I’ve been trying to challenge myself to a book a day over these summer months, which has only been fairly successful (some books are quicker reads than others). I’m usually pretty open in terms of what I read, but I do tend to go for realistic fiction over many of the other genres. And I also tend to shy away from what seems like the books targeted toward girls. I don’t know why that is, but it’s always been that way. While other girls were reading The Babysitter’s Club series of books, I was reading R.L. Stine or even classics like To Kill a Mockingbird. I don’t know why I tended towards the latter. Maybe it was because I grew up amongst mainly male cousins, and had a brother four years older than myself who was very happy with my reading his school assignments for him and giving him a synopsis. All I know is every time I picked up a “girly” book, it never seemed to quite fit me at all.
Given my history with “girly” books, I decided to make these the first ones I read this summer, maybe to get them out of the way, or maybe just to see if times have changed and my older wiser self could be more open to these books than my younger self had been. I started with The Secret Language of Girls by Frances O’Roark Dowell. Seemed a fairly harmless read. A book about friendship and growing up, and how friends can so easily drift apart during the middle school years. Love it, I did not, but I can definitely see its appeal for middle school girls. It’s chock full of stereotypes, cliques and peer pressure galore, first love and all that good stuff. Overall though it does have a great message about staying true to yourself, even if it means struggling as the “outcast” for a while. A very quick and easy read. Next I read Boys are Dogs by Leslie Margolis. A great text for pointing out the importance of a title to get a reader’s attention. Quite a few of my students read this book independently in the last school year, so I thought I should give it a shot. I don’t know that I like the comparison made throughout the book between boys and dogs, and not just any dog, but an untrained puppy, as if to imply that all boys act a certain way, and none of them know how to act appropriately, but I definitely think it was a clever way to keep the book interesting and fun. The main character, Annabelle, seems to be surrounded, suddenly, by boys that do everything in their power to make every girl around them cringe or otherwise wish they went to an all girl’s school. Annebelle, realizes that many of the tips she’s been using to train her new puppy may also apply to other areas of her life (for example, using a confident/strong voice, not showing fear, etc.). Annabelle not only “trains” the boys around her but becomes a more confident person overall; I’m definitely ok with her realizing that she has to be a more confident person, that seems to be tough for many middle school girls.
The last book I read, My life in Pink and Green by Lisa Greenwald, was definitely my favorite of the three. In many ways this book was similar to the others, but the main character Lucy was so much more independent-minded and confident from the very beginning, without being so stereotypically girly, that I almost instantly fell in love with her. I also, of course, loved the whole environmental side of the story and could almost automatically think of a handful of students in my previous classes who would have absolutely loved this book. I think what I most liked about this book was that it shows young kids that they can make quite an impact, even when many adults may think they’re too young to be entrepreneurs or environmentally conscious, or even care about business or their community, etc.
So, I guess in final analysis, I’m still not a huge fan of the “girly” books, but I do think that for the most part the themes are positive and worthwhile, and that authors are trying to be true to the middle school girl experience, which can be difficult because it’s so different for everyone. I’m still not going to rush out to read these books, but I’m not going to lambaste them either without giving them a read first.