It’s a Boy Thing, You Wouldn’t Understand

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?

38 thoughts on “It’s a Boy Thing, You Wouldn’t Understand

  1. As the parent of a girl (6) and a boy (4), I have found the same issues that you mentioned above. There are a wealth of options for girls, and not so many for boys. I worry as my son gets older about what I will find for the in-between stage – I think as he gets older there are a lot of science fiction options, but for the elementary years there seem to be less choices.
    As a four year old here are some of the picture books that he loves: Scaredy Squirrel by Melanie Watts, anything by Mo Willems, and most of the books by Julia Donaldson (my favorite is The Gruffalo). Also, How I Became a Pirate has been a big hit recently.
    I was looking for gifts for my 7 year old nephew, and picked up How to Train a Dragon, but I don’t have any reviews yet, as he hasn’t had a chance to read it. He does, however, love the Weird School books, and he also enjoys Amelia Bedelia.

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  2. I agree. I have a six year old boy, and I have had to seek out things for him. He loves Captain Underpants and The Magic Tree house, so those are what we read all the time. He has enjoyed Ready Freddy, but doesn’t ask for it. He liked Geronimo Stilton, but only asked for it once. He wants to read James and the Giant Peach next, so I could possibly get him to read more Roald Dahl if it works out. When we go to the library, he checks out the Star Wars books that I really don’t enjoy. He picked out books from a series called Prince of Underwhere, but we haven’t read them, and they are too hard for him to read independently. He also likes to check out books by Bruce Hale such as The Possum Always Rings Twice, I think it is a series, but again too hard for him to read and I haven’t read them. Does this help? There was one other series that we read one book of, too, some kid’s name that starts with a Z, the last name. He liked it, but didn’t ask for more. He also likes comic books and the Lego magazine. I wonder if my tastes and his tastes just don’t mesh. I will ask him what he likes and get back to you.

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  3. I don’t think that you’re wrong, but as the mother of a 4yo girl, I often find the “girl” things suck. This is becoming less true now that she’s getting older. All of our favorite books used to be books with boys in them.

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  4. Thank you for bringing this up. I’ve certainly heard it said before, but my son’s only three so there’s lots of options for him yet. Somehow I never really thought until now that, hey, this is going to be my problem soon, too.
    Interestingly the first thing that occurs to me (for older boys) is older literature, like Twain or even Dickens (am I crazy? The Christmas Carol was kind of awesome) or Sherlock Holmes. But the younger set, I don’t know. Tintin and Asterix comics, perhaps, but it would be nice to be able to think of just plain books, too.
    This must be one reason (among many others) why Harry Potter was so popular: boys and girls could relate to it. I know a lot of boys like Phillip Pullman too–he’s a very complicated and dark, though; again, only for older kids.

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  5. I blogged a little about this as well…
    http://farrarwilliams.wordpress.com/2010/06/15/boy-books-found/
    I feel like there are lots of boy picture books, both older things and things coming out now. There are plenty of books about pirates, trucks and other boy things, as well as gentle books with boy characters. I like how David Shannon has blazed new trails in both picture books, with his David series, and in early readers, with his Trucktown series. Though early readers afford a wealth of boy characters, with Fly Guy, Henry and Mudge, etc.
    Chapter books is where I think things are still lacking and I think it shows from all the parents who complain that they don’t know what to give their sons to read when they’re sick of Captain Underpants (usually the parents are sick of it, not the boys, I’ll point out!). There are a few options, which I wrote about on my blog. The Stink books are my favorites, though there’s also Flat Stanley. Part of the problem is that most boys don’t read as early as girls, which means that there are rows and rows of pink, sparkly chapter books with titles like “The Pet Fairy.” Apologies to anyone who found Pinkalicious endearing, but UGH to the sparkly pink section in general.
    However, once kids get a little older and into longer series books and middle grades books, there are more options again. For one thing, while they’re not all the rage anymore, there’s the Matt Christopher books, and a whole bunch of other sports themed series targeted to boys. There are also no end to boy books in the fantasy and scifi genres. In fact, between Harry Potter, Artemis Fowl, Percy Jackson, Gregor the Overlander… well, I could go on, but suffice it to say that boys actually dominate in this arena. I think there are a bunch of more contemporary fiction authors who really get boys though, like Jerry Spinelli, Carl Hiaasen, Louis Sachar, etc. But there are female authors who seem to really get boys as well.
    When you move into YA books, while it may initially seem like the books are dominated by all those chick-lit series and vampire series (and boys don’t read vampire series), some of the best writers in YA, like MT Anderson, are writing for boys.
    Some of the biggest children’s books in recent years have been boy books. Think of Eragon (which I think is dreck, but that’s beside the point when I’m making a point about sales), Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Rick Riordan’s works, even Harry Potter.
    Anyway, this is just to say that I think that the children’s book world is sort of girl-centric in some ways. There are certainly more girl books, especially among newer books.
    Okay, must stop typing. I could go on about gender stereotyping in books and whether there should even be “boy” books and “girl” books and what does that even mean. But I’m stopping.

