• Cavan"When I was a kid I devoured comics.The Beano, Dandy, Nutty, Whizzer and Chips, Beezer, Buster - basically anything funny I could get my hands on. The Beano was always my top read, filled with such favourites as Dennis the Menace and Roger the Dodger. However, The first strip I always turned to was Minnie the Minx. It never even occurred to me that I was reading about a girl! She was the funniest and, most of the time, the naughtiest. (Sorry Dennis, please don't set Gnasher on me!)This year I started writing for the Beano. My first strip was a Minnie and I couldn't have been happier. To me, Minnie is the Beano. Always was, always will be!" Children's and YA author, Cavan Scott
  • PeppaPig"M loves his Peppa Pig books. His favourite character is Suzy Sheep."
  • SF-Said-Alice"As a child, I thought she was called 'Alison Wonderland' and I loved her adventures. It never even occurred to me that we weren't the same gender. Now, as a writer, I see that Alice is the first great character of children's literature: an iconic heroine who transcends gender, age and time. Every book I write owes her a debt." Author, SF Said
  • Daisy_Coconuts"I love Daisy because she is so funny. She does silly things and always says it isn't her fault"
  • J.Dougherty-HungerGames"The Hunger Games is a brilliant book - a thrilling, thought-provoking story that grabs you from the first page. It makes you angry about injustice, stupidity and cruelty. And Katniss is the sort of hero we can all look up to." Children’s author and poet, John Dougherty
  • SpiderTed_eyes_580"P loves reading about Sophie and all of the mischief and adventures she gets up to. Best of all she is also 7, just like him!"
  • tomH"When I was growing up, lots of my favourite characters were girls - Pippi Longstocking, Marmalade Atkins, Dorothy Gale, the Blackett Sisters. The book I'm reading here is called 'Travel Light', its about a little girl who's brought up by dragons before going out to explore the real world. It's a bit like 'The Hobbit', only backwards, and it's completely great." Author, Tom Huddleston
  • JStewart"Since childhood I have loved Little My from Tove Jansson's Moomin books. She is subversive, dangerous, wise, and unlike any other character I can think of anywhere." Author, Illustrator, and TV Director, Joel Stewart
  • M age 7 reading Sophie's complete adventures on a long ferry trip to Spain
  • Matilda"In childhood, it's heros like Matilda that really matter. She's only five years old but, by using her intelligence and imagination, takes on the formidable Miss Trunchbull and wins." Simon, London.
  • ClariceBean5yo Joe (who doesn't stay still!) loves Clarice Bean
  • SilverChair"As a boy I loved adventure books like C.S Lewis's The Silver Chair. Jill is the main character and she travels across the Wildlands on a mission to rescue Prince Caspian" Alan, Durham.
  • MillyMollyMandy_580"I always enjoyed getting Milly Molly Mandy books from my local library when I was a child. I never thought of them as 'girls' books." Barry, London.
  • Fairyland“September’s an amazing role model for all ages and genders, especially since she’s not tied down by stereotypes. She’s a fantastic character with a uniquely cynical personality"

Boys read about girls

Children’s publishers often say that boys won’t read about girls. We think it’s plain daft to think that boys aren’t capable of empathising with half the planet’s population, and irresponsible to market books in a way that suggests they’re not meant to.

We asked a few boys (and former boys!) to tell us about books that they love featuring girls.

What about you, and the boys you know? Which female characters did you enjoy reading about as a child?

You can post comments below, or share images with us at lettoysbetoys@gmail.com or via twitter, with the hashtag #BoysReadGirls, @lettoysbetoys

Great to see Guardian Witness joining in with the conversation, you can contribute or view their gallery here

10 Comments

  1. Jim Begley

    When I was in my early teens, I found a set of books in the local library called ‘The Song of the Lioness’ quartet, by Tamora Pierce.

    I finished them within a week. A young girl and her brother swap places so that he can go learn magic, and she can live disguised by a boy and train as a Knight, trying to cope with developing her disguise as a boy, but learning to be a woman at the same time, eventually being revealed, and then her adventures afterwards.

    My first read through, they were a fantastic fantasy adventure with all sorts of battles, swordfights and adventures, but as I grew up and reread them, I learned about the stress the girls I knew were going through from their bodies changing, about someone else dealing with being bullied as the main character Alanna was, and about what to do when you reach your goal (set a new one).

    That the main character was a girl didn’t occur to me, and the books in their earliest runs didn’t seem aimed specifically at girls either.

    Tamora Pierce has written several series of books with female protagonists, but also books about groups working together, and I recommend any of her works.

  2. Kate

    We recently read together Ronia the Robber’s Daughter by Astrid Lindgren. It was fantastic!
    One of my 5 year old son’s favourite books is My Name is not Isabella (just how big can a little girl dream).

  3. jenny baddeley

    Our kids read together every evening (they’re 3 and 6) and it’s just not something that’s ever occurred to any of us. A story is a story!

    Roald Dahl? Female and male protagonists – and I bet for decades, children who’ve read one, want to read the whole lot, irregardless

    Do people buy just “little miss” or “mr” for their children, guided by gender? (Maybe they do, again, it just wouldn’t occur to us)

    I have a friend who recently bemoaned that there are “not enough books for boys” for her boy, age 5; which I found an astonishing comment from an intelligent person. If you start with the assumption that boys must read “boys'” books and girls must read “girls'” books (whatever that means); think of all the fantastic stories the respective genders will miss out on! And the lesson that teaches :(

  4. Carol Carter

    My son, Ben (age 7), is currently enjoying Harriet the Spy. He also loves the Roman Mysteries by Caroline Lawrence and Adventure Island by Helen Moss, that both feature girls and boys working together as a team. When he was younger he loved My Naughty Little Sister too.

  5. Sally Wilkin

    One of my favourite books when I was growing up was Moonfleet by J. Meade Falkner. A fantastic book all about smuggling, full of adventure. Great story for all Girls and Boys!

  6. As a preteen boy, I got very into the adventures of Robin McKinley’s Aerin and Anne McCaffrey’s Menoly. These were books about stuff I liked: swords, dragons, music. It never occurred to me then that I ought not read a book about things I liked simply because its protagonist was female. It’s a good thing, too: I would have missed Mercedes Lackey’s Kerowyn as a teenager and Jacqueline Carey’s Phaedre as an adult.

    If we don’t teach boys to judge books by something so arbitrary as the sex of their protagonists, they won’t. They’ll just read books about things they like.

  7. Hilary Wilgress

    My 11 year old son loves the stories about Tracy Beaker by Jacqueline Wilson. He also loves anything by Roald Dahl and David Walliams; his favourite being The Boy in a Dress. Apart from these he is a very reluctant reader.

    As a child I enjoyed the whole CS Lewis Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe series…..

  8. As a boy, one of my first favorite books was Charlotte’s Web, which featured a girl named Fern and, of course, Charlotte the spider, in addition to a male pig named Wilbur. I also remember devouring the Little House on the Prairie series, about Laura Ingalls Wilder. And I loved reading biographies – Harriet Tubman, Mary Queen of Scots, Helen Keller, and Amelia Earhart all come to mind from the early grades.

    That’s just off the top of my head.

  9. My son is 5. He adores Pippi Longstocking and Araminta Spook and Matilda. He’s full of ‘ew girls’ nonsense from school, of course, but it obviously hasn’t occurred to him to transfer that onto brilliant stories full of action and adventure.

  10. Nicola Howe

    My 3 and a half year old son’s favourite library books recently have been Molly and the Night Monster and Millie’s Marvellous Hat. One of his most treasured possessions is a collection of Katie Morag stories.

    I know we’re talking about books here but I think it’s also worth noting that he enjoys watching girls on screen too – the BFG, Mulan, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Brave, Beauty and the Beast…

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