Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Doors
Books, like other media sources, provide youth with access to an unlimited number of voices, perspectives, and worlds to explore. Unlike other media sources, books require readers to actively engage instead of passively consuming (i.e., watching a movie) the content. Reading requires youth to actively imagine the story, its characters, and their emotional states. This provides a unique opportunity for youth to engage with new or different perspectives and experiences, while expanding their understanding of their social environments, the people within those environments, and the broader world around them. As mirrors and windows, books allow youth to see their own views, values, and perspectives reflected back at them, while also providing a window into the views, values, and perspectives of others. Make sense?
Boys’ Emotional Journeys…
So often we see boys in books leaping fearlessly into action, figuring out the puzzle/riddle, and slaying all possible bad guys/aliens/dragons, etc. The emotions we often see depicted revolve around some combination of determination, anger, rage, determined anger, and triumph. But, what about the self-doubt they may experience while undergoing these heroic feats, the instances when they are ill at ease with their changing bodies, or the moments when they are completely swamped with loneliness. Boys, can and do experience a full range of emotions that needs to be represented in the media our youth consume. Here are 3 of my favorites showcasing boys’ emotional journeys in fast-paced and dynamic novels!
Black Brother, Black Brother
A coming-of-age story about a dark-skinned boy trying to find his place at a new school. Donte and his brother, Trey, are biracial, but Donte presents as Black and Trey presents as White. From his first day at Middlefield Prep, Donte’s teachers and peers make it clear that they wish he was more like his lighter skinned brother, and he is quickly dubbed the “Black Brother.” Bullied then framed by the captain of the fencing team, Donte angrily slams his backpack on the ground while in the headmaster’s office —the headmaster calls the police. Despite his innocence, Donte is handcuffed and hauled away from school in a police car, then suspended. Reeling from these injustices, Donte takes up competitive fencing to challenge both his bullies and the school’s administration on their own piste (strip where fencing matches happen). Black Brother Black Brother allows readers to see and experience Donte’s full range of emotions, from anger and joy to anxiety and determination. A novel that will enthrall and inspire readers.
Charlie & Frog
Charlie Tickler really wants his parents to pay attention to him, at least as much as they pay to all the endangered animal species they are constantly trying to save. Instead, Charlie is dropped off with his grandparents to live in Castle-on-the-Hudson while his parents race to help the next creature deserving of their affection—giant golden moles in South Africa. Dejected and lonely, Charlie holds out hope that his grandparents will provide him with the attention and affection he craves, but they are too busy with their seemingly endless assortment of TV shows and programs to be interested in Charlie. Familiar with spending time alone, Charlie takes a walk through his new town of Castle-on-the-Hudson only to stumble into a real-life-mystery at the local library and a deaf girl called Frog at a local café. Teaming up to solve the mystery of the missing local woman, Charlie and Frog develop a steadfast friendship that extends to Frog’s warm and welcoming family. A fun and fast-paced introduction to mystery, American Sign Language, and learning to speak up for what you need. Kids and adults will instantly fall in love with Charlie and Frog.
Darius the Great is Not Okay
Darius Kellner doesn’t fit in anywhere. He’s not Persian enough to be Persian, and not American enough to fit in at home. To make matters more complicated and annoying, his clinical depression only seems to make everything worse. A misfit in his own household, Darius is not excited about an upcoming trip to Iran to visit his grandparents. He doesn’t speak Farsi or play soccer, and mental health issues aren’t even acknowledged as real things by his grandfather. Darius is completely prepared to suffer. But when Darius arrives and starts hanging out with Sohrab, he seamlessly shifts from Darius to Darioush, the original Persian version of his name. He finds himself eating faludeh, playing soccer, and spending countless hours talking on a secret rooftop overlooking the cityscape. An authentic depiction of a teenage boy’s attempts to bridge countries and cultures and find the truest version of himself.