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  6. I’m on the bandwagon with this one as well, being one of 3 girls but now faced with a 6 year old son who loves reading. I highly recommend (for his age) THREE TALES OF MY FATHER’S DRAGON by Ruth Stiles Gannett. He has fallen hopelessly in love with these quiet, wonderful, just-on-the-edge-of-scary stories, and he can read 90% of it by himself.
    There’s also the HORRIBLE HARRY books and the “My Weird School” series, but they aren’t quite the classics. The Hardy boys, of course, and Freddy the Detective, Encyclopedia Brown (he also enjoys Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle)
    I read aloud to him THE BFG, which was a lot of fun, and also THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE, which really made an impression on him (to my surprise).
    He loves comic books, too – and the Zinc Alloy series is one that he returns to. And Bone.
    I hope as he grows more advanced, I’ll have more to recommend. But for now, I think the books are out there…you just have to dig a little deeper. Which is, in fact, a shame.

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  7. Because of what you’ve discovered about books for boys and girls, I began writing action adventures & mysteries for readers 8 – 13, especially boys. This started nearly 10 years ago and by the end of this year, there should be 9 of my books available. I’ve signed an option for another 16 which are already written.
    I’m hoping to have a positive impact in this area of books that are boy friendly and writing books that will get boys interested in reading.
    Max Elliot Anderson
    Books For Boys Blog
    http://booksandboys.blogspot.com

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  8. I hate to admit that I was one of those commenters who had nothing for the brother, but something to offer the little girl. I am also the mom of girls, and sort of focused on girl things. I agree that there is lots for older readers and lots for picture books readers and not much in between, it seems.
    I’m not sure why it’s such a big deal, though. Girls read books about boys, right? I mean, my girl does. So why can’t boys read books about girls? I know that the fairy series and ballet shoes and stuff like that won’t be appealing, but Beezus and Ramona or the Worst Witch – why does that stuff have to be just for girls, if stuff like Stuart Little and James and the Giant Peach are considered for everyone.
    I don’t know. I recognize that parents of boys have a hard time and I wish I had something more constructive to say. I guess that as a reader who has always gravitated toward sci fi, where there are very, very few heroines, I don’t get why this seems so very traumatic. I feel like there are very girly books and very boyish books and then there is everything in between and that should all be fair game. *sigh* I guess I am an idealist.

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  9. My 5 year old boy loves the Roald Dahl stories for kids, as well as anything factual (book about volcanoes, animals, etc… I know these are not story books, but anything a kid likes reading is good, no?).
    And thanks for this post, I need more ideas for him myself, especially as he is now on the cusp of being able to tackle a chapter book by himself.

