Monday, January 25, 2010

Books for Boys

This is a late afternoon philosophical rant, so feel free to ignore it.

I need more books for boys in my library. There's been a lot of comment out there on how authors write for children not girls or boys, and as someone who bought only yellow and green unisex baby clothing and gave my girls trucks and tools, I would love to agree. My best friend pointed out that it's somehow disturbing to her as a feminist that we expect girls to read books about boys, but allow boys not to read books with girls as main characters. This was addressed by Diantha McBride in School Library Journal, where she went as far as suggesting that some authors make the main characters boys instead of girls, and people were not very nice about it.

By middle school, there is a huge difference in what boys and girls want to read. Sure, there are a handful of books that both will read. The Lightning Thief. Lemony Snicket. Anthony Horowitz. But I've been desperately searching for funny books for boys. Secretly, ROMANCE books for boys.

That's the difference. Boys don't want to read a book where the main character is a girl who likes a boy. It doesn't help them. Doesn't give them any pointers. And, I believe, girls and boys are looking for different things in a middle school romance. Girls just want to hold someone's hand. I didn't find out until I was middle aged what the boys wanted, which would explain my lack of dates when I was in school. And also maybe the lack of books, since we try not to encourage, um, fascination with individual body parts.

It is hard to get boys to read, and part of it has to be that most of the teachers, librarians, bloggers and even writers are girls. There are so few role models. There are lots of girl books, and most girls will read anything.

Philosophical question of the day: Should we differentiate? Does it serve our patrons better? Does it make the sexes more unequal? How bad should I feel abou tthis? What is the most important thing, bottom line?

And how many books can we expect Gordon Korman and Anthony Horowitz to write before they get tired?



  1. I do know what you mean - it isn't easy. Many boys in my middle school loved, loved, loved Hunger Games and its sequel. I think it's really interesting, especially since romance was definitely part of it.

    I loved When the Whistle Blows, but haven't gotten much response from this yet.

    And Gary Paulsen's How Angel Peterson Got His Name is a classic with a great following in my school.

    Best of luck, and have fun!

  2. I think one thing that helps all kids, but especially boys, is book talking.
    I talked and read a snip from Hunger Games (main character is a girl) and I was swamped with guys asking for the book. One boy said, "I don't read but I want to read THAT book." I wonder if part of the problem is the librarians, who are mostly female, don't read BOY books and therefore can't talk them. (I'm trying to think of a librarian I know who has read Roland Smith, Maximum Ride, Ranger's Apprentice, Mike Lupica, Nancy Farmer, Seems like I am always talking the books to THEM but that is a rant for another day.) They have the books in their collection but if you don't read them, you can't share them...
    I think the fantasy genre is a way for guys to read about romance, safely. The Last Apprentice, Harry Potter, Hungar Games etc. have an element of romance in them that appeals to guys I think.

  3. Do you happen to have Frankie Murphy's Kiss List? It's out of print but it's funny and has a bit of romance to it.

    For purely funny, I'd recommend Harris and Me (fiction) and My Life in Dog Years (nonfiction) -- both are by Gary Paulsen.

  4. We didn't even get to have our traditional post-Newbery discussion of how girly most of the winners are! I was happy with the selection of three titles I loved, but they are girl books for sure. Now the Printz, is much more guy. And it seems to happen that way a lot.

  5. I need to write another book and look into getting my last effort published. Thanks for the reminder.

  6. i haven't been librarianing long, so i could be wrong still, but i feel like we do need to have more boy books, so that guys we librarians can't talk to have something to read until they come see us. then, one on one, we can sneak them books with great plot elements that happen to have girls.
    i had a bunch of arcs that i was giving away to tween volunteers, and the last person in the line was a young man, and i only had one book left, and it was totally a girl book. i told him to ignore the girl on the cover and focus on the dragons, and he found the dragons different enough and interesting enough that he skimmed through the wedding discussions and scenes and it didn't phase him.

    We get hung up, it seems, on whether or not young girls will read "boy" books or boys will read "girl" books, but i don't hear the same concern coming from librarians who order and do readers' advisory for adults. look at the categories in fiction connection (if you have access to it): people like to read about people who are like them. there are 13 books about divorced, remarried mothers in the western states of the U.S. it's why there are mystery series featuring all these hokey sleuths-- cat lovers, bakers, bankers, middle-aged ladies, never-married women, moms, senior citizens, waitresses... i've got a contingent of religious ladies who will only read about characters who are of their same religion. people like to read about people who are like them.

    i like it when adults also step out of their world and try a new character, and i do truly feel like librarianship contains an educational responsibility, to help people reach beyond their comfort zone and try new ideas. but i'm so busy fighting for my budget and doing all the minutia required by library politics that alot of the grander ideas of librarianship seem to fall by the wayside.

    i rambled. i don't know what i'm saying. but these are some things to think about.

  7. Thanks for the perspective, Ms. Yingling! I assume, wrongly it seems, that middle school boys aren't interested in romance. I'm going to take some of the books you suggested in your earlier post to a booktalk and see if any eyes light up.