Monday, February 4, 2013

Adventure Time

As a kid, I was really into "adventure books."
Robin Hood. The Hobbit. Redwall

None of those books are about girls. At all.

Robin Hood has one girl: Maid Marian (and even though she's awesome, kick-butt, and a totally capable, bad-guy slewing member of the band of Merry Men, she hardly counts.)
The Hobbit has... um, no girls.
Redwall might have girls, but I actually haven't reread it in years. And I feel like it doesn't.

 I think I would have loved Peter Pan more as a kid if it was less about Wendy, and more about Peter killing pirates. I really loved the Chronicles of Narnia, but again felt like the boys were more interesting than Lucy, and much more interesting than boring ol' Susan.

Why aren't there good adventure stories about girls?
Girls on adventures do one or more of the following things:
1. Find love on their adventure.
2. Be annoying and whiney to every one else on the adventure.
3. Transform from a prissy know-it-all to a "true adventurer" (this one's not so bad. I mean, Bilbo kind of did that.)
4. NOT kill the bad guy.
5. Nurse people back to health, when they should be focusing ON KILLING THE BAD GUY, ALREADY.
6. Solve conflicts with brain instead of brawn.

This is all fine, I guess. Because, as I so recently posted about, it's okay for men and women to be different. And if men are better at robbing the rich and women are better at feeding the poor, then at least there's some teamwork involved, and I won't begrudge boys their skills.

But, as much as I love The Little House on the Prairie books now, reading them as an 8-year old was akin to torture. I'm starting to remember that. I didn't care how Ma made butter from scratch. I cared about whether or not Robin Hood would escape from the evil Prince John.
I'm getting really excited to read books to the boys. I was feeling disappointed that they probably won't care for Alice's Adventures in Wonderland or The Little Princess, but then I started looking at the books that I actually read when I was a kid.

I was really into Harry Potter (I've outgrown him now, obviously), everything by Roald Dahl, Where the Red Fern Grows, and books where animals could talk and act like people (like Watership Down, which I remember nothing about, except that it is about... rabbits? I remember that I loved it.)
Sure, I loved Anne of Green Gables, and was a bit obsessed with The Secret Garden (and still am), but for the most part, I don't think there are "boy books" and "girl books."
I think there are "kid books." (And I actually think that most boys would really like The Secret Garden, since two of the three main characters are boys, and one of them can speak to animals!)

I'm getting pretty excited to read these kid books with my kids, even though they're only two.
As you all might remember, I am a serious book rereader. I have read the Harry Potter series over 20 times (not an exaggeration.)
I'm no longer surprised when Dumbledore dies (I do still cry a lot, though). But I am excited to read books to the boys, and have them experience these beloved stories for the first time.
I can't wait until the night when they beg, "One more chapter! I need to know what happens!"
Thinking about it gives me goosebumps.
My mom will roll her eyes at this post, and tell me that I'm silly. She and my little sister Katie (who is 8) read a chapter every night from Katie's book of choice. They've read The Little Princess, and the first few Harry Potters, and now my 15-year old brother Jack is reading her Where the Red Fern Grows, because it's his favorite book.
There's something so personal and enduring about books that you love. It's always such a treat to share them with someone that you care about.
And if you can read it together, all the better.
As Peter Pan totally almost said, "To read will be an awfully big adventure."

Jk, guys. He didn't say that. It was stupid that I said it.

And to those of you who suggest Hunger Games, I've read it (of course) and I enjoyed it. But,
1. It's not really an "adventure story," since she's not on a quest, or trying to prove or win anything for the sake of truth, or honor, or the righting of wrongs. She just doesn't want to be dead, and is even willing to kill people that don't deserve to die, so that she doesn't die. (At least, at first.)
2. She finds love. She is often annoying and/or whiney. She nurses people back to health when she should be killing the bad guy, etc.  (Although, she does neglect to use her brain all the time, and acts dangerously for what she thinks is right, so that's pretty great.)

And concerning heroine's in Harry Potter:
Hermione is fantastic and I love her, of course. She stands up for what she believes in, even if it means losing her family, her friends, her life, everything. She is courageous and determined: everything that a Gryfindor ought to be.
And Ginny is perfect. Ginny is reckless and passionate. Ginny would rather be killing bad guys than healing people. And, while Ginny is smart, her intelligence isn't what sets her apart or makes her a force to be reckoned with.
Like Harry. Dumb, dumb Harry.

Oh man, you guys. I figured it out as I was typing. I know why there aren't adventure stories about girls:
Girls are too smart to do anything interesting. Only reckless and mostly-foolish girls make interesting adventure stories. Boys make good adventure stories because they're stupid. Robin Hood sees a giant of a man crossing a river on a fallen log, and decides to fight him because he wanted to cross the river first. Seriously, Ro-bear? Stupid. Boys are stupid.
But man, I love those stupid boys and their stupid adventures.

Oh, and my boys are kind of stupid, too. I mean that in a nice way. I mean, they want to spin in circles in the living room until they slam their faces into the tv stand EVERY NIGHT. And after they stop crying, they start spinning again.
So yeah, the point of this entire blog post was to let you know that boys are dumb. But maybe dumb people have more fun.

*     *     *

As another note: I am in the process of compiling an excessively long and probably boring list of the greatest children's books of all time. According to the world's formost children's book scholar, and the keeper of the keys and grounds at Hogwarts: Yes, me. And Hagrid. He's helping out.
So. That will be coming along soon, and you can skim it and think about how boring my blog is, and then leave a comment saying, "OMG, why isn't my favorite book of all time listed?"
Yeah. Prepare yourself for that awesomeness.

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Kristy said...

I'm looking forward to your book post! I love reading, and have read and loved most of the books you mentioned in this post many, many times. I just finished reading the Little House series for about the 50th time in my life last month...I'm a serious book re-reader, too! We just moved to a new house a month ago and I was finally able to unpack the majority of my books this weekend...I can't tell you how excited I was to see those old friends. :)

faeriequeene said...

One, re-read Watership Down, for all its craziness in humanizing rabbits who have a war it is an amazing story. Two, can't wait for that book post; I love book posts! Three, if you haven't ever read it, try to find a copy of The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles by Julie Andrews Edwards (as in Mary Poppins & Sound of Music Julie Andrews - it was written under her married name). That was quite possibly my favorite book I read up until high school; it was closely tied with From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. Such great imagination in them both.

Now I want to hit Barnes and Noble and have a field day in the children's book section; it's truly been too long since I visited some of those "friends".

But for a girl adventurer, what about Caddie Woodlawn? I thought she had her fair share of fun and adventure :)

Polly said...

I just finished reading Rick Riordan's book The Lost Hero. Jack made me read it. It was awesome and really fun to read a book to me and not to someone else. It also had really good girl heroes in it. I think you would enjoy it too. It is a series and I started the 2nd book also. I haven't read the Percy Jackson series which is where I should've started. I am glad that you love to read, that was really important to me and you turned out better then I could've imagined. haha

Unknown said...

Did you ever read any of the Tortall series by Tamora Pierce? They were my favorite from age 11-like, 20. I also really love The Perilous Gard and The Sherwood Ring, and both of them have women on adventures that are totally awesome.

Sorry, I know that wasn't the point of your post. But if you haven't read them I can't recommend them enough!

p.s. Sorry if it was creepy that I offered to look at/edit your novel. I forgot that we don't know each other ;)

Family History Films said...

Love your blog, Becky! Have you read any books by Shannon Hale or Jessica Day George? They are recent authors that write great books about girls. Fable Haven has a good main character for a teenage girl as well. Can't wait for your list!

Norece said...

Summer of the Monkeys is even better than Where the Red Fern Grows - I have read every summer for about 27 years - I love it.