"Girls" books for boys

Sometimes you recommend a book to a boy, that features a girl, and they don’t want to read it. But I have found that there are “girls” books that appeal to everyone, and I thought I would share a few of them with you. Together we can puzzle out what it is about these books that crack the defenses of a picky reader.

The first books that come to mind, which will be no surprise, are the Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins and the Divergent series by Veronica Roth. Both of these are post-apocalyptic and feature main characters that are action heroes; Katniss is iconic with her bow and arrow, victorious when placed into a survival-of-the-fittest situation, and Tris Prior specifically chooses to be “Dauntless”, a faction in society meant for those who are brave. These YA titles were such a hit that they were made into movies and did fantastically well at the box office – starring girls.

The second group of books that come to mind are The Dork Diaries series by Rachel Renee Russell and Smile, Sisters, Drama, Ghosts, and The Baby-Sitter’s Club graphic novels, all by Raina Telgemeier. These are books that my nephew has asked me for specifically. Maybe it was because girls at school and at home are passing them around nonstop; maybe it is because they are heavily and beautifully illustrated. All of these titles feature middle school stories about growing up, and they are a departure from the superhero plots that we frequently see in comics. These chapter books are introspective, talking about feelings and relationships, and the books sell millions – starring girls.

The last two titles are picture books that I am projecting will appeal to all genders: Oh No!: Or How My Science Project Destroyed the World by Mac Barnett and Dan Santat and Going Places by Paul A. Reynolds and Peter H. Reynolds. Both of these books are “maker” stories that feature engineers; the first one consists of a child building a robot for the science fair, that ends up wreaking havoc in town, and the second features two kids who work together to create a go-cart that flies. These picture books push the normal (science fair, go-cart race) into the fantastic, and they tell stories about budding scientists – starring girls.

What do all of these books have in common??

Let’s work our way back… characters who build complex machines, navigate middle school drama, and save their worlds from totalitarian governments. Basically, what these books have in common are main characters that are smart, strong, and brave – which is what 35% of kids are looking for in books, according to the Kids & Family Reading Report 6th Edition.

So, next time you are faced with the challenge of a boy who doesn’t want to read a book starring a girl, realize that he might not want to read them – but that doesn’t mean he won’t enjoy them. Booktalk anything with smart, strong, and brave characters; mention that there are movies and that the books are bestsellers; see if he is into robots or cars. Everyone wants to read a good story, and those come in all shapes, sizes... and genders!