformist Youth (2007)
An anthology of fourteen stories about teens who do not quite fit in.

Places Places I Never Meant To Be (1999)
Stories and short essays on censorship by twelve authors whose works have been challenged in the past.

Porte, Barbara Ann Beauty and the Serpent: Thirteen Tales of Unnatural Animals (2001)
A collection of offbeat supernatural stories involving fantastic animals.

Prom Prom Nights From Hell (2007)
Popular teen authors write a collection of horror stories that all are set during high school proms.

Rice, David Crazy Loco (2003)
Nine stories about Mexican-American kids growing up in the Rio Grande Valley of southern Texas.

Saldaña, René Finding Our Way (2003)
A range of stories from family and first dates, to going to the prom and getting expelled from school.

Shattered Shattered: Stories of Children and War (2004)
From the U.S. Civil War to present times, stories of the effects of war with settings in a variety of countries.

Shelf Shelf Life: Stories By The Book (2003)
Stories by popular teen authors in which the lives of teens are changed by their encounters with books.

Shining Shining On: 11 Star Authors’ Illuminating Stories (2007)
Short stories that focus on the ability of teens to deal with and triumph over the problems that life brings.


  1. Sarah Kelly 17 June 2011 at 2:11 am #

    Great list! Looks great – I’d like to read them myself..

  2. Gabi Coatsworth 17 August 2011 at 2:54 pm #

    I’m sorry I missed this at the beginning of the summer. I’ll read some of the stories myself. I think the Good Men Project might be interested in an article or two on good reading matter to get boys interested in reading. If you want to do it, I’ll put you in touch with the editor.

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