Is there such a thing as a "Boy Book," as in, just for boys? Of course not. I never said there was. As the incomparable John Green said (or was it his brother) in one of his great vlogs (an even uglier word than "blog"), human sexuality itself is not a duality (one isn't merely gay or straight), but rather each individual is somewhere on an infinite line between conceptions of typically heterosexual and homosexual behavior. (Okay, so maybe Green said it better!)
Our conceptions of what a "boy" or "girl" is needs to be reconfigured this way, as well. Is a "traditional," sports-loving male more of a "boy" than one who likes to cook? Of course not. Is a soccer-playing girl with short hair less a girl than a princess-loving one who likes to wear pink? Of course not.
My decision to create this list several years ago was never with any intention of marginalizing anyone. In truth, I think of these books as books for anyone, and say so elsewhere. My first goal as parent and teacher, however, was to keep the dialogue open for teachers and librarians to remember that just because they loved a book didn't mean their students (boy OR girl) would love it. Males and females do share more things in common than we have differences, but those differences can be difficult to conceptualize. As such, I'm always trying to make my student teachers aware of the fact that, just because, say, The Good Earth worked for them does not mean it will work for their students. I'm idealistic in believing there are books that can appeal to both genders, though I also recognize that no book will appeal to everyone.
That being said, we need to address the fact that reading materials have traditionally excluded male readers in the recent, oh, century or so. Is it enough to say, "Well, they're just going to have to read it?" I don't think so. I think there's a reason why so many boys are what we call "reluctant readers," and those educators who ignore their role in creating the gender reading gap are as guilty as those in the last half of the 20th century who believed girls had less aptitude for science and math. Of course they didn't. Okay, maybe a little. But not nearly as much as we thought. And so, we didn't try to create mathematicians and scientists out of little girls. Shame on us.
But now there are some who say boys have less aptitude for reading than girls, because they can't sit still, or something like that. Of course they don't have less aptitude for reading! Okay, maybe a little. But not nearly as much as we think. And so, many of us don't try to create readers out of boys. We just throw books at them and hope they'll stick. Shame on us.
Hence, my list. I hope the list contains books that appeal to both genders, to be truthful. Almost all the best books do. Is Harry Potter a boy book? The Lightning Thief? The Hunger Games? Well, do boys like them? Yes. Then they're boy books. Do girls like them, too? Yes. Then they're girl books, too. Wonderful. Everyone's happy.
But are there books that are more likely to appeal to girls than boys? Of course. Go to the local mega-bookstore and see how many covers have girls-kissing-boys, girls-pining-for-boys, girls-staring-at-boys-from-afar. This pains me. Oh, don't get me wrong. Some of them are wonderful, and I personally love them. Gayle Forman is one of the finest writers alive, and I'm sorry to say I have yet to recommend her books for boys. Lin Oliver is another... okay, okay... getting off the point here. Now look for books that have a boy who is not merely a gorgeous hunk of flesh being adored by a girl. A lot harder isn't it?
Is there such a thing as a "Boy Book," of course. A boy book is for everyone.
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