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  10. My 7 1/2 year old son has been an avid reader since he was 4 1/2, starting with the Magic Tree House books. He ate those up. Recently he went through a kick of Dan Gutman’s baseball card books (Honus & Me, Roberto & Me, etc.), which combine both sports and time travel. He’s read each of the Wimpy Kid books from cover to cover over and over again. Loves them. He also enjoys Stink and Judy Moody. The humor of Laurie Keller’s books, with all the little asides on each page, enthralls him. He likes reading reference books, including both the regular dictionary and the Star Wars dictionary. He enjoys comic books of all kinds, including his dad’s old Beetle Bailey and Calvin and Hobbes books. He LOVES the graphic novel “Meanwhile: Pick Any Path. 3,856 Story Possibilities” by Jason Shiga. He likes biographies, especially anything about the Wright brothers and the early presidents – recently he wanted to know more about Walt Disney so we got the “Who Was Walt Disney?” book.
    He shies away from scary things, which can be challenging when you combine the fact that he’s an advanced reader…books that meet his reading level can often be too scary. He read a pile of Goosebumps books one day recently and then had trouble sleeping.
    I’ve come to realize he’s somewhat unique, being a boy for whom reading is like breathing – he can’t survive without it. Put him near any new books, even ones for his sister, and he practitcally starts twitching with anticipation of getting his hands on them. It’s a good problem to have, not being able to keep up with how much he wants to read.

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  11. My 6-yo son is going crazy for the Fudge books right now. Both my readers (boy and a girl) love series, especially A to Z Mysteries, Geronimo Stilton and Secrets of Droon.
    My son also went crazy for The Swamps of Sleethe by Jack Prelutsky. (A little creepy, a little funny and gorgeous illustrations.)

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  12. I second what Jessi said about girls being willing to read boy protagonist books, but the general thinking is that boys are not willing to do the same (if there is a girl main character then there has to be at least a primary male sidekick). I actually think there are quite a lot of “boy” books out there- maybe more than “girl” books even. However most of the commenters are women and we reach back a decade or two (or more) so maybe what sticks with us most are ones that we particularly liked that resonated with us as females. YMMV.

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  13. I have two young girls, so I don’t have much help of the personal experience variety (though most of my daughters’ favorite authors appeal to both genders — Richard Scarry, the ubiquitous Dr. Seuss, Allan Ahlberg, Maurice Sendak, Judi Barrett, Roald Dahl, you get the idea). I started devouring books the day I learned to read, but not a single one of my six brothers has ever picked up a book voluntarily. My husband and his three brothers start looking green around the gills when asked to read. Of my male friends, perhaps one or two read for leisure; the rest tend to roll their eyes when their wives talk books with me. I’m tempted to think from this that there most be SOME genetic predisposition at work. However, for anyone with a boy looking in sadly on the secret garden of girl lit, I’d suggest checking out the blog Bookie Woogie: http://bookiewoogie.blogspot.com. A dad and three of his children (including an 11-year-old boy) discuss their favorite books, conduct author interviews, and even make some precious fan art. It provides not only some great ideas but a boy’s perspective. Happy exploring!

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  14. Apologies if this link seems self-serving, but I really do think it’s applicable:
    http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/curriculum/meRead_andHow.pdf
    It’s a guide for teachers that I was involved in, full of strategies for getting boys to read. One of the things I took away from it was that it doesn’t matter if boys aren’t reading fiction, as long as they’re reading. Non-fiction books, magazines, and comics/graphic novels all feed curiosity and build many of the same skills as fiction reading does.

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  15. Count me as another person who agrees with Jessi, and I have an infant son so I’m definitely thinking about this seriously. Why is it that books featuring boys can be read by anyone and everyone, but books featuring girls don’t get the same respect? Does the world of YA fiction simply contain too much romance for boys? I could understand that. But what I don’t get is the idea that “boy” books encompass the realm of Captain Underpants (and perhaps not much else). Surely some of the excellent YA books I have read would qualify, even if they have a girl protagonist? “Coraline?” “Island of the Blue Dolphins?” “Bridge to Terabithia?” “Caddie Woodlawn?” Okay, so some of the characters have to deal with “girl” things (Caddie being forced to act ladylike and wear a dress, for instance). So what? I devoured books that had boys dealing with “boy” things. I guess what I’m really asking is, are we making assumptions about what boys might be interested in reading when we say there are too few good “boy” books? Is it a problem of conditioning? Whatever it is, it seems to me a real shame that boys might be either genetically or conditionally uninterested in books that happen to feature girls. There’s a whole lot of books there that they won’t get to experience. I dunno. It just seems silly to me, kind of like boys not getting to paint their nails or wear makeup or skirts/dresses (or risk being ridiculed) seems silly to me.

