I’ve been paying attention to what it means when we say “books for boys.” As authors and conference attendees we hear the following:
- There is a shortage of books for boys.
- Boys are more reluctant readers than girls.
- Due to number 2 above, publishers lean towards “books for girls” for better sales.
- If we don’t capture a boy’s attention within the first 5 pages, they’ll put the book down. Girls will read to the end, hoping the book gets better.
What makes a book a “boy” book?
I came up with an answer recently that really bothered me A LOT – adults. Parents, teachers, librarians place judgement and the first and foremost reason for a selecting a book is the main character. Is our protagonist a boy or a girl? And this is the determination of who should read a book. . . really? Is that where most (not all, but most) of the weight is put on determining what we feed our kids to read?
For the most part a girl will read both “boy” and “girl” books, girls are considered more open minded. Or, is it that boys are considered un-boylike if they read a book with a female protagonist?
My son, age 19, read my book, Empty Cup, for his grade 12 choice reading project last year. Empty Cup would be considered a “girl book” due to the protagonist being a girl. But when I consider the social issues addressed in the book, shouldn’t boys be enlightened also? Anyway, at the time when he read it, my son said that he liked my book . . .yes, I realize I’m his mom. . .
Recently, I chatted with him about how he felt reading Empty Cup. Excluding the fact that I’m his mom, is it a book he’d read or recommend to his male friends. He said sure. Kids today read whatever they want, it doesn’t matter who the main character is. Basically, kids aren’t judged for exercising their individuality, because it’s cool to be different. So his answer confirmed my thinking that adults place too much judgement on what would be appropriate for boys.
Considered my friend Gabriele Goldstone’s historical novel series. Red Stone and Broken Stone are set during Stalin’s Russia and Hitler’s Germany and tell the story of Katya, the main character based on her mother and the true events that happened to her during that time. These books should absolutely be read by both girls and boys as they tell an important story from history in Gabe’s beautiful prose.
Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles series – each book has a main female lead character, but the series is appropriate for both boys and girls.
Also consider the Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins, loved by many girls and boys.
The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier has a female protagonist, the best middle grade horror… sorry, let’s go with “thriller,” I have ever read! Totally recommend for both boys and girls.
And of course the list goes on…
I’d like to ask you to really think about your book recommendations and consider the pre-judgements you make when you recommend them. What are you basing your opinion on? Is it a valid judgement? Could you make the recommendation differently? Scrutinize why you feel the way you do about the recommendation with regard to boy readers.
I was recently participating in a reading with a teen writers workshop and a boy in the class said he read “anything but romance.” I don’t think boys are as picky as we adults: parents, teachers, librarians — make them out to be. We haven’t given them a chance. We’ve been too quick to judge. Our boys are more open-minded than we give them credit for, and we need to take this into account with our book recommendations. Its time for a shift!
photo credits: pixabay.com
Gabriele (Gabe) and I have been friends for about six years now. She was a fellow founding member of the Anita Factor writing group. Gabe’s commitment to a writing schedule and consistency is something I have long admired. At each Anita Factor meeting, we have time to read from our own writing for critique and Gabe is the one member who consistently has something to read at every meeting! And no, Gabe, it’s not “boring!” 😀
Isn’t this a gorgeous photo? I just love this one.
Anyway, I have asked Gabe two questions. One of them by now you’ll likely have noticed is consistent. What book did you last read and would you recommend it? I think it’s important to keep the word flowing about great books!
So, Gabe, which book was it?
“The last book I read was “Prussian Nights” by Alexander Solzhenitsyn (translated from Russian to English by Robert Conquest). 1977.
“It’s a 100-page narrative poem abut the Soviet attack of East Prussia during the final months of 1945. I picked it up for three reasons.
- It’s Solzenitsyn.
- It’s set in the exact area and time that my mom attempted to flee the Soviets.
- It’s research for my own writing.
“Now that I’m finished, I embrace more than ever the horror of war and the humanity of the ‘enemy.’ I appreciate the truth of Buffy St. Marie’s song, Universal Soldier. So, yes, read it. Short and evocative!”
What are your ethics of writing about historical figures?
“I explore the lives of ‘little people.’ This gives me room to be flexible—after all, I’m writing fiction. When it comes to famous figures, I rely on facts. When it comes to documented events, I turn to facts. I do a lot of research to make my settings, my characters and their worlds as true-to-life as possible. However, my books are an interpretation and not memoir. But here’s a question…aren’t all memories interpretations?”
Gabriele has two books published in her Katya’s Stone series [Rebelight Publishing Inc.]. The series is middle grade historical fiction based on the true events that happened to her mother during WWII. Click book images for links to Amazon.ca:
Gabe considers herself an explorer (reader), a gardener (writer), and a muller (as in mulling things over, preferably while walking). After years of rushing about madly, she’s embracing a slower, simpler life.
I was going to blog about what an amazing year the members of my writing group, The Anita Factor, is having, however, one of my fellow members, MaryLou, who blogs at What Next? beat me to the punch. So, I’ll piggy back on her wonderful post. Thanks, MaryLou! It really has been a year of one fantastic story after another – literally and figuratively!
The nominees for the Manitoba Book Awards have been announced and three members of my writing group The Anitas have made the short lists. Suzanne Costigan is nominated in the fiction for older children category for her book Empty Cup. Suzanne’s novel has also been selected as a featured book in the Canadian Children’s Book Centre’s Spring 2015 edition of Best Books for Kids & Teens.
Deborah Froese is among the nominees in the fiction for younger children category for her picture book Mr. Jacobson’s Window.
Melanie Matheson is nominated in the same category as Deborah, for her picture book Hokey Dowa Gerda and the Snowflake Girl.
Some other good news for The Anitas recently was the announcement that Jodi Carmichael’s novel Forever Julia was featured in an article in Quill and Quire. Jodi launches her book April 16th at McNally Robinson.
View original post 190 more words