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Why boys should read girl books

By | Caroline Paul |

The other day, I got rejected. It wasn’t over love, but nevertheless it stung: a middle school declined my offer to speak to their kids about my latest book, The Gutsy Girl: Escapades for Your Life of Epic Adventurebecause it would exclude boys.

At first I shrugged, said I understood and went on to other things. But the more I thought about it, the more wound up I became.

Yes, the book is called The Gutsy Girl: Escapades for Your Life of Epic Adventure. Yes, it opens with an author’s note that starts, “Dear Gutsy Girl.” Yes, all the drawings feature girls.

But that doesn’t mean boys are excluded. It just means that the book isn’t about them.

This, it turns out, is basically the same thing. If you’re talking about boys, I mean.

“We are raising our boys to lack empathy.”

I thought of all the books I’d read in middle school. Shane, for starters, a Western that centers on fistfighting and shoot-’em-ups. (I loved the book.) The only female character was a mother, who (of course) falls into chaste love with the hyper-masculine duking-and-gunslinging Shane. There was The Red Badge of Courage, which takes place on the Civil War battlefield. Loved it too, but I don’t recall a single female character. These books’ storylines — and many more — were as far away from my life as a girl I could imagine. Yet no one excused me from reading them. And for that I have been very glad.

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