Boy Friendly, Girl Friendly

What is meant by boy friendly and girl friendly?

Sometimes a Google search screenshot speaks a thousand words:

boy-friendly-search girl-friendly-search1

Girl Friendly Links

10 Great Science Fiction Books For Girls from Flavorwire

Strong Female Characters In Fiction from Common Sense Media

100 YA Books For The Feminist Reader from Bitch Media

9 FEMALE CHARACTERS WE WISH WE’D BEEN MORE LIKE IN HIGH SCHOOL from The Mary Sue

Here’s an interesting article from author E.M. Kokie about how much harder it is in some ways to write a female protagonist than a male one: “I’ve discovered, to my frustration and anger, that it’s actually much more difficult to talk about [my female protagonist’s] body, and her body’s desires, in ways that feel natural to her character (and her love interest’s character) and that feel readily accessible to the landscape of YA readers….I was shocked to find a complete lack of language for the female anatomy in all but one of the books I checked, and none at all during an intimate scene.”

Unlikable Female Characters In YA Fiction from Stacked, because girls don’t need to always be liked.

The Greatest Girl Characters of Young Adult Literature from The Atlantic

Top Picks For Women’s Equality Day from Reading Today Online, a website which also has the lesson plans Females in the Spotlight: Strong Characters in Picture Books and Girls Read: Online Literature Circles.

How Do You Find Feminist Children’s Books? asks Bitch Media

Readers’ Choice: 10 More of the Most Powerful Women in Literature from Flavorwire

Teen Girl Sleuths to Read While You’re Waiting for Veronica Mars from Book Riot

Women Protagonists in YA: A List and Resources from Ashley F. Miller

Feminism 101 book recommendations for teens from Feminism 101

And for the younger readers, here are some chapter books about girls, though I haven’t read them so can’t promise they’re ‘girl friendly’, which it should be clear by now, is not the same thing! (Here are early chapter books featuring girls that come in a series.)

How To Write The Perfect YA Heroine is an ironic how-to guide which points out all the ways in which societal expectations and biases and sexisms play out in fiction as much as they do in real life.

Heroines Of Colour is a Pinterest board featuring book covers of heroines who are not white.

Girl Friendly Books: Well-known For Rounded Female Characterisation

  • The Latte Rebellion by Sarah Jamila Stevenson
  • Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
  • Mare’s War by Tanita S. Davis
  • Feeling Sorry For Celia by Jaclyn Moriarty
  • Along For The Ride by Sarah Dessen
  • Mostly Good Girls by Leila Sales
  • The Kayla Chronicles by Sherri Winston
  • Spindle’s End by Robyn McKinley
  • Don’t Judge A Girl By Her Cover by Ally Carter
  • Year Of Secret Assignments by Jaclyn Moriarty (2003)
  • Kiki Strike by Kirsten Miller (2006)
  • The Running Dream by Wendolin Van Draanen (2011)
  • True Blue by Deborah Ellis
  • The Wild Girls by Pat Murphy
  • Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson (2006)
  • Arabel’s Raven by Joan Aiken
  • Nim’s Island  by Wendy Orr
  • Princess by M.M. Kaye
  • The Night Fairy by Laura Amy Schlitz
  • The Penderwicks and its sequels by Jeanne Birdsall
  • Esperanza Rising  by Pam Muñoz Ryan
  • A Wrinkle in Time (Madeline L’Engle)
  • Independent Dames by Laurie Halse Andersen
  • The Daring Nellie Bly by Bonnie Christensen
  • You Forgot Your Skirt, Amelia Bloomer! by Shana Corey
  • Imogene’s Last Stand By Candace Fleming
  • Me…Jane by Patrick McDonnell
  • The Midwife’s Apprentice by Karen Cushman
  • The Evolution Of Calpernia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly
  • His Dark Materials series by Philip Pullman
  • Clementine By Sara Pennypacker
  • Eleanor Roosevelt by Russell Freedman
  • A Ballet For Martha by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan
  • CLAUDETTE COLVIN: TWICE TOWARD JUSTICE by Phillip Hoose
  • ALMOST ASTRONAUTS: 13 WOMEN WHO DARED TO DREAM by Tanya Lee Stone
  • Daughters Of Time edited by Mary Hoffman
  • Just Like Tomorrow (2004) by Faïza Guène, translated by Sarah Ardizzone
  • Lady: My Life as a Bitch (2001) by Melvin Burgess
  • A Gathering Light (2003) by Jennifer Donnelly
  • Ballet Shoes (1936) by Noel Streatfeild
  • Wise Child by Monica Furlong

 

Harriet The Spy

Harriet the spy cover

Kate DiCamillo has this to say about Harriet The Spy: “Not too long ago, I remembered that I read and loved Harriet the Spy [as a kid], and so I went back to it as the adult me, with some trepidation. … And it’s even better and more subversive than I remembered. It’s basically a primer on how to be a writer.”

