I am the mother of girls. And I am the middle sister of three girls.
Girls girls girls.
I never really dealt with any boys when I was a kid, or not much anyway. They appeared only peripherally. I had close cousins–three girls. And cousins we weren't as close with, a girl and boy.
I never consciously missed having boys around. They seemed—loud. Disturbing. Slightly scary.
I just didn't have a whole lot of knowledge. Which ended up meaning that I didn't have a whole lot of sympathy or curiosity either.
But things changed (as they do), and I eventually moved among teenage boys and then men and was fine. I never really gave any thought to the fact that little boys never figured large in my life.
And now I have this blog. Plus some truly excellent nephews. And I started to notice something (something that, of course, I'd heard whispers about before, but that never really seemed real to me until I actually witnessed it). The world of books is somehow less welcoming to boys than it is to girls.
This isn't something that makes any real sense to me. So many men I know are big readers. Reading is, I always thought without quite thinking, one of those activities that doesn't have to be gendered. Isn't it?
Or is it? What is it about the protagonist of so many YA novels being girls? Of so many of our classic children's books? I feel like I've been in this enchanted garden for a long time. Reading has always been such a solace for me, such a thorough (and inexpensive!) pleasure, like chocolate or strawberries or something. And there I was, and somehow just woke up and noticed a whole lot of people standing outside the garden gates.
I'm writing about it now because when I posted about the brother and sister, the responses confirmed something I've sort of noticed/suspected the whole time we've been doing We Recommend. Posts about books for girls get about 3 times the response rate that posts about books for boys get. The post about the brother and sister? A whole bunch of people recommended for her, and didn't have anything for him.
I mean, I know it's complicated. If I had to guess, I would say that my readership is about 90% female, and about 90% (not necessarily the same 90%) people who were serious readers as kids and still are. And of course it's easier to recommend a book for someone you feel is a lot like you: a reading girl, or a former reading girl.
But it makes me uneasy. I mean, maybe some boys don't want to read, and that has to be fine. And some will be happy reading Little House on the Prairie (though most won't even try it). But I've grown rather fond of a quite a few boys since my early distaff days, and I don't want them to be outside the garden.
I guess part of what I'm doing on this site is trying to open the gates a little wider or something (no doubt this garden/gate metaphor will completely fall apart, and soon). There's this amazing site (a reader of this site recommended it to me), but what else is there to do? I don't know. There is a world beyond Captain Underpants, or maybe what I mean is that there is a world beyond The Secret Garden. And Captain Underpants lives there (and a whole bunch of other farty, smelly creatures, no doubt). I am going to try, I think, to find it.
So maybe what I mean is this: I think this is important, but I am beyond ignorant in the words and language and world of boys and their books, so send me your (metaphorical) maps to this strange land, send me your questions so we can try to find books, send me things your boy loved, send me rants about how stupid it is to divide literature into boy and girl camps, send me anything. And then we'll all know more, right?