Stuff

Lady Of The Manor: Where Have All The ‘Boy’ Books Gone?

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The other day I popped out to buy some books for my son. He’s going into third grade in the fall and I didn’t want him to completely stop reading now that school is over. He also happens to love a good yarn and he’s read everything we’ve got.

Usually we’ll make a day of it. We’ll go for lunch and then to the bookstore. We’ll go through every shelf, judging books by their covers – and shape, weight and font. We’ll hang out and discuss them before grabbing a handful and going home happy. We hadn’t been book shopping in nearly a year, but since he’s off at camp, I was flying solo.

I walked up and down the aisles and noticed that if it’s not about a mad farter it’s either a graphic novel or the diary of a self-deprecating loser. Or big sisters fed up with their little brothers, funky fairies or cool chick explorers.

Where have all the boy books gone?

I pulled aside one of the associates and she smiled sadly. “It’s true,” she said, “We don’t really stock much for boys.” There was one series she recommended that was neither faux-memoir, comic, nor mouse tail. “But” she warned, “it’s for reluctant readers.”

Reluctant reader? Was my son a reluctant reader? We read to him nightly and he likes reading sports stats in the paper. He’s a huge Ook and Gluk fan and loves Robert Munsch. He never had trouble choosing books from the school library or book fair, yet here, in one of the city’s biggest book retailers, I was stuck in the “reluctant reader” section.

Ignoring the label, I went for it and bought the first book in Rich Wallace’s “The Kickers” series. It’s about a local soccer league and my son practically inhaled it, asking if there were any more. He didn’t seem too reluctant to continue reading.

And then I went online, where the world is filled with books for boys and girls of all ages and stages. Sports, fantasy, adventure, classics. Biography, science, history and travel. All age-appropriate, all mesmerizing.

Relieved, I called my kids over to the computer. It isn’t often that I’m urging them to sit screen-side, but we spent ages book-browsing online. Once we got past the excitement of seeing books we already own (“Look! It’s Bad Kitty! And Captain Underpants! And The Beatles!), my son checked out with a couple of Roald Dahl classics, a Titanic book and the second of the Kickers series.

It was exciting – and expensive – but our books on en route and my readers aren’t nearly as reluctant as I’d feared. But, it seems, the retailers are. While I was happy to spend the screen time together, I couldn’t help but wonder why we couldn’t do it live and in person. It remains the mystery of the missing books… Where are The Hardy Boys when you need them?