I love it when I find books that give my boys positive male role models. Role models who aren’t afraid to be sensitive, who aren’t afraid to be silly, who aren’t afraid to be sporty, who aren’t afraid to be smart, who aren’t afraid to be whatever it is they want to be.
There are so many amazing men in the world, and I want my boys to hear that message. I know they catch snip-its of what is on the news. I know they listen when their dad and I discuss (even in the hushed, grown-up code we are working on perfecting) the latest horrifying story about a woman who has been attacked and/or is not being believed. I worry that they will misunderstand and think that all men are bad or that there is something inherently wrong with being a man.
If you have read some of my other posts (like this one about She Persisted or this one about How to Code a Sandcastle), you know that I also worry about exposing my boys to positive female role models who show them that girls can do/be anything they want (apparently I’m a worrier!), and that I often turn to books to find exactly what I’m looking for. So along with using their dad, grandfathers, uncles, and friends as examples of what it looks like to be a good man, I tend to turn to books.
Enter – Stories for Boys Who Dare to be Different – by Ben Brooks
The title grabbed my interest right away, and the subtitle, “True Tales of Amazing Boys Who Changed the World Without Killing Dragons,” convinced me that there was no way I was passing up this book! I’m so glad I didn’t. My 7 1/2 yo and I have been reading one or two stories a night since we bought it, and we absolutely love it.
The timing of our purchase was perfect as well. I just so happened to be going to see John Green (my favorite living author) and his brother, Hank Green, at Hank’s book reading in Indianapolis last weekend. The night before I went, we started reading this book and saw that they are actually in it!
I was so pumped! I love John as an author and really just as a human. I love that he is from Indianapolis. I love that he writes books about people who experience all kinds of different emotions. I love that he writes books I can share with my high school kids. I love that he makes videos that make me feel like I am not quite so nerdy for being so excited about books in general. I love that he makes those videos with his brother (having two boys, I am always thinking about how close they will be as adults). I love that he writes about the power of stories. I genuinely just love him.
My son loves that he changed the world through YouTube.
I don’t know if this is true for all 7 1/2 yo boys, but it is certainly true for mine and all of his friends: they love YouTube. They could seriously spend entire days watching other people do things (most of which they could actually do themselves) on YouTube. I don’t get