Make friends with girls.
Believe it or not, girls are pretty awesome.
It’s okay not to know, you know?
Yes means yes.
Anything else means no.
Dear reader, when is the right time to tell your son that his actions and words should help define what manhood should be? When is the right time to tell your son that he doesn’t need to walk with a strong gait to get by? When is the right time to tell your son that “no” means no and is not a covert “yes”? Dear Boy, companion to 2017’s smash hit Dear Girl,, not only explores these questions, it asks its reader to live through these mantras: be kind, don’t be afraid to cry, meet people (un)like you, and be honest with yourself. Dear Boy, is a book trying to honestly envision boyhood beyond contorted notions of manhood.
Dear reader, having your boys read this with you should help them discover their inner strength and the power that comes with reading. After Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s passing since Dear Girl,, Dear Boy, is a love letter (to Amy and boys in general) from her daughter and husband. The father-daughter pair tread ground familiar to those who read its literary fraternal twin, but the book, nevertheless, provides an honest and refreshingly sober voice that speaks directly to its male audience. This book is trying to become a handbook for young men to reference, building a habit of turning to literature for guidance. Having adeptly addressed its gendered audiences, this series now has a clear path forward.
Dear reader, what if your reading audience does not identify as a boy or girl? The next title in this series should be called “Dear You,” with an exploration of childhood using non-gendered language. There is a lot of overlap between the girl and boy versions of these books, and it would make for a fascinating junior picture book that uncovered the interrelated traits in all children. Both books in the series, however, have nicely addressed the specific cultural and heteronormative parameters of boy/girlhood. Until Dear You is released, let your child, regardless of their identified gender, read both Dear Girl, and Dear Boy, from their public or personal library. This should provide a good solution to the complex societal paradox that boyhood and girlhood emerge from both internal and external sources. In the meantime, the reader also has a third option for gender identification: anything they want.
Lonnie Freedman is a Youth Services Librarian at Vaughan (ON) Public Libraries.