Sunday, July 7, 2013

Does the Gender of the Main Character Really Matter?

With summer in full swing, I thought I would repost some of my older recommendations.  These books are wonderful reads and it has been so long since they got some love, they are probably quite new to most of my readers.  Enjoy!

Does it matter if the main character is a girl or a boy?  All too often we say that "boy" books can be read by girls and boys alike, but "girl" books are only for a female audience.  I understand this on some level.  There aren't too many boys who are drawn into a book called "Puppy Place,"  it just doesn't interest them.  However, a great story is a great story and the books I have chosen this week are just that.  The main characters may be girls, but the stories are adventurous, the heroines are strong and skillful, and they are supported by a cast of interesting characters.

Although I didn't realize it until I had compiled the books, they are all historical novels and this may be why, despite female leads, they work so well for either sex.  Their challenges and adventures mirror the struggles of the time and not the gender of the character.  Whether you have a boy or a girl, I hope they have the chance to enjoy these thoroughly engaging books, although I understand if it is a stretch for your sons!

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Title:          Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos
Author:      R. L. LaFevers
Target:       Grades 3-6
Series:        Yes
What this book is about:
Theodosia lives at her parent’s workplace, the London’s Museum of Antiquities.  She has the unique ability to sense the curses that are tied to specific Egyptian artifacts.  Her parents are quite unaware of her gift, and so she is constantly “saving” them without their becoming the wiser.
In this story a particular amulet is brought to the museum that could destroy the British Empire, and Theodosia’s unique skills take her on quite an adventure as she attempts to neutralize the curse.  The story takes place at the beginning of the 20th century so it is a fun period piece with some historical references brought in.
Why I love it:
The cover of this book sucked me in right away.  I am at the mercy of great illustrations!  Thankfully the story was just as fun.  I really enjoy a great girl character, who is clever, independent and self sufficient.  The School Library Journal described her as a combination of Nancy Drew and Indiana Jones, which truly hits the nail on the head! 

I must say that I found this book didn’t engage me until about three chapters in, so please stick with it.  Once the story gets going it is hard to put down. 
Who this book is for:
Kids who love a good adventure story.  In this story, Theodosia is taken into a secret society, and they treat her as a serious partner in solving the mystery.  I know kids will enjoy a bright child outwitting adults who appear utterly clueless to what is going on.
Final thoughts:
Having trouble with ancient curses, Theodosia to the rescue!

To purchase this book, visit your local bookstore or click here: Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos

Title:          The Diamond of Drury Lane

Author:      Julia Golding
Target:       Grades 4-7
Series:        Yes
What this book is about:
This is a period book, set in the 1790’s.  It tells the tale of “Cat” Royal, an orphan who is raised in a London theater.  A diamond is hidden in the theater which Cat takes the responsibility of protecting.  It is her interactions with street gangs, performers and high society, as she protects the diamond, that lead to an action packed adventure!
Why I love it:
I read this book a few years ago and loved it.  I picked it up again a few weeks ago, and was thrilled to find I enjoyed it just as much the second time around.  The author really gives you sense of London life in the 1790’s with enough action and suspense that makes the book hard to put down.  
I have the version with the original cover.  I was very disheartened to learn that they changed the cover to show a girl representing Cat on the front.  The new cover really makes this look like a girls book, which it is NOT!  The main character is a girl, yes, but there are some terrific male supporting characters and the story is not gender specific in the slightest.  My 12 year old son got so caught up in the story he started taking the book in the car with him.
This book  did win the Gold Nestle Children’s Book Prize in the UK. 
Who this book is for:
Anyone interested in historical fiction with a huge dose of action and adventure.
Final thoughts: 
The secondary characters are what make this book a gem.  From street thugs and aristocrats who sneak off to box, a political cartoonist named Captain Sparkle, to a former African slave who is a violin prodigy, they elevate the story to a delightful level.

To purchase this book, go to your local bookstore or click here: The Diamond of Drury Lane (Cat Royal Adventure)

Title:          Hattie Big Sky

Author:     kirby larson
Target:      Grade 4-8
Series:       There is a wonderful follow up book, Hattie Ever After
Newbery Honor Book
What this story is about:
Hattie is a sixteen year old girl, whose parents died when she was young.  She moves around from relative to relative, no one really wanting her.  Finally a long lost uncle leaves her an unproven claim to property in Montana.   She makes the move and begins her life as a homesteader.  Along the way she learns about herself and what home really means.
Why I love this book:
Ok, I admit it.  I loved Willa Cather in high school, so a story about a girl conquering the flat land of Montana is right up my alley.  Bring in my Norwegian heritage and my family who raised cattle in Nebraska and I was going to love this story from the start.  Thank goodness it didn’t disappoint me!
This book was so well written, and I loved that Hattie was such a strong female character.  She is quite mature for her age, and Larson has surrounded her with a wonderful host of characters.  Even the villain in the story is not all bad, and we are able to see him as a fully developed individual.  
Larson’s grandmother was a homesteader, so the book is filled with authentic references and the story moves at  an engaging pace! 
Who this book is for:
Anyone who wants to learn about homesteading during World War I.  It is a wonderful book for children to see what life was like for these individuals, not that long ago.
Final thoughts:
This is wonderfully written book which will give children perspective.

To purchase this book, go to your local bookstore or click here: Hattie Big Sky

1 comment:

  1. A lot of the appeal for boys is ACTION, so I can get them to read Alanna or the Gallagher Girls easily. Hattie- I'll have to try. Theodosia,, absolutely!