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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Good for Goose and Gander

I've been thinking a lot recently about what boys read and what girls read.
I have two daughters and we're a pink swathed bunch as we schlep out to the beach, pink swim suits, pink buckets and shovels, pink mermaid/fairy towels. I can barely pull my daughter's attention away from pink/purple/gold-a-liciousness, never mind get her to read something that might have a whiff of a Y chromosome. I understand what a gender bias looks like.


When I was growing up, I read anything. Narnia, Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Agatha Christie -  anything as long as it was an adventure story. I don't remember children's books being so gender specific in the 70's - though maybe that's due to the "Free to Be You and Me" factor.


Whatever the reality was, now there seems to be girl books and boy books and nary the twain shall meet. It's much, much more pronounced as boys get older. Beyond middle grade there seems to be an attrition in books for teen, male readers.


At the Pennwriters Conference last month, Becky Levine and I spoke briefly (while trying to flag down the waitress who was passing with little spinach pie canapes) about this. My question to Becky was, which came first, the lack of interest from boys that age in reading, or the lack of books that boys that age would be interested in? I can't tell you how many people at the conference were psyched to hear that the main character in my YA Fantasy is a boy. Is there really a lack of new releases geared towards boys, or is it that boys are intrinsically (or maybe they are taught to be this way) less able to 'insert themselves' into a book where the main character is a girl - a trick, by the way, that girls had to learn to do through necessity from when only boys were having any fun in children's books. I mean, who would you rather be, Peter Pan or Wendy?


Becky has a cool post about summer reads for boys - books that work for boys AND girls, that she compiled with the help of her teenaged son.


And I found a great post on the Book Whisperer's site - a cool blog about Donalyn Miller, a Texas educator who is all about getting kids to read - on how "We create a crisis when we define readers along gender lines," and what her in-the-classroom experience has taught her about how boys read.


Both these posts include awesome reading lists excellent for girls, boys and even adults.


Tomorrow I'll talk about the Horror, SciFi and Fantasy genres and why women writers in these generes may be getting short shrift.


In the meantime, what's your favorite children's book that's not necessarily for your gender?



3 comments:

  1. I loved all the adventure books too. I could identify with a boy character as easily as a girl one. Didn't matter.

    Interestingly, my fourteen year old son read and loved The Hunger Games trilogy. Didn't phase him at all that the main character was a female. With him, though, it's novels in general he would like to avoid. He'll usually only read books if they're assigned through school. Can't believe we're related some days. :P

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  2. As a child, I gravitated to the darker realm of fiction, mysteries, horror, etc. I don't think I ever noticed whether a protagonist was male or female. I was more interested in the story itself and how the character made it through to the end. I also played tea party with my Cabbage Patch dolls, house with my Care Bear kitchen set and pushed my yellow, metal Tonka Truck around.

    Let's see, Hardy Boy, There's a Weedle on the Needle and There's a Boy in the Girl's Bathroom. I'm sure there's more, but cobwebs of old age are starting to form inside my skull.

    And to answer your question, I would prefer to be Peter Pan.

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