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  16. I think you bring up something really important. As a girl myself and therefore somewhat limited in my perspective, I see my independently reading son, my son who loves to be read to, and my daughter who is just developing the attention span for a story, and I want to give them all things they’ll love. I try to keep a variety of titles around, but it’s true that some of them come down hard on gender lines. I have the Narnia series, for example, which I think is pretty gender neutral, but in the box of my own favorite childhood books, I find such titles as “Fog Magic,” about a girl who discovers a mysterious village that only exists in the fog, all the Trixie Belden titles, and Ramona Quimby. And I wonder, are they girly books? I offer them all to my son, and he has so far just glanced at most of them, but we’ll see. My middle son loves very “boy” books like Horrid Henry and Captain Underpants, but he’s also suprisingly into books that are simply lovely and more gender neutral, usually picture books. And along the same lines, I’ve never been much of a non-fiction reader, so those aren’t the books I kept from my childhood, they aren’t the ones I pick up for birthdays, they aren’t the books I gravitate toward at the library. Am I denying them a “boy” genre because I am such a girl?
    Gender issues are always tricky, and I certainly can’t offer answers. But I really appreciate the conversation.

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  17. this is a quick response, but I disagree that there is a dearth of books for boys. The classics lean to the male gender (think Treasure Island) and there are plenty of wonderful books out there with male characters. Perhaps we are the ones imposing the “girl/boy” label to books. If we expect a boy not to like a book with a girl character, then we are selling him short.

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  18. I’m with Kiera, and Kate, and others. Why do we(society) – assume? expect? teach? – boys to not like stories with female protagonists? The idea that a boy reader might not like a great book because it is a “girl” book is so limiting. Would we accept it if someone tried to tell us our daughters wouldn’t like a book because it was for boys?
    And it starts so young, the limiting boys to boy things – way before independent reading happens. So it’s like they’re doomed before they even start.
    Don’t misunderstand me – obviously it’s a chauvinistic world out there with a whole canon of classics geared to it – but it just seems that, around what we currently teach very small children, the rules bend easier for girls than boys. Baby girls might be dressed in blue overalls, but a baby boy won’t be put in pink ones. A 3 year old girl dressing up as a construction worker would get a smile, while a 3 year old boy dressing up as a princess would be told “oh, don’t let your dad see that, ha, ha, ha.” And on and on and on. Until we end up talking about “girl” books and “boy” books as though the books had genders themselves.
    And it happens even when you’re aware of it, and care about it, and rail against it: I saw non-fiction referred to as a “boy genre” and my stomach actually physically clenched. I read right past the whole most boys won’t read the Little House books just sort of accepting that, sadly.

