Monday, February 18, 2013

Bill, the girls wonder

They say write what you know and know your audience.

I like to write what I don’t know and build my audience.

What I write about starts with a passion (i.e. something I know about) but there’s always more to learn. Research is an education for the author before it is illuminating for anyone else.

And while I do have certain types of people in mind as part of the likely audience for each book, I also work hard to interest people beyond those preconceptions. Why limit yourself?

This may be a roundabout way of saying that I did not write Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman or Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman as “boy books.” I thought of them as “people who like good stories books.” And that, of course, includes girls.

But even so, I was still curious to discover the reaction of a group of fifth graders who heard Bill the Boy Wonder as a read-aloud: “This was a huge hit. The girls, especially, were fired up about the injustices in Bill’s career.”

They say girls mature earlier and/or faster than boys. In this particular fifth grade class, in terms of moral compass calibration, it does seem that the females have a head start on the males. Or is that typical?

The report from the reader, Katie Fitzgerald in Washington DC: “The boys had a million superhero related questions, but the girls all wanted to talk about how unfair life is. They actually fought over who would get to borrow the book.”

I imagine these girls wondered how Bill endured his struggles. How he let this happen. How he felt at the end.

Reacting strongly to injustice suggests empathy. Boys have empathy too, of course, but perhaps at that age, girls are more comfortable sharing emotion.

When I talk about Bill the Boy Wonder during school visits, I have not yet noticed a difference in the ways boys and girls respond to it. But now I’ll be paying closer attention.

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