Wednesday, October 6, 2010
Julie Berry is one of my good friends in the book world. She is one of the kindest most genuine people I know. I am so excited to bring to you her thoughts on boys and their books. As a mother of 4 boys,and an author this topic is near and dear to her.
I’m the youngest of seven clever children, none of whom are children anymore, but they’re all still clever. I spent my early years desperate to catch up to what they were reading, and sit at the big kids’ table.
Now with four sons of my own, ages 13, 12, 9, and 6, I eat every meal at the big kids’ table.
After my fourth son was born, I decided that since my dream of having a family was now firmly established, it was time to pursue my second dream, writing novels. Eventually I received an M.F.A. in writing for children and young adults from Vermont College of the Fine Arts, where I learned from many talented and committed writers for young people. The Amaranth Enchantment was the second novel I wrote in school, and the first one to sell to a publisher. Since then I've written Secondhand Charm, which is soon to be released, and the Splurch Academy for Disruptive Boys series with my older sister, Sally Faye Gardner, as the illustrator.
For more on Julie and her books please check out her website and blog at http://www.julieberrybooks.com/index.html And please, please come back the next few days for my reviews of her first boy series SPLURCH ACADEMY FOR DISRUPTIVE BOYS, and information on how my local Utah readers can meet Julie!
Now on to her post:
BOYS AND BOOKS by Julie Berry
Boys are bad to books.
They prop books on the rims of their cereal bowls. They stuff books under the bed covers and fall asleep drooling in the gutters. They reread comic books until pages disintegrate. When a boy is done with a book he liked a lot, there’s not much left to salvage.
This may be why librarians, those guardians of the precious pages, have tended to view boys, as a species, with a wary eye. And not just librarians. How many mothers have told their sons, “I won’t buy you more books until you learn to take care of the ones you have?” Such mothers should think of books as hamburgers. Meant for consumption, not décor. Paperbacks don’t cost much more than Big Macs anyway.
Much has been written about why boys separate themselves from books in the middle grade years—attention span, gender stereotyping, video games. The children’s book industry is dominated by women, and, as a female author of books for boys (here I peel off my false mustache), I’m not helping that much.
I think we need to look more closely at how we allow boys to interact with books. Think hamburgers. For a boy to want to eat a book, he needs to have it his way. The book itself can’t be physically sacred. Let him stuff it in his moldy backpack and bend all the pages if he likes. Don’t force him to extract meanings and a moral. Let him laugh, let him get sucked in by suspense, let him transport himself elsewhere and see himself mighty, brave, or diabolical. Don’t make him sit still and quietly read. Let him jump and act out the farting sounds if he must. Every day it keeps him reading is worth it, isn’t it? Every book trashed is just another hamburger.
Boys don’t subscribe to the “Books Are Our Friends” party. Their platform: “Books Are Our Doormats.” If this troubles female book guardians, just remember – this is also how boys view their mothers. So let Junior devour books in every sense of the word. In a few years he’ll come to appreciate books, and Mom, much better.
I started writing children’s books by writing to the daughters I never had. Now, in the Splurch Academy for Disruptive Boys series, I’ve come full circle. I’m writing for the four boys I do have, boys who range from book devourers to complete book avoiders. I’m writing to lure my reluctant reader boys, and others like them, to pedal through my drive-up window. “Look at my sister Sally’s goofy pictures! Hey, look, the book’s really short, and it’s got monsters AND boogers. It’s a series – unlimited refills. You want fries with that?”