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  19. Coming back to this later as I’ve been turning it over in my head a bit. I differ from Jessi’s opinion somewhat but I do think that the gender distributions are very much genre-oriented. I’ve always tended toward sci-fi and fantasy and I keep on coming up with a lot of YA and younger books in those genres that are gender-neutral or boy-oriented. Other genres may be a lot poorer. Fortunately, the best literature, IMO, often offers the most to both genders (though not always).
    As for the larger question of “why are we defining books this way?”, I get it, I really do, and intellectually I am totally on board. I would love to be totally gender-neutral in regards to what I give my kids. But, practically, as the parent of a 3.5-y-o boy and a 14-month girl, I have already discovered that both children some stereotypically gendered preferences that are, as far as I can tell, totally innate. My son has been fascinated with truck and diggers from a young age. My daughter, so far, is much more interested in pictures of other babies than he ever was. Generally, I think we can say that there are certain qualities of literature that, on average, may be more or less likely to appear to boys or girls. I will be delighted to keep on offering good books of all kinds to both of them, but I am also not going to try to bend them to my gender-neutral will when it comes to reading. I’m just going to give them what they enjoy. (I have to say I’m really resistant to the whole princesses thing, but when we get there hopefully I’ll find stuff that satisfies my daughter’s needs without killing me softly inside.)
    For YA and younger boy-friendly or gender neutral lit, I also thought about John Bellairs (although they are scary; I read those in elementary school and was totally terrified and traumatized), L.M. Boston (an underrated series overall), your namesake Jane Langton, Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising series, Jules Verne, and, heck why not, MAD Magazine.
    For a girl-ish YA book that won’t set your teeth on edge I would like to give a shout-out to Edith Pattou’s fabulous East, based on more than one famous fairy tale. Some echoes of Pullman but I liked it much more.
    And I am totally saving all the references here for when my son gets older!

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  20. Okay, these books are going to be older and perhaps they won’t be hits because of that…but how about (not sorted by ages):
    The Great Brain books – Fitzgerald
    Homer Price and Centerburg Tales – Robert McCloskey
    Lentil by the same author
    Emil and the Detectives – Kastner (I think)
    Robin Hood
    William Nicholson’s books
    Diane Duane’s Wizard series has a strong boy-girl team
    Jonathan Stroud’s Bartimaeus trilogy
    Garth Nix’s books – the days of the week series
    And then there’s my husband who fondly remembers reading the Trixie Belden books.

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  21. Dipping back into this discussion, I feel like I have to say two things. One, as the parent of a school age boy who is enamored of ballet and the color pink, not to mention his awesome long hair, I find it chafes me every time a parent says “he likes trucks, she likes fairies, I guess it’s just hard wired!” the implication being that gender stereotypes are somehow universally hard wired the same way. I totally disagree for so many reasons.
    Both my boys read books with girls. They enjoy them and some “girl” books are among their favorites. I think that just like there is a societal pressure for kids to conform to gender roles, there is also an expectation that girls will read books with boys but boys will not read books with girls. They should. But to make that happen, a lot of bigger forces have to change. The same sort of forces that make gender conformity so strongly enforced in elementary school and that’s such a big can of worms I don’t think it can even be tackled here. Just saying.
    However, there should also be books that have male protagonists and books that have female protagonists. There should be books in different styles that speak to different types of readers. There should be a wealth of options. I *mostly* think there is. As I said in my above comment, I find that early chapter books is the one place that’s lacking, for boys specifically – there are options, but not a lot, especially not among recently published books. On the other hand, that’s also a market dominated by The Magic Treehouse, one of the better examples of a series marketed to both girls and boys, so I’ll just leave it at that.
    I think YA is not as lacking as some here seem to think. Yes, a certain vampire book is dominating things still and there are a lot more girly romances and baby chicklit titles than boy centric titles, but if you look at a list of Printz award winners – American Born Chinese, Looking for Alaska, even Libba Bray’s brilliant Going Bovine – these could all be described as “boy books.” There are plenty of boy protagonists and traditional boy interests at the top end of YA books.

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  22. As a 46 year old boy, I can recommend the books that I loved and read over and over as a child (and more recently):
    The Tarzan and Mars novels by Edgar Rice Boroughs
    The Oz books by L. Frank Baum (particularly RinkiTink in Oz)
    The Lion Boy series by Zizou Corder
    The Jeremy James books (Especially “Never Steal Wheels From a Dog) by David Henry Wilson (a big hit w/my 5 year old)
    Mouse Noses on Toast by Daren King (Ditto)
    Petite Rouge Riding Hood by Mike Artell (Also ditto)
    Montmorency by Elenore Updale
    All Things Bright and Beautiful by James Herriot
    Treasure Island (Just read this last year and can’t believe that nobody sat on my chest as a child and MADE me read this – AWESOME!)
    The Jungle Books by Rudyard Kipling (much darker and stabbier than you probably remember)
    The Doctor Dolittle books by Hugh Lofting

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  23. I’m pretty sure that YA and kid fiction has been girl-dominated because it’s a field women have always been welcome to publish in, not being “real” literature and all. So I am irked by the idea that this phenomenon is somehow discriminatory. See also predominance of women in teaching and nursing.

