Sunday, May 18, 2008

Boys' Books

I belong to a children's writer's group and they send a monthly magazine. In the most recent issue, it talked about how boys typically like different books than girls. Not just books with boy protagonists, but different types of books altogether.

I could see this growing up.

Teachers choose novels for their classes to read. My brothers used to hold up the book so that they could read the blurb on the back and basically reword it. That was their report.

At the same time, I picked up a biography of Jackie Robinson off their bookshelf, and one of them had written on the inside cover, "This is the greatest book ever written!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

Wouldn't you know, the article said that boys like biographies. It said that, in general, they also prefer humor, horror, adventure/thriller, informational, science fiction, monster/ghost, sports, war and historical."

It's been interesting for me, as a mom and writer, to see what books my sons choose. For Johnny, it's all non-fiction, and J.J. seems to be leaning that way, too. Unless the story involves trains with faces and office politics. (Have you ever read a Thomas the Train book? Those choo choos are always sucking up to their boss Sir Topham Hat and trying to get each other fired.)

Richie likes make-believe stories, but when I let him choose one recently, he picked up a humorous story about monsters, then switched to a book about pirate school, and settled on two friends battling a T-Rex. Monsters. Adventure. Sci-Fi.

As a kid, I was a typical girl. I liked Cindarella and even more so Rapunzel (What the heck kind of hair did that girl have growing out of her head, I wondered. And where could I get some like it? I would have loved to have 50 foot long yellow rope hair.)

But my sons' taste must have rubbed off on me, because every children's book I've thought up would be more appealing to boys than girls. Disasters. Insects. Rats. (Did you know that rats have taken over the world's islands and, of the birds and reptiles that have become extinct, rats have been responsible for 40-60 percent? As a kid, I wouldn't have known, nor would I have cared. But I think boys would care about this a great deal. And the fact that many ships are rat infested. And that throwing rats overboard doesn't help matters because they are excellent swimmers.)

I'm grateful that I have boy readers. It means I get to see the other side of the story world. I've read about princesses, now I get to learn about frogs.

On Friday, I got a glimpse of how boys and girls discuss their difference in taste. I watch a little girl in Johnny's class for a couple hours each week. She's super girly. One day, she gave me an invitation she had drawn for a party at her house. And that's not girly. But then she started bringing me sketches of what I might see at the party.

One was of a little girl in a stylish dress with a rainbow behind her. She held it up. "I might wear a dress like this to the party," she said.

Well, the other day, she was making a grocery list: cat food, blueberries, etc., when Johnny and Richie started telling her about the movie Jurassic Park III.

After listening for a while, she sat up primly and said, "Hmm. That sounds inappropriate."

"It is!" they said enthusiastically. "Three people get eaten by dinosaurs!"

"Inappropriate," to a boy, is a good thing, I guess.

During the movie, I asked, "Why didn't they just recreate the nice dinosaurs for their Jurassic zoo? Why did they have to bring back the raptors and T-rex?"

Johnny looked at me like I had no business sense at all. "Because then no boys would come," he said.

There you have it. If you want boys to come to your zoo, make it dangerous. Likewise for if you want them to read your books.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Or, if you want real danger, come to Ma's house and you can be stung all over by a huge swarm of bees!

Richie informed me that they would be going to see a PG 13 movie real soon.
Hope the venom is out of his system!


7:17 AM  

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