Friday, 20 June 2008

Books for boys

Finally, here is the follow up to my earlier post on favourite books for 5 year old girls: my best books for 8 year old boys.

I do think children’s books are marketed in a much more gender segregated way these days to how they were when I was a child. Girls are now meant to read books sprinkled with sparkly bits and inhabited by fairies, pop stars and princesses. Boys are meant to read cartoon books about spying, danger, monsters and football.

Up to a point, C and O do read these sorts of books, and some of them I like very much. But I want them to read far wider than this and it’s so dispiriting to hear C dismiss a book solely on the basis that ‘it’s a girl's book’ – which usually means there someone in a skirt, or something pink, on the cover.

The books I read and loved when I was 8, which are now on his bookshelves too, include:

  • Asterix by Gosciny and Uderzo
  • Tintin by Herge
  • Just William by Richmal Crompton
  • Stig of the Dump by Clive King
  • Jeremy James by David Henry Wilson
  • a great deal of Enid Blyton
  • the pre-teen Judy Blume books (especially Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing and other ones with the same characters).

Books I loved at this age but which I’ve had no success convincing him to try include:

  • Pippi Longstocking (girls’ book!) by Astrid Lundgren
  • Mrs Pepperpot (girls’ book!) by Alf Proysen
  • The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett (too old fashioned!) and
  • The Silver Sword (too scary!) by Ian Serraillier.
  • Swallows and Amazons – one of the series of children’s books that influenced me the most – is a work in progress.

I try not to dwell too much on books of my youth, for fear of putting C off books completely with my excessive nostalgia. Besides, there are some fantastic books that have been published in the past 30 years that it would be churlish to ignore!

C’s modern favourites, that I never read when I was small, include:

  • The Jiggy McCue books by Michael Lawrence
  • Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey
  • anything by Cornelia Funke
  • How to Speak Dragonese by Cressida Cowell
  • the children’s books of Alexander McCall Smith
  • the Charlie Small stories

And then there’s Harry Potter. When I read these books in my 20s, as the hype around them grew, I was mostly so sad that I could never read them as a child. I loved them as an adult, but knew that had I been able to read them as a child they would have been even more amazing. About six months ago, C did a piece of literacy work at school based on a small extract from Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban. He rushed home from school full of excitement about the extract he’d read. He was delighted to find all seven Harry Potter books on our shelves, and started reading before he’d even taken his coat off. He didn’t really pause for breath until he’d read to the end of book 4. He loved them just as much as I would have done had I read them at his age.

Which is all I could ask for really.



  1. captain underpants is very popular in our house with E who is 7, and won't read school books! thanks for all the other ideas!

  2. I do think that there is a profussion of PINK in publishing for girls.
    Has he tried any Roald Dahl, or any of the Horrible Histories by Terry Deary?
    I heard on the radio that publishers are to put a reading age on books too - another limiting and prescriptive idea.

  3. Stig of the Dump was one of my favourite books when I was young. No2 enjoyed it too when I got it for him. He is totally into horror now, but has loved a lot on your list too.
    I finish up working in the school library in 4 weeks and I know I will miss it terribly.

  4. I LOVED Pippi Longstocking, and Judy Blume books when I was small. And Roald Dahl-Danny Champion of the world was a favourite for me and my brother-has C read that? Think he would like it. I am quite envious of his packed to the rafters bookcase!x


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