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  24. Coming back to this, after a few days, I’d like to say something else. I do think that there are clear boy books and girl books, but I think that most of the stuff out there falls in between and it’s probably the better stuff 90% of the time. I think that this stuff is often marketed toward girls, though. We recently started re-reading Ramona, in prep for the movie and as I pulled 2 or 3 off the library shelves, I really looked at the covers. Which were pastels with a lot of pink. The artwork was soft and Ramona looked very girly in all the pictures. The copies of these books I had once upon a time were more primary colors with line art and a scrubby looking little girl in jeans.
    Maybe some of these gender issues have more to do with cover art than literature. Which is a problem all its own, but not the same problem.
    Also, Amen Marya!

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  25. Farrar, but I’d also take an opposite perspective that stems from the same dislike of sweeping generalizations. Just as it’s not fair to say that all kids fall into those stereotypical roles, I think some do express those gender-typed preferences that seem to stem from very deeply rooted sources. Believe you me, I gave my son very gender-neutral colors, and exposed him to a whole range of gender-neutral toys and interests. But trucks is what he got into. Just as I completely agree that we shouldn’t *assume* a boy or girl will want or like gender-stereotypical toys and reading, I think it’s just as dangerous to resist what a child wants just because s/he turns out to show preferences that are gender-typed.
    Where you and I will probably disagree the most is that I think a significant majority of children do show gender-typed preferences. I’m basing this just on the children I know. I hasten to add that we should have exciting reading options for every kid of every taste. And I also think that, as I said above, a lot of the good literature is really not gender-typed. (Jessi, love your recent discussion of the marketing and packaging of books, vs. their actual content.) As a child I loved Rudyard Kipling and Sherlock Holmes and some others I mentioned here as “boy” options–really they’re just excellently written action and adventure no matter your gender. But the more a child (or anyone else) gets into reading, the broader their tastes will get. Sometimes it’s just about finding the hook that will draw you into the written world.
    Another amen for Marya, too!

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  26. Just found that the author James Patterson has a website that caters to finding books that appeal to boys:
    http://www.readkiddoread.com
    His own son was a reluctant reader, so he began writing children’s books that he thought would appeal to him. Interesting.

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  27. Late to the party, as usual, but Beverly Cleary has some great books with male protagonists (Henry Huggins, and the boy from Dear Mr. Henshaw) and her Mouse and the Motorcycle series were all LOVED by the boys in my classes as read alouds. Any boy w/ an interest in animals might enjoy many of Dick King-Smith’s titles. And there’s actually TONS of YA stuff out there for boys now, much more than you’d think. And so much of the distopian stuff appeals to boys and girls (like the Hunger Games trilogy) so powerfully that they don’t really care if the main characters are male or female. Lois Lowry has some great middle grade books w/ boy protagonists as well (The Giver, for one.)

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  28. My 8 year old son likes me to read him to sleep most nights and given that he gets overwhelmed most times at the library when asked to “pick out a book”-I usually pick them out or read from our collection at home (which is alot of my – girl – collection from growing up). He has enjoyed all of the following in the past few months:
    -Mary Poppins
    -A Little Princess (which maybe I forced a little as it is one of my all time fave books-ahhh Sara Crewe).
    -Mouse and the Motorcycle (I have plans on getting the rest of this series to read soon)
    -Judy Moody books
    -Diary of a Wimpy Kid (he read these on his own and at a voracious pace)
    -Shel Silverstein poetry books and The Giving Tree (we read this one alot)
    -Misty of Chincoteague
    Not that I am reading too much classic literature (although someone posted something about Treasure Island above – sounds like a good winner for next trip), but I hope that reading some of the non-traditional boy books give him a little wider interest for when he does start picking out more on his own.

