Tag Archives: girl books

Ten “Girl” Books My Boys Have Loved

Anyone who knows me knows I love to recommend books to people. I’m a children’s book nut and I like helping people find good books for their book devourers and picky readers alike. But often I feel like people who want book recommendations want to start in the wrong place, which is gender.

It’s important for all kids to be able to see themselves in the characters they read about (not to get onto a tangent, but that’s exactly why #weneeddiversebooks). Books are a mirror for our lives and help us understand our own experiences by identifying with others’ stories. However, I think it’s just as important that kids have the opportunity to read about different perspectives and that includes reading about what it’s like to grow up as a girl.

When people talk about the need for there to be books with strong female characters, the focus is usually to help girls become strong women. However, as the mother of boys, I think it’s just as important that boys read these books to learn how to respect, admire, and be understand strong women when they grow up. We do just as huge a disservice to boys when we don’t give them “girl” books as we do when we box girls into a reading corner.

So here are just a few of the many “girl” books my boys have read and enjoyed over the years. Many of them are books that are consistently on the “for girls!” lists.

Fancy Nancy by Jane O’Conner
Last Christmas, my sister-in-law gifted BalletBoy a very amusing picture book: Fancy Nancy and the Wedding of the Century, signed by the author. He had a great blush. Why is she giving me this? But I knew immediately. As a preschooler, BalletBoy had loved Fancy Nancy so very much that he had announced that he planned to marry her when he grew up. We may have grown out of Nancy a long time ago, but her girly, vocabulary rich, pink-loving charms were once really enjoyed here.

Wemberly Worried by Kevin Henkes
Mushroom and I recently reread this one curled up in bed late at night. It’s probably no surprise that this would have been a much loved girl picture book for my anxious kid. Henkes’s world has many boy characters as well – we especially liked Owen too – but Wemberly has a special place for us.

The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munch
This classic tale of princess empowerment is funny for boys too. My boys always thought the picture of the annoying prince who needed rescue was very amusing. I especially thought it was good for boys to see that princesses can rescue them.

Ivy and Bean series by Annie Barrows
Not long ago, BalletBoy noticed a newer Ivy and Bean book he’d never read and picked it up sort of wistfully before putting it back and declaring he was too old for it. However, these books about two neighbor girls with very different personalities and a close friendship was one of the first chapter book series he read independently.

Ramona series by Beverly Cleary
Not that we didn’t also enjoy Henry Huggins or Ralph S. Mouse, but Ramona’s struggles from pest to older kid have been Cleary’s most loved books here. She is one of the most real characters in children’s literature, with some of the most real family relationships and struggles.

The Penderwicks
 series by Jeanne Birdsall
We loved meeting the Penderwicks again in the most recent book.
The books are so sweet and touching positive with such great sister relationships. We have read every one and loved them all.

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
This classic was a read aloud ages ago and both boys enjoyed Mary’s transformation from contrary to happy. They may have also really liked my poorly done accents. I highly recommend the beautiful Inga Moore version, which was the one we had.

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
This fairy tale with a girl power twist was a much enjoyed story for both my boys, who both liked Ella’s unlucky tale. I like the determination that Ella has to show and the way the romance evolves through the story. The boys thought the movie wasn’t all that great, but I’m pretty sure everyone agreed on

11 Birthdays by Wendy Mass
Mushroom read this book not too long ago for pleasure reading. Wendy Mass has several more boy-centric titles, but most of her books are solidly female-centric. This light and funny one with a magical twist, with worries about middle school cliques and birthday party attendees, feels especially girl-centric. But he enjoyed it a lot and I like that the final message is so positive toward girls and boys continuing to be friends, even in middle school and

by Raina Telgemeier
This coming of age graphic novel was based on the author’s real life and deals a lot with learning to figure out who your real friends are and how to be yourself, lessons that both girls and boys have to learn. It has a cult following among girls, but I have noticed a lot of boys reading it as well. I’m embarrassed to say that I initially didn’t give this to either of my kids, thinking that it might be to middle school girly. However, Mushroom specifically asked to read it. Clearly, he knows that “girl” books aren’t just for girls.


Girl Books

I complained awhile back that there were far too many girl series on the early chapter book shelves and not enough boy series.  Then, I found some of the boy series.  But fair’s fair and I thought I’d size up a few of the girl series as well.  Let me just add that my boys have listened to and enjoyed all of these themselves, just like the boy books.

First, while I’ve sung their praises before, there’s the Ivy and Bean books.  Ivy is a quiet redheaded girl who sees witchcraft, ghosts and magic everywhere.  Bean is a loud tomboyish girl who chafes against adult expectations, not to mention anything her older sister says or does.  Together, they turn everyday life at home and school into adventures and intrigues.  I think these are some of the most well-written books early chapter books out there today.

Next, my boys love Judy Moody.  Judy is a girl famous for her moods of all sorts.  She also has a number of catchphrases, like “Rare!” and “ROAR!”  Like her younger brother Stink (who has his own series), the Judy Moody books show Judy learning about new things, such as her hero, Elizabeth Blackwell, first woman doctor, as a way of teaching them to readers as well.  I like the balance between school, family and friends in these books.  Judy and her friends are quirky but realistic characters that are easy to love.

Another girl series we’ve liked has been Clementine.  Clementine is an extremely ADD kid, whose thoughts race at a million miles a minute.  By the time a grown-up gets around to a second, “What were you thinking, Clementine?” she’s already moved on to a million other things.  These books are extremely funny and cleverly written.  I like how you can get into Clementine’s head and appreciate her while still groaning at her antics along with the grown-ups in her life.

There are so many girl series out there, that this is just a small sampling.  Junie B. Jones, the behemouth of girl-centered chapter book series, is one I bypassed (mostly because I think all the ones I described above are much better).  One thing I’ll note is that many of the picture books aimed toward girls have main characters who are extremely girly and pink.  For example, Pinkalicious, Lilly from Lilly’s Plastic Purse, Fancy Nancy and Angelina Ballerina are all so very girly.  However, once kids graduate from picture books to chapter books, it changes.  None of the books I mentioned here are pink dress type girls.