Boys vs. girls… the battle for the books

The other day I was asked by a parent what book I’d recommend for their 9 year old son. They wanted me to give them some tips for ‘boy-books’ that they thought he’d like

My initial thought was that they were looking for books that had a little more:

And a little less:

And don’t get me wrong. It didn’t bother me. When faced with a choice between the latest Avengers movie or something pulled from a Nicholas Sparks book, a betting man would put money on Avengers being a more popular choice for guys. And that’s fine.

Okay, back to my story and the point of this post. They asked for a boy book, I suggested a book and they shook their head saying, “They were looking for something with more action and fighting.”

Cool— I made another suggestion:

“Ah, but it has a girl on the cover. I want one geared for boys.”

Wait a second… the book can’t have a girl on the cover? But it’s got these two kick-butt characters who are total fighters and they’re out for revenge… and … and … nevermind. You know your kid better than I do. Could they really have been saying that the simple fact the main character is a girl disqualifies it from being one a boy would want to read… Ahem… HUNGER GAMES!!!

I looked around the net and sure enough, I saw countless comments and message board threads and book reviews pointing out this trend of thinking boy books MUST be about boys. That’s too bad, and I think we’re teaching kids a lesson we don’t mean to be teaching them when we do that..

Again, I’m not saying that boys and girls will always like the same books. Of course not. But neither will all boys like the same books as other boys, or girls as other girls. And I’m not saying that publishers can’t target their marketing strategy to parents with boys, or to boys themselves. I’m just saying that we, as readers, and parents, and writers, should perhaps not paint books with the same predetermined gender color palette we seem to have for clothing.

My son’s into action adventure, Steve, what do you recommend?

This is one of my favs. Totally a clean read for kids under 12, and loaded with action and adventure and … Oh, wait, even though that looks like a boy on the cover, it’s actually a girl since the main character pretends to be a boy…. Darn. Luckily they have two covers. One with a character and one without!

My son loves books that involve soccer players. He’s 8 years old, any suggestions?

Oh, darn, foiled again.

What are your thoughts? Am I over thinking this?


Husband, father, brother, writer, traveler...

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