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  29. The Underland Chronicles (starting with Gregor the Overlander) by Suzanne Collins is a fantastic series that my son and daughter both enjoyed but as it features giant rats and cock roaches would be labeled a “boy” book.
    The Ranger’s Apprentice series by John Flanagan is good as well.
    Maniac Magee, Whales on Stilts, Captain Nobody, Aurora County All-Stars, etc. are all very boy-friendly books. If I pulled out my family’s book journal, I could probably give you another 20 suggestions. It is much harder to find girl books that aren’t about horses, fairies or mean girls.

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  30. THIS is why i love TDITW. thank you. really. the discussion here in the comments thread has changed the way i look at what i do (i’m a children’s bookseller) in so many ways. i started to write an actual, legitimate comment… but, not surprisingly, it turned into a three page essay. it occurred to me that it was probably a better idea to take it to ye olde blog and write the short novel there instead; so i did: http://tinyurl.com/2bw36em thank you, again. this blog is made of win.

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  31. My 10-year-old son has been an avid reader since age 5. We read the Little House series together when he was in kindergarten and he loved them, so don’t leave them off lists of books for boys. Of course he enjoys Harry Potter and devours graphic novels. His favorite book is Simon Bloom by Michael Reisman. He plowed through the Percy Jackson series this summer. He also loved Eragon and wrote his own version of the story. Don’t be discouraged by the lack of books aimed at boys. They are out there.

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  32. I am really enjoying a website that is all about boy reading and sharing how it is important to try many angles to get boys to read. As a mother of three boys I know that their tastes will definitely be different.This mom of four boys has many boy topics. As a teacher, I also like this site because it helps boys start reading with interest at an early age and in a wide variety and then she ties in some fun activities that get boys using their creative minds and hands. She has questions and free outlines that I think are great. I feel that some boys are fine independent readers but, there are a great many that do need a group or an invested parent or friend or classroom to also share in thier reading experience. Please check this site out if you are interested in boys reading at many age levels. http://bookclub4boysinfo.blogspot.com

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  33. No one has mentioned the wonderful Michael Morpurgo yet. I just read “The Sleeping Sword” to my 7 year old son and he was captivated. He also loves Dick King-Smith, “The Mouse and the motorcycle”, “The Indian in the cupboard” books by Lynne Reid-Banks, and anything by Australian authors Andy Griffiths and Michael Wagner, along with the usual suspects (Captain Underpants, Ricky Ricotta, Horrid Henry).
    I read the brilliantly illustrated (abridged) version of Gulliver’s Travels to both my kids (daughter is 10)over the last school holidays. The illustrator is Chris Riddell. Each holiday I try and find something that will appeal to them both. This time it’s “The Princess and the Goblin” by George McDonald. Who knows why?

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  34. What about Andrew Clements? He is one of my absolute favorite authors and does an awesome job with both male and female protagonists. His “antagonists” are mostly protagonists in disguise. I LOVE the fact that he doesn’t demonize parents or teachers to get his point across, but realistically portrays adult/child interactions.

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  35. my (now 12yo) son read early, and yeah there is a lot of pink, sparkly princess stuff, but there are so many choices now you can find good choices for any child, boy or girl. My son would read anything if it was a good story it didn’t matter the protagonist. He is more particular now that he has moved into YA books, he loves action and sci-fi.
    My daughter (now 9yo) is not a girly-girl. She loves a good adventure story and books about animals.
    I see a real dearth of good material (for boys or girls) in the early reader books. We liked the Minnie & Moo books by Denys Cazet and the Dragon books (sorry forgot the author). These books are usually just taken from the latest animated movie in the theaters, ugh!
    Be careful stereotyping kids of either gender! My husband and son are both voracious readers. I know many men & boys who often have a book in their hands. I have a niece who is dyslexic and really struggles to get enjoyment from reading.

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