I almost always buy kids books for their birthdays.
I don’t typically give them MY favorites, but I do like to look at what they love and what they are passionate about and find books that they will be excited by. Starting this project, I was just planning on limiting what I read myself, but when it came time to start buying books for some of the wonderful kids in my life, I felt like I owed it to them and to myself to uphold this rule.
This was especially difficult when it came to buying books for a young (or not so young anymore really!) boy a few months ago. I spent ages in the middle grade section, looking for a book that might “appeal to a boy” but was not written by a white guy and I came up almost empty handed. I ended up picking a really beautiful graphic novel called Newsprints by Ru Xu (see photos above), but that was all I could really find.
And then I started talking to a friend who also has a young son, and realized that I hadn’t been comfortable picking a book with a female protagonist. This stopped me cold. Talking to a lot of the men in my life, I have realized that while women often read books with male point of view characters, few men, even men who consider themselves to be feminists, read books with female points of view or female authors.
I wondered then if part of this reason was that we don’t ever recommend or steer boys towards these books. If reading about the world from a female perspective is unfamiliar for boys, as they grow up, this might continue.
So I went out and bought my favorite adventure/fantasy series for this young boy: The Song of the Lioness. These books are about warriors and magic, about growing up and being your best self, about friendship and bullying, and persevering through physical and mental exhaustion. They are a great series, and they just happen to have a female protagonist.