Thursday, February 28, 2013

Family Books

So I'm still thinking about boys here. And I'm thinking about this reading gender gap or crevice or crevass depending on how you pronounce it. 

What did boys read long ago? I think they read many of the books I posted about in my last blog, but what about the good old family books? Those books where the main characters were a group of children, a family of children, with girls and boys. 

They say boys won't read books with a girl main character, but these books have multiple main characters. Many people are important, boys and girls. (I have found some serious reluctance from both of my boys to read books with girl main characters, so despite this great post by Shannon Hale here:, and as much as I wish I could totally agree that boys will read girls if parents don't prevent them, I think this stereotype is generally true. Boys are reluctant to read girls—even when they say their favorite color is pink, like Shaemus does.)

I'm thinking of these sorts of books—family books:

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All of a Kind Family by Sydney Taylor
Half Magic by Edward Eager
The Saturdays by Elizabeth Enright
The Moffats by Eleanor Estes

These sorts of books aren't written much these days. Books about families of children. This is sort of not true, of course. Of course, there are books written about families of children, but most of them are very silly or involve espionage or plots to take over the world. Or goblins. 

There is this book:
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And its sequels, and my boys do love The Penderwicks despite its four sisters and no brothers whatsoever. 


I have no answers here, I'm just thinking, but I wanted to bring to your attention a series of books, mostly forgotten now, about a delightful, eccentric, wonderful family. These books are sooooo good. Good for boys and good for girls. They're not silly, not really, and they're not about espionage or plots to take over the world. Or goblins.

These are real books, realistic fiction, but they aren't issue books. They're not about cancer or divorce or bullies or autism. Not really. They're about the twists and turns of regular life and the adventures that happen within them.

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This is The Not-Just-Anybody Family, the first book in a series of books about the Blossom family by Betsy Byars. I loved this book when I first read it a few years ago. Loved it. I couldn't understand how it had escaped my attention for so long. The characters are wonderful—the grandfather in this story is one of my favorite characters ever. I felt so much empathy for these people. I loved them. The children were wonderful, and it is so fun to read about a time when children can be six and seven and eight and nine and they can run off and play in the woods all day without a play date or adult supervision. 

There are sequels as well, equally delightful and mesmerizing. 
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The trouble is the covers. Kids today aren't going to like these covers, especially the 8-10 year old boys who are really the perfect audience for these books. Tell your kids not to judge a book by its cover. Tell them that authors have no say about the cover! Design a new cover with Darth Vadar on the front. Rip off the cover, whatever you need to do! These books would make great read alouds. Great birthday presents. Great rewards for good behavior. 

Go and meet the Blossom family today! You won't regret it. 

1 comment:

  1. I love your blog - so happy to have stumbled upon it. I would add E Nesbit's books (Five Children and It, The Railway Children) to this list of wonderful stories with a family group as the main character. I love the relationships and interactions of the sibling groups in E Nesbit's stories. Also, my son is the eldest in my family and so far has been willing to listen to and read every thing I can think of - I work hard at foisting the female heroines on him NOW when he doesn't have much he must rely on my reading longer stories to him or listening to them on CD (he is 6 1/2). I don't know how this experiment will end with him...but it has been my goal to push him in his ability to appreciate literature...enjoying a good story and not judging a book by its cover, etc. This was most obvious when we listened to Farmer Boy which he was enthralled with. I wasn't sure if he'd be interested in listening to Laura's side since she is a girl. But I told him that Almanzo eventually comes into Laura's story. So we listened and waited for the moment when he appeared. But really he was easily captivated by Laura's adventures as well. I would say that listening to books on CD can be an effective tool for drawing boys into stories that they may otherwise not read...and until they are able to read well enough on their own. But I have a reverse daughter who is 4 is more reluctant about reading. I don't know if it is her age...but I have a difficult time interesting her in trying new books that she hasn't heard. Is this an age thing? Or did I just miss the boat with her because I was too busy reading to my older child and she didn't get as much early reading time that he did? Also, curious about how you decided to homeschool some of your children but not all? Considering homeschooling for a period of time with our children.