Related Links

1. Origin Stories: Harriet the Spy from Persephone Magazine

2. Harriet The Spy Mix Tape from Flavorwire

3. 14 Ways “Harriet The Spy” Totally Messed You Up from Buzz Feed

4. Harriet the Spy: The most unlikable hero in children’s lit from Salon

5. Harriet and I from The Horn Book

If you’ve seen the modern film adaptation and not read the book, it’s easy to forget that Harriet was a very unusual character for her time. She was wearing boys’ clothing long before it was acceptable to do so. You won’t find that in other books from this era.

6. Alison Bechdel loved Harriet the Spy as a kid:

I was just fascinated by Harriet’s notebook—her impulse to write, her adventures. Literally spying on people, going up in that dumbwaiter, observing life, and then writing it down. It just seemed like the whole point of life, you know? Here was a kid who wrote about something real.

I think, as a young lesbian, I was also picking up on this heroine as a lesbian character. But, you know, she was a child—there’s no way to really say that Harriet is a lesbian. As I got older, I was curious about [the book’s author] Louise Fitzhugh, and I eventually found out that, yes, [Fitzhugh] was gay. It was something about [Harriet]…she was not interested in boys, she was not interested in dresses, she had zero interest in the things the girls in the other books I was reading were interested in. I think that’s what I was picking up on. Harriet was all about her work.

The Do-Something Day by Joe Lasker (1982)

The Do-something Day is one of those didactic stories in which the parental figures are too busy working to play with their precious little children. In such stories, the child usually goes out and has their own adventure, or an elderly neighbour/grandparent steps in to fill the psychological need, which is loneliness/boredom. And that’s what happens here.

The Do-Something Day by Joe Lasker cover

STORY STRUCTURE OF THE DO-SOMETHING DAY

WEAKNESS/NEED

The Do-Something Day staircase

 

DESIRE

Bernie wants to make the most of the great weather outside.

OPPONENT

His family are too busy to spend time with him, absorbed in their own work and play.

PLAN

Bernie got mad. “No one needs me. I’ll run away!”

He left the house and went down the street.

The plot relies on mythic structure as Bernie leaves home and encounters a variety of people along the way. This is a very Sesame Street sort of neighbourhood — the old-fashioned view of a capitalist utopia in fact, with a friendly neighbourhood mechanic, a Mr Dimple who runs the delicatessen, Bertha who owns a bakery and so on. Each of these friendly adults with endless patience and time on their hands lets Bernie ‘help’ them with their work. Bertie collects talismans on the way (a map, a salami, a sour pickle, warm rye bread. This lends the story a distinctly fairy tale feel. Eventually he meets a horse and cart, which puts me in mind of a scene from Jack and the Beanstalk.

The Do Something Day horse and cart_700x595

The running away scene is already the start of other famous tales such as The Three Little Pigs (who are pushed out of home due to economic constraints rather than leaving of their own volition, but still).

BATTLE

The battle in The Do-something Day is entirely psychological. At each stop we hear Bernie’s sob story about how everyone is too busy for him. The gifts he receives culminate until eventually he is given a dog.

Don’t you love it how white boys in storybooks so easily acquire dogs… a pet which takes a lot of work, a lot of money and a suitable home with consenting adults? How many kids think they can bring home strays just because they’ve seen that so many times in picture books? And how many adults? (Quite a few, according to my mother, who worked for some years at the SPCA.)

SELF-REVELATION

The Do Something Day street scene_700x624

Bernie has his self-revelation when he sits down to rest.

They all needed me and wanted my help, thought Bernie with satisfaction. He looked at his things and had an idea. He got up and started walking home.

NEW EQUILIBRIUM

Obviously, the family have been worried about him, having undergone their own self-revelations about the importance of attending to the needs of the youngest member of the family:

His mother, father, and brother were on the porch waiting for him. Slowly he walked up the steps and said, “I ran away.”

Bernie gives the talismans to each member of the family. The map goes to the father, of course (since women can’t read maps). The food goes to the  mother (because women are in charge of the day-to-day feeding of the family).

His mother smiled. “We need help from one another, Bernie. But we really need you to love.” And she gave him a great big hug.

The Day Patch Stood Guard by Elizabeth Laird and Colin Reeder (1990)

The Day Patch Stood Guard is a New Zealand farming picture book from the 1980s which is, at its heart, a man and his dog story.

The Day Patch Stood Guard

Notice anything a bit different about the cover of The Day Patch Stood Guard? The usual convention is to credit the writer first and the illustrator second. Here the convention is reversed. In fact, it’s not only reversed, but depicted in such a way that the illustrations are the main story and the writing came after. I am not making any value judgment here. Instead, I’m reminded of all those times we are told who wrote the story, and then the illustrator is tacked on afterwards, perhaps with ‘illustrated by X’, to suggest that the illustrations are tacked onto the story.

In a picture book, of course, both text and pictures interact to create the story (except in wordless picture books, that is).

WHAT’S WITH THE OTTER?

This is a strange book, written by a New Zealander but once again featuring an otter.

I have since learned that there have been rumours of actual otter-like creatures spotted in the South Island of New Zealand for over 200 years. But honestly this is a big-foot sighting because you’d think scientists would’ve found the critters by now, wouldn’t you? New Zealand isn’t all that big.

As far as storytelling goes, I am a bit flummoxed about the meaning of the otter, who makes a brief and inexplicable appearance at the end.

MEN AND THEIR DOGS

The Day Patch Stood Guard is a dog and a man story at its heart, and because there are many such stories in the world it was cheering to learn that Patch is a female dog, at least. (Usually it’s a white boy with a male dog, though boy-bitch pairings aren’t completely unheard of. Sometimes the male dog dies and is replaced by a female dog.) On the downside, this an example of the female maturity principle I have a huge problem with, and the farmer does refer to his female dog in diminutive terms, “the best little guard dog” one could hope to have; would a man have referred to a male dog in this way? Would a male dog have been quite so self-sacrificing? Self-sacrificing female characters can be traced all the way back to Beauty and the Beast and beyond, and are still very much seen in children’s stories today, held up as a model of feminine virtue.

BORDER COLLIE CHARACTERS

This is ultimately a story for lovers of Border collies, and I definitely fall into that category. Border collie characters in books tend to be even more intelligent and intuitive than real-life Border collies and Patch is no exception. She understands the command to ‘guard’, considers the tractor a live-being and also understands when the tractor is fixed. Uncharacteristically for a socialised Border collie, though, she growls at Walter the mechanic.

Let’s take a closer look at the storyworld and the structure of the plot.

STORYWORLD OF THE DAY PATCH STOOD GUARD

I don’t know where the illustrator comes from — is this an American/British illustrator or is he from New Zealand? The truth is, it’s impossible to tell definitively from the illustrations, as this is a fairly generic ‘storybook’ farm. The names of the places on the aerial map make me think this is an English countryside. Also, the geese. Geese seem to be more populous in English farmyard storybooks.

The Day Patch Stood Guard opening

STORY STRUCTURE OF THE DAY PATCH STOOD GUARD

WEAKNESS/NEED

As in many animal + human stories for children, it’s not all that easy to separate the human character from the animal one, and in the end it’s easiest to consider them one and the same. Or more typically, the human character is the one who undergoes the character change by having the self-revelation, but the bulk of the story is told from the point of view of the animal.

Stan’s weakness: He is a bit of a loose cannon. He gets up late and has neglected his morning jobs. We’ll soon find out that his muddle-headedness makes him leave his handbrake off.

DESIRE

Stan wants to get his farming jobs done: milking, feeding pigs, collecting eggs and all those other storybook farm activities which probably have little to do with actual farming these days (and have more in common with hobby farming).

OPPONENT

The tractor is given a name: Duncan. There’s a good reason for this. Although Stan doesn’t mean to, he stupidly rolls down an incline and crashes into a tree. The personification of the tractor absolves Stan a bit.

PLAN

Stan plans to mend the bridge. He loads the tractor trailer up with planks of wood and sets off with Patch.

This plan goes awry when the tractor crashes into the tree.

BATTLE

The battle takes place overnight, when poor, loyal Patch is left to stand guard over the trailer and is locked inside the work shed.

SELF-REVELATION

But the self-revelation is had by Stan, who realises what a good little guard dog he’s got, after getting so immersed in the problem of the tractor that he forgot to tell her she didn’t need to guard the tractor overnight.

The self-revelation seems to be symbolised by the otter swimming past. Stan is reconnected to the animal world after a day of being immersed in his mechanical, human one.

NEW EQUILIBRIUM

The point of view then expands to include all of the farmyard animals who are ‘glad to see the little red tractor safe home again’.