The Children's Book Garden

Reading and weeding through the best and worst of children's literature

Favorite Children’s Books: Gender-Skewed Selections? July 19, 2011

I’m lucky; I work with people who read. It’s not unusual to find us chatting about things we’re reading, but especially, it seems, the books we remember reading as kids.

A bonus of having children: I get to reread my favorites to or with them at some point, including:

  • A Wrinkle in Time trilogy (though there’s actually four or five in that line)
  • the Ramona Quimby books
  • Trixie Belden
  • Anne of Green Gables
  • Little House on the Prairie
  • Beverly Cleary books
  • Lois Duncan books
  • Chronicles of Narnia
As I look at the list, I notice something. Something really obvious. They are all – mostly – about girls.
Now, I happen to be a girl, so it’s no surprise, but what I wonder is, are there amazing, awesome, meaningful, captivating books for the pre and emerging adolescent about boys that I somehow missed?
My brain scrambles. A few titles surface:
  • The Phantom Tollbooth
  • The Hardy Boys
  • On the Run
But, that’s all I got.
Because my son is a boy – go figure – and I’m going to want to give him and my daughter a balanced view of things:
Any Suggestions? 
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Five for Under Five: Amy’s Top Holiday Gift Ideas December 16, 2009

Take a book and make it a package! For the younger set, here’s books that make great gifts:

Princess Smartypants and Princess Smartypants Rules
Prince Cinders and King Change-a-Lot
Babette Cole
Make a package: Pair these pairs – or mix and match – of irreverent, romping tales with the usual royal dress-up gear – frilly dress, a crown – mixed in with some dragony dinosaur pets and some cowgirl boots for a complete package to widen a young girl’s imagination about the reinvention of princess-hood and a young boy’s burgeoning conceptualization of masculine desire.

Fancy Nancy Splendiforous Christmas
by Jane O’connor and Robin Preiss Glasser
Just published in October, this pleasing treat makes a fancy girl think.
The Complete Treat: Spend an hour in a thrift store stuffing a bag of lace, fake pearls, and other Punky Brewster-esque trimmings; for an extra dash of class, a book about France, some French music, and/or an introduction to learning French will tie learning into the story.

Harold and the Purple Crayon 50th Anniversary Edition
Crockett Johnson
A classic juicer for the imagination.
The Kit: Obviously – crayons. You can never go wrong with a lovely new package of crayons. And paper. No – don’t get that new stuff that doesn’t stain anything or that you erase. Go old fashioned. It’s a classic combo and perfect for the kid who has everything.

Mad About Madeline
Ludwig Bemelmans
Fun, adventurous, and French, this complete collection of the Madeline series will be a favorite. And the rhymes are fun to read over and over and over… a must for any book you actually purchase, unlike those library books you can dump off when you, the reader, can’t take it anymore…

More merriment: There’s the “learn about France” route, as mentioned above; there’s the dolls, the video, the accessories.

The Story of Ferdinand
Munro Leaf
The classic tale with simple drawings that inspires us all with an appreciation for a strong, masculine figure who prefers smelling flowers to violent displays. Buy it in English AND Spanish for those enterprising kids who are bilingual already and showing you up.
The Hilarious Combo: A bull chia pet! Or a miniature herb garden. I always think simple, easy-to-grow plants are amazing presents for little kids. They’ll enjoy getting their hands dirty, and they won’t stress when the thing dies.