Monday, May 01, 2006

More Books for Gifted Kids

Thanks to everyone who's been posting on the Izzy the Impatient "books for gifted kids" thread. People have also emailed me some names of books, and DITD sent me along some lists. For instance, here is a list of recommended biographies for young gifted kids (I attached the cached page because the actual link was broken for me, but it might not be for you; search "Brookline books gifted kids" for the actual site).

If you scroll down on this list of books for gifted kids, you'll find them broken up by appropriate age. Looking them over, I'd say most of the "junior high/high school" books are fine for younger readers too -- just give them a quick look over before giving the OK. A few I'd really like to recommend: Katherine Patterson's books (from the Great Gilly Hopkins to Jacob Have I Loved) are beautifully written; I also loved Cynthia Voigt's Dicey's Song series. Madeleine L'Engle is exciting for all ages. I think I kept trying to draw the fifth dimension (not terribly successfully) after reading Wrinkle in Time.

Another interesting thing -- some of these lists break apart books for girls and boys. There is a certain comfort in reading about a hero or heroine of your same gender, but many books can easily cross gender lines.

That said, I was at a writing conference this weekend and listened to a panel given by children's book and magazine editors and agents. To a person, they said they are desperate for books for boys. They get very few of these crossing their desks. I wonder if this is a function of the fact that most YA and children's authors are women (as you can see from these lists I've linked to). It's easier, as a woman, to write from a female character's perspective -- Harry Potter being a notable exception (though even that's third person, not first). Maybe parents of boys reading this list can urge their children to grow up to be children's book authors, and expand the literature for future gifted boys.


Anonymous said...

The "book" list that you link to is actually a fiction list. Speaking as a former boy and father of a boy, I think that many boys prefer nonfiction. My favorite is history; my son's is science. The good news about these is that they usually don't have age-inappropriate themes. Most five year olds won't understand "A Brief History of Time", but none of them will be traumatized by it.
Andy Cockburn

Anonymous said...

Everything I've read suggests that boy characters far outnumber girl characters in children's literature. This link cites a study that says twice as many characters are boys

It has been my personal experience that many people assume girls will be fine reading books about boys but boys won't read anything with a girl main character. I know when we've asked for suggestions from librarians and workers in stores they always tried to steer our son to "boy" oriented books even after being told he liked the American Girls, Little Women, etc. I think this is a just a variation on the theme that it is somewhat socially acceptable for girls to be "tomboys", but boys are discouraged from liking anything traditionally feminine and are labeled as wimps or gay if they do. What does this tell us about what we respect in this country?

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure if the link I posted came through. If you Google boys in children's literature sexism it is the first one that comes up.

Laura Vanderkam said...

That's interesting about the boy characters -- I'm trying to write a suspense novel myself, and I struggled with whether to make the main character male or female. I worried that with a female lead I wouldn't get any male readers! Or, more importantly, publishers wouldn't believe men would read it (I don't think men themselves are so neatly pigeonholed). In the end, I decided to go with a heroine, because it was easier for me to write and I thought the voice was more authentic.

But yes, I think there is a certain taboo for boys reading "girly" stuff. Certainly, plenty of adults steer boys away from playing with dolls (fewer scold girls for playing with trucks).

Anonymous said...

My son (10 years old) has no preference for male or female protagonists. He just wants a gripping story that has him turning pages as fast as he can read them.

We have some trouble keeping him in books, but not because there is more "girl" fiction than "boy" fiction. Indeed, most of the new stuff coming out these days seems to be pretty unisex.