Despite all the advantages males have in our culture, it is nevertheless difficult to find books that engage boys. Differences between the sexes are real, and as hard as parents, teachers, and librarians try to be gender-neutral, there is still a strong tendency to identify books as "boy" books or "girl" books. Girls are much more willing to cross gender lines to read a "boy" book than vice versa. This attitude hurts boys by depriving them of many wonderful stories that might nurture their souls.
Over the last few years, several volumes have been published which promote books for girls. However, there is a far greater need for books that keep boys engaged in reading. Many boys totally cease reading for pleasure by the time they are ten, and they are lucky if they happen to rediscover the joy of books.
Frustrated parents often go to bookstores or libraries desperate to find the one book that will spark their son's interest. To serve that need Kathleen Odean has written Great Books for Boys: More Than 600 Books for Boys 2-14. This volume suggests books for boys on a broad range of topics and is arranged by age level. It provides detailed annotations to help steer parents and teachers toward the best in books. Topics go beyond the usual sports and outdoor adventures to include biographies, science, hobbies, and poetry. Parents may want to start with the last chapter which lists special resources for locating books, tips for reading aloud, and a list of books about sexuality.
While written for adults, the book has a vocabulary that is accessible to middle-grade readers who may want to explore these listings for themselves. Odean, a school librarian for 16 years, is also the author of the companion volume published last year, Great Books for Girls.
Reviewed by Phyllis Grubbs.