Not so long ago, writers were encouraged to write "boy books"--books that would appeal to young males who were less likely to be readers than girls. Many authors have taken up the challenge to create books that would engage boys. Here are two picture books that boys will like, as well as girls.
A Boy Like You
Frank Murphy, the author of A Boy like You (Sleeping Bear Press, 2019), has a message he wants to share with boys (both young and old):
"The world needs a boy--a strong and brave and kind boy--now more than ever."
This sentiment pervades every page of this picture book that will be a great curriculum resource for the preschool-second grade crowd.
The opening spread shows boys enthusiastically playing a variety of sports but ends with the admonition that a strong boy will, "Play hard, but play fair. Be a great teammate. Say 'Nice goal!' and 'Good try!' Don't say 'You throw like a girl.' Ever. And, remember, there's so much more than sports..."
The pages which follow show a Black boy (with a White father and Black mother) working in the garden, baking, reading, and playing music which are all wonderful activities in addition to sports. This character is encouraged to discover other people's stories from a diverse cast which are skillfully and artistically portrayed by illustrator Kayla Harren.
My favorite pages are when Murphy uses a play on words and instructs the reader to, "Oh boy, be curious." And, "Oh boy, be thoughtful." I also really enjoyed the page of the little boy being scared to jump off the diving board. The text reads, "Here's a secret that not many people know. Fear and bravery are partners. You can't be brave without first being afraid."
Although the text may seem a tad didactic to adult readers, boys and girls will get the message loud and clear:
"You are original. And that's a wonderful thing."
A Fist for Joe Louis and Me
In the author's note Trinka Hakes Noble writes that she first saw Joe Lewis's bronzed boxing glove in plexiglass in Cobo Center in Detroit. It inspired her to write this book, just as Joe Louis's knock out fight with Max Schmeling gave hope "during the dark days of the Great Depression and the coming of World War II with Nazi Germany." This book is coming out soon from Sleeping Bear Press and beautifully illustrated by Nicole Tadgell.
This sweet story highlights an unlikely friendship between the young Black boy Gordy Williams, and his Jewish friend, Ira Rubenstein. Gordy's father has been teaching him how to box and afterwards they listen to radio broadcasts of boxing fights--especially when Joe Louis is fighting.
The Depression hits Detroit hard and his father--along with many others--loses his job at a car manufacturing plant. But Gordy thinks, "But we still had Joe Louis in our corner."
Gordy meets Ira who's family just immigrated from Germany and they bond over boxing matches and Gordy teaches Ira how to "put up his dukes". They come up with boxing names and become "Gordy Steel" and "Iron Ira" and joke how they are iron and steel--tough and strong, just like Detroit.
Their friendship is solidified when Gordy sticks up for Ira against a bully, and their father's friendship is solidified when they discover their joint interest in boxing. In a conversation about Joe's upcoming fight against German Max Schmeling, Mr. Rubinstein says,
"My people and your people, we have much in common, Mr. Williams. This fight is for us too."
I didn't know what Mr. Rubinstien was talking about, but my father did.
"It's for all of us," he said as he stood and reached out his big hand. Mr. Rubenstien reached out his hand, too.
I wasn't sure why, but their handshake felt important, like reaching across something far greater than our kitchen table.
I am giving book picture books away so please tell me which one you want in the comments. Make sure you leave me your email address if you are new to my blog! Giveaway ends August 1. Follow my blog or share this on social media for an extra chance to win.