One of my proudest achievements in the success of the Lunch Lady graphic novel series is the fact that I have been getting a nation of boys to read a book about a girl. Well, a lady to be precise–it is in the title. Traditional sentiment is that boys simply won’t read a book with a girl on the cover. I cringe at the labeling of a book being a “boy book” or a “girl book”. I’m a firm believer that while either gender may be more inclined to read books containing certain subject matter, books themselves do not have genders. (For starters, it’s biologically impossible.) Girls can like books about trucks and boys can like books about princesses. Girls can like action and boys can like early 20th century novels about an orphaned girl named Anne.
I’ll tell you about a guy who wasn’t afraid to read “girl books” when he was a kid. He was. . . me. When I was a kid, I was a voracious reader of comics. I cut Garfield comic strips out of the daily newspaper and collected it in scrap books. I loved Calvin and Hobbes and Peanuts and had the treasuries. If I couldn’t get a ride to the comic book shop, I would walk a mile (each way) to pick up the latest issues of Spiderman, Batman and X-Men. But in the first month of 7th grade, I needed to choose a book for my monthly book report in Mrs. Curtis’s English class. Now I don’t know how and I don’t know why, but Anne of Green Gables landed in my hands. And I read it. And it was. . . good. Sure, she didn’t have adamantium claws and she didn’t have an imaginary tiger, but that book captured my attention. October rolled around and I needed to select a new book. Well, I needed to know what was to become of Anne, so I read Anne of Avonlea. Then November, Anne of the Island. December? Anne of Windy Poplars!
I’m serious when I tell you that I read every single book in the Anne of Green Gables series. Anne got old, she had kids and the books eventually became about them. Did the other boys tease me for reading these books? They didn’t. (They teased me some because I hated sports, but I was able to draw axe-wielding superheroes, so I was good.) But most importantly, I traveled through time to the early 1900′s and befriended a girl whose upbringing wasn’t too dissimilar from my own. I allowed myself to be surprised by how much I enjoyed a book that was so far outside of what I would have normally read.
I want to issue a challenge for the boys across America–read a book with a female protagonist. She can’t just be the sidekick, but the main character. Go ahead, I dare you! In fact, I double-dog dare you! Why? Because you, too, will be surprised by how much you will enjoy a book that is outside of your typical selection. If a period piece isn’t your thing, why not try Jeanne Birdsall’s Penderwicks series or Laurel Snyder’s Bigger than a Breadbox. Prefer science fiction over realistic fiction?Head to the future and get to know Eva Nine in Tony DiTerlizzi’s The Search for WondLa. Want to stick with comics? Check out any of Raina Telgemeier’s books, Ben Hatke’s Zita the Spacegirl or Jenni and Matt Holms’ Babymouse series.
Don’t let your inhibitions prevent you from an awesome reading experience.
Jarrett J. Krosoczka has been passionate about storytelling through words and pictures since he was a kid. He began his professional career by illustrating educational readers for a national publisher while still an undergraduate at Rhode Island School of Design. Then, just six months after graduation, Jarrett received his first contract for a trade book that he authored. Knopf Books for Young Readers published Good Night, Monkey Boy on June 12, 2001 and Jarrett hasn’t stopped or slowed down since. He currently has authored and illustrated eighteen published books—ten picture books and eight graphic novels. His Lunch Lady series has twice won a Children’s Choice Book Award, in the Third to Fourth Grade Book of the Year category, and was nominated for a Will Eisner Comic Industry Award. In the summer of 2013, Jarrett will have his chapter book debut with the publication of Platypus Police Squad: The Frog Who Croaked. His Punk Farm and Lunch Lady series are both currently in development as feature films. While Jarrett awaits seeing his work adapted for the silver screen, he can be heard on The Book Report with JJK, his new radio segment on Sirius XM’s Kids Place Live. Jarrett is happily living out his childhood dream in Northampton, Massachusetts, where he resides with his wife and daughters and their pug, Ralph Macchio.
Lunch Lady and the Picture Day Peril hits bookshelves on 9/11/12!
Click on this image ———————————> for a Lunch Lady and the Picture Day Peril Author Worksheet to share!