Girl Books and Boy Books

It works like a charm: whenever there is a 7th/8th grade boy standing in front of our service desk asking for a book off of the Rebecca Caudill list to read, the only available book is Princess%20Academy.jpg

This year’s Caudill list (Illinois’ children’s choice award) seems to be the most divided ever between books that appeal to girls, and books that appeal to boys, with not a lot appealing to both equally. It’s an excellent list with lots of good choices in general, but still…how did they end up with so many books that fall squarely in one camp or the other?

My instinct is that it fits with the whole princess fad in general. Little girls can wear pink from head to toe, often with sparkles, and their books have begun taking on that appearance too. Princess Academy is relatively restrained. There is also a huge surge in books about fairies, as you may have noticed, and of course the very popular Emily Windsnap to appeal to mermaid fans.

Then on the other side, we have the whole Guys Read phenomenon, which generally is a great thing–we have a display in our library filled with sports and dragons and adventure books and raucous humor.

But in general, I’m a little queasy about the way book jackets are signaling so strongly that a book is intended for a girl audience or has boy appeal. I reviewed the new Sharon Creech book for Horn Book , and made my 17-year-old son burst out laughing when I jokingly handed it to him out of my bag when he had asked for his own book. Yet over half of the characters in that book are boys, and there’s no reason at all for them to have given it a cover like this:

Do they feel that the only way a book will sell these days is if it appeals to one group or the other? There was some complaint this past year that all four of the Newbery choices were girl-centered, character-based books with nothing there to appeal to boys. Are the books becoming more divided, or is it the audience? Are we telling girls and boys that they should be reading different books?

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2 Responses to Girl Books and Boy Books

  1. Sonia says:

    My seven-year-old son and I have been reading Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books; we just finished These Happy Golden Years and now he wants to continue with The First Four Years. I am pleasantly surprised at how much he has enjoyed these books that I loved so much as a child. Granted, the stories are mostly about a family of girls, but he took as much pleasure in Nellie Olson’s comeuppance as any girl I know. I also think the descriptions of the whole pioneer lifestyle appeal to him as well. It is too bad that kids get the message that boys must read one thing and girls another. With the right books and a little open-mindedness on all fronts, hopefullly those boundaries can be crossed!

  2. Susan says:

    I did the same thing, Sonia! I’m a big believer in reading the “girl” books out loud to boys, either at home or in school, so they at least get exposed to some of the great characters and the other point of view.

    I just find it worrisome that they are taking the already sort of unfortunate way that kids divide books up into boy books and girl books and hardening that line with covers and marketing.


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