A Children’s Book For Boys and Girls

Have you ever had the problem that you loved a book and you want to recommend it to your preteen son or nephew, but the main character is a girl and you think that will put him off? On the other hand, you know your daughter/niece is a big reader, but will she enjoy a book with a boy as a main character? What about as a writer? Have you struggled whether your main character should be a boy or girl, in order to attract the most readers?

Writer Stephanie Tolan has solved this main character gender dilemma in a clever and elegant way in her book  “Surviving the Applewhites” (HarperCollins). Ostensibly the main character is a thirteen-year-old boy named Jake, with spiky hair and a less-than-stellar reputation. However, his narration alternates with that of E.D., a twelve-year-old girl. One character narrates a chapter and then the other character narrates the next. By switching back and forth chapter-by-chapter, the genders have equal representation. Although it must not have been easy to plot, the switch is smooth. It never feels forced or contrived.

Jake and E.D. have strong voices against the backdrop of E.D.’s funny and eccentric family. Both feel out of place. E.D. feels left out because she thinks she is the only non-artist in her artistic family, Jake because he is an outsider who was thrust into the family when he was expelled from yet another school. Both find out about their own unique abilities by the end.

This book would work well as a read-aloud for families with sons and daughters, for mixed-gender book clubs or for literature classes. Boys and girls can relate to the characters as they choose, rather than being forced to decide one or the other. I hope more writers consider this model for their fiction.

Books in Cereal Boxes

This week I bought a box of our usual breakfast cereal and guess what was inside? A children’s book! What a great idea to get kids to read. The book was by a popular author. It had been printed as a paperback in a special small size to fit easily in the box. My son and I both enjoyed reading it.

I was especially excited because I had just heard an interview a few weeks ago on the radio that 80% of all households in the US did not purchase a single book last year. (As I’ve long suspected, I have been almost single-handedly keeping bookstores open). If you want to listen, check out 11:00Emma Walton Hamilton: “Raising Bookworms”  on the Diane Rehm show. Note:  Emma Walton Hamilton is Julie Andrews’ daughter.

My conclusion:  If you want to get your children to read more, stuff a book in their cereal.

The First Post (is the Hardest)

Seems to be a little crazy to be starting another blog right now. Why am I? Let’s go ahead and find out.

The meaning of the blog title is a little wacky too. It comes from an event where the literary – in this case a classic simile- crashed into the literal in my mind. I was reading a nature poem aloud to my family. Fish wrapped in foil were involved. Enough said.