When I was 5 and in first grade, I met Flat Stanley. He was so cool. Squashed nearly 2-dimensional by a falling bulletin board, Flat Stanley permanently changed the way I saw the world. When he stood sideways, you couldn't see him. When his mom lost her diamond ring down a roadside grate, she tied him to a piece of string, dangled him like a human yo-yo into the grate, and he retrieved her jewelry!
|Oh, Calvin, you knew Flat Stanley, too. How I miss you both!
Yes, Flat Stanley started it all: my fascination with physics and my lifelong love affair with fantastical what-if-they-were-true stories.
Eventually Stanley and I broke up. I moved on and let other boys take me on wild adventures: First there was Henry Huggins. Then Alec Ramsey (my first real literary crush ~sigh~). Then Huck & Tom. Johnny Tremain. Bilbo & Frodo. Arthur & Lancelot. And hundreds of others.
Oh, I had girlfriends, too. Nancy Drew and I were very close. And Lucy Pevensie and I were practically inseparable. But the boys were my favorites. In real life, I couldn't be bothered with them (something for which my mother remains thankful to this day), but they heavily populated my reading.
This is why I found novelist Robert Lypsite's recent article "Boys and Reading: Is There Any Hope?" in the New York Times, so disturbing. “Boys don’t read,” it trumpets. A publishing executive is quoted saying that girls are publishers' primary readership. They want stories "about mean girls, gossip girls... and vampires." So that’s what gets published.
Though Huffington Post writer Charles London posits that “Boys today are consuming more text than at any time in human history. Adults simply are not valuing the reading that boys are doing,” it doesn’t change the publishers’ tune:
Boys don’t read. So male protagonists don’t sell.
I have to confess, if my primary options for topics to read about were “mean girls, gossip girls, and vampires,” I doubt I’d be a reader either. Does this mean that for every Bully Book that gets published, a book with the potential to be this generation’s Hardy Boys or Encyclopedia Brown gets rejected? Probably.
That’s not only tragic. It borders on the criminal.
Boys (and many, many girls) are not interested in choosing between Team Edward or Team Jacob. They could care less about bitchy frenemies. Frankly, statistics show that many prefer nonfiction to fiction. So why not give it to them?
Isn't publishing more books that cater to a different audience and create more lifelong readers way-the-heck more preferable than wringing our hands and lamenting the loss of the literary Y chromosome? 'Cause, frankly, if publishing sticks to the Bitches & Bloodsuckers route, odds are they're going to lose a lot of girls, too...
For great stats, advice, and titles hand-picked by guys for guys, check out Guys Read. Want to add your two cents to the discussion? Chime in on the comments. (No mean girls or vampires, if you please.)
Photos by Kevin Rosseel