I've had this conversation with Chris Crutcher, Bruce Coville, Jon Scieszka and -- of late -- my old friend Andy, ah, Andrew Smith, but now that Billy Bones has jumped into the ring, seems like a good time to bring it up again.
Boys DO read.
For the past ten years, I've written my heart's desire -- books of appeal to reluctant boy readers. That's my heart's desire because when I was a kid, I was a reluctant boy reader -- except I was a girl.
I grew up as a boy would because my sister and Lori Johnson were the only girls in my neighborhood. I played at Lori's once in a while, often to listen to RUBY TUESDAY (Lori had the 45...I did not). I played Barbie's with my sister when she let a lizard or toad stand in as Barbie's giant pet. But 90% of my time was spent outside with my rowdy guy friends. I grew up as if I was a boy. My interests were identical to those of a boy. So the books I wanted didn't exist, at least not at the time.
The only books I loved were Abe Lincoln biographies, reptile and amphibian books and books about vampires. I ran out of those pretty darn quick.
When I started to write books rather than articles for kids, I made an active choice to write the books I would have wanted when I was little --and boy-like. So in a sense, I have a better idea of what boys want than most women. I lived, almost all my life, among them.
Boys want books that appeal to their sensibilities. They want action and danger and daring and honesty. They want gross and scary and unbelievable and real. They don't want sweet daydreams and optimism, necessarily. They want stories -- fiction and nonfiction -- they can sink their teeth into. And I've worked hard to give them those nonfiction stories.
Billy Bones apparently agrees, that given the write material, boys WILL read. And his poster is so fun and compelling, I stole it from his Facebook page and posted it here. I hope he won't mind. Maybe it'll be cool since I'm a fan, and since I've been known to write about a bone or two myself. But check out his Facebook if you can. He's earned praise and traffic, and I'm the first one to say so.
Boys DO read. So let's wake up and help them find the books they're longing to find.