Sunday, December 14, 2008

Books for Boys for Christmas: Lump of Coal or Treasured Gem?

Okay, I have a confession. When I was a boy, I hated getting books as a birthday or Christmas present. It was like getting a rake or a dust cloth; books were work. I don't recall getting many books as presents. I am sure the sour, can't-fake-a-smile expression was more telling than the niceties of a follow-up thank you note.

I will admit that, while in grade two, I loved receiving Thornton W. Burgess books like The Adventures of Poor Mrs. Quack and The Adventures of Chatterer the Red Squirrel, but that's when the excitement stopped. Like many boys, I failed to find books that resonated with me. I was not into science fiction or fantasy and the Hardy Boys seemed entirely old-fashioned. Frank and Joe Hardy seemed a little stiff as characters and I could not connect them to people I knew.

I do think there is more choice for boy readers now. (Of course, I still hear boys say the same thing I did when I was their age: "There's nothing in the library I like.") When I wrote Fouling Out, I was intent on creating realistic characters, flaws and all, that boys might identify with. I knew that I could possibly sell more copies if I made Craig a wizard or had the boys living inside a secret society within a dormant (or active!) volcano. Just think of the ways Mr. Hanrahan might face his comeuppance in either scenario! Easy entertainment, but not the discussion springboard I was attempting to achieve.

I do hope that boys will receive one or two books as gifts this Christmas. (Obviously, I would feel all the merrier if Fouling Out ended up in a few stockings.) However, I hope the gift givers make picks based on what the boy will read, not what he should read. While many adults would find no joy in reading about Captain Underpants, a Wimpy Kid or even Craig Trilosky, these characters may help boys see life in books again. The right book in the hands of the right boy can lead to a treasured experience! (If you are interested, I do have a few book recommendations if you scroll down to the end of my blog.)

5 comments:

Nottinghamshire Notes said...

Here in Great Britain we have a problem with white boys being illiterate and generally uninterested in reading. Consequently I have started producing short, in the first person, stories aimed at boys 9 - 12.

'The Boy with the Monkey' is set during the Second World War when the Japanese over ran the Malay peninsular capturing all before them. The European men they sent to POW camps, but unsure what to do with the women, they marched them from place to place. One unfortunate group walked for two and half years. 80% died, but so did their guards, and sometimes groups ended up in the bizarre situation of being prisioners without jailors.

10 year old Lawrence is in such a group, and it falls to him to learn how to fish to keep the group alive. Having lost his mother and baby brother he has difficulties forming relationships, but he does fancy having one of the wild monkeys as a pet.

Currently only available as an e-book, a paperback version is planned for the spring.

http://www.eloquentbooks.com/TheBoyWithTheMonkey.html

Anonymous said...

i thought it was a really good book. I think the end could of been a little bit better but all in all i thought it was vary good, and really good writing what boys think.

Sawyer Payne said...

I hate it when I get books for Christmas. I mean, I like reading, but the books my parents and grandparents give me are always books that they like, not me. They say "Oh this is a wonderful book, I loved it when I was I kid, its all about romance and drama and blah blah blah." They don't know that books from the 40's aren't any fun to read, because the characters are nothing like kids are now. Good books have characters that you can relate to, that's what I like about fouling out, I hope I get it for Christmas.

Sawyer Payne said...

I hate it when I get books for Christmas. I mean, I like reading, but the books my parents and grandparents give me are always books that they like, not me. They say "Oh this is a wonderful book, I loved it when I was I kid, its all about romance and drama and blah blah blah." They don't know that books from the 40's aren't any fun to read, because the characters are nothing like kids are now. Good books have characters that you can relate to, that's what I like about fouling out, I hope I get it for Christmas.

GREGORY WALTERS said...

Sawyer,
I remember my grandparents giving me "good-for-you" books as presents. They were about as exciting and tasty as vitamins. Blech. Still, I did get the message that they valued reading.

I greatly appreciate your comments about Fouling Out and I hope you continue to discover books to which you can make personal connections.