Bridging the Gap

Wow, there were a lot of feelings out there about the whole books & boys & girls thing I stepped into. It's such charged material. I tried to write about what I felt I was seeing: fewer people are offering suggestions for the boy in a We Recommend, books seem more skewed female in their appeal.

I never wanted to be the kind of person who picked up Charlotte's Web (heaven forfend) or Little House in the Big Woods and said, "This is for girls." But then there is the world I see around me, where boys don't so much read those, don't even seem to want to, and all around them (and us) swirl the different forces: people saying to read the classics, or to read only what seems appealing at first glance, or to read (or don't read) nonfiction. It's all so big.

At any rate, I decide I wanted to try to find my way to a positive viewpoint (wherever that might be) and report from there.

And here's what I'll tell you: the good news is that there's a series of books that has been coming up lately that appeals equally to boys and girls. The bad news? It's this:


9780061957055

These are not books I love. There is something way too over-the-top about the language, with RavenPaw and the clans and ThunderWhiskers or whatever. Apparently they're written by a bunch of rotating writers, with ideas from the editor, if Wikipedia is to be trusted. This will not surprise you when you read them. But oh boy, do kids I know—especially the geeky endearing ones—love these, and it is one of the few series that seems to pull from both genders.

What is it about warring clans of cats they find so compelling? I don't know, but I was at the library with a very nice 10-year-old boy who just touched the cover reverently, and said "This one is my next one." This young man is someone who in the past had a strong affection for books that are even less fun for parents to get involved in (Pokémon and Star Wars novels, anyone?). Not to mention Diana and her entire circle of friends, who have created a long and complicated pretend world in which they've created their own clans.

And so, I just need to get over whatever aversion I have for that weird The Ten Commandments-type language, and happily welcome them into my world. Because if they can reach through all the miles and pounds of bullshit that separate 10 year old boys and girls from each other, then they are a power to be respected.

11 thoughts on “Bridging the Gap

  1. I’ve never heard of them either. Something about your description and the packaging makes me think about Dungeons & Dragons. It’s all about world-building, maybe? I found that incredibly appealing as a kid, still do, so even though I hate cats I think I can get it 🙂

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  2. I forgot to say that I’m really grateful that you brought up the boys/girls/books question. It can be uncomfortable to bring up a topic on which opinions get heated and there’s a lot of disagreement, but honestly, it’s so much better to talk and think about these things than to shy away. Hearing others’ opinions reminds me that my experience of my children is a very limited sample. It’s easy to let your viewpoint get set and narrow and I appreciate the opportunity to push my boundaries and think about these subjects more carefully.

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  3. It’s kind of interesting to me the degree to which fantasy and SF have become not only a non-outsider thing but also a meeting point for both genders. I know of course there’s a whole lot of girly vampire/faery/romance stuff but Harry Potter has cast a long shadow.
    In my tween-age years mumble mumble ago, SF and fantasy were definitely a guy thing as well as a weirdo thing. Geek boys read Tolkien and played D and there really weren’t very many “out” geek girls.

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  4. Two comments:
    When my daughter was a tween (she is now 22), the series that seemed to appeal to both boys and (geeky) girls was the Animorphs series. I thought they were pretty awful but Rachel loved them and devoured them and carried on great conversations about them. She still says they had a great influence on her, though she recognizes them now as being…not all that good.
    And the other thing…your comment about books for boys sort of made my head spin. Wasn’t it only ten years ago or so that parents and teachers were bemoaning the lack of books with girl main characters? Plus ca change, plus ca meme chose. Or, you know, whatever the correct French is.

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  5. Having worked in the kids room of a library till very recently, I could find my way to the Warriors shelf with my eyes closed. My own now adult daughter LOVED Redwall, which kind of just sits on the shelf now. The Percy Jackson series wows both boys and girls and who isn’t waiting for the final Hunger Games? To the battlefield!

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  6. Tamora Pierce just wrote a blog entry on female/male main characters in children’s books. The link is below but the excerpt is:
    “These days, whether anyone believes it or not, 6-7 of the books published for kids through teens still have male heroes. Not much of a change, is it? A study done on picture books recently pointed out that the majority of human characters in those books were men, shown doing active work, while women were shown in domestic settings, doing nurturing tasks. Not operating steam shovels. Not jumping into skies full of clouds to find where they are made. Not trying to drive buses.”
    http://tammypierce.livejournal.com/40594.html

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  7. My son loves these too and I can’t get through the first few chapters of book one. The writing style is so annoying!
    Have you read Swordbird? I dug that a lot and so did my son!

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