I talked before about seeing this slim little tome and buying it immediately, intrigued by the young author and the overpowering cuteness of the contents inside:
“If you want to start a conversation with a girl, first you have to say something like “hi.” If she says “hi” back, you are off to a good start.”
“If you are in elementary school, try to get a girl to like you, not to love you. Wait until middle school to try to get her to love you.”
How to Talk to Girls: RL: n/a CSM: 9+ Rating: PG Content: innocent talk about getting girls to like you
It takes approximately 10 minutes to read the book, and Dark Omen whipped through it in less than that. He wasn’t impressed, or if he squirreled away any nuggets of knowledge, he certainly wasn’t sharing them with his mom.
But the tiny book did make me think about the messages we send our wee ones about love and romance, well before they are old enough to dabble in such things (nor do we want them to!). Girls are inundated with Cinderella type love stories from preschool age; boys largely ignore these things. Many middle grade books dance around the idea of girls and boys being attracted to one another, usually reflecting the age of their protagonists: nascent puppy love is absent from most novels with characters 11 and younger, but 12 and over seem to have some (often barely hinted at) stirrings.
What intrigues me is not the idea that boys and girls might find each other interesting, but how those relationships are portrayed in books. Are boys and girls seen as friends, comrades in the supreme conflict of the book, like Harry Potter? Or are they shown as trying to date (or zounds, kiss!) the opposite sex in a rage of hormones?
Also important: how are the parent relationships portrayed in these books? Often parents are missing altogether, in order to support a young character’s independent adventure. Harry Potter again comes to mind in portraying the Weasleys as a happy couple, indeed the ideal parents that Harry longs for.
While I don’t want to see a lot of teen dating and angst in middle grade books, I think building the foundations for healthy relationships between the sexes starts in childhood: where that brave amazing sidekick, who happens to be of the opposite sex, turns out to be a really neat person.
And not just “a girl” (or “a boy”).
How to Talk to Girls is a cute little book, fine for readers 9+, that may inspire your son to share his thoughts with you about girls. That is, if you’re luckier than me.