Was reminiscing with a friend the other day about the Scholastic Book Club, and how much we liked Book Order day and Book Arrival day. One of my favorites types was always the ghost story/kid moves to scary old house/farm/castle whatever story. We realized that a lot of those books were probably derivative of The House of Dies Drear by Virginia Hamilton, but we didn’t care, we liked them all.

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Link from Judith Tarr: Maureen Johnson Sell the Girls
When I was in college, I remember hearing the story of Dorothy Parker typing out the words, “Please god, let me write like a man.” Even if I didn’t know my own reading bias, I understood at once, instinctively. It was the way to legitimacy. Men wrote of Big Things that Mattered. Sure, some of them were endlessly introspective. Yes, the big things that mattered were often penises. Also, sex. Also sex with penises. Also, girls, and how difficult and incomprehensible and unattainable we are for some sex with penises. It was like the penis was literally the magical eleventh finger that allowed you to write, and if I could just GROW ONE SOMEHOW, or imagine it into being, I would gain the abilities I so desired.

This article is about the recent idea that there is somehow a shortage of YA books for boys, that while girls will read books about boys, boys will not read books about girls.

As a kid, going through the various public libraries, I remember the scarcity of children’s action/adventure stories with girl main characters. It’s not that I didn’t like the action/adventure books with boy main characters — I enjoyed them a lot — but it got tiring when all the girls were always the mommy figure or the passive load or worse, the antagonist who is there to try to prevent the characters from going on the adventure. I think one of the reasons I got drawn down the aisle of the library into SF and fantasy section so early (and read a lot of books that were a little too old for me — I read Dune in middle school, for example) was because it was easier to find adventures with women as main characters or as secondary characters who were an important part of the story. Andre Norton wrote tons of them, and most of them would now probably be re-classified as YA.

Anybody have recs for favorite old-school children’s books? The ones you liked best when you were the target audience?

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About Martha Wells

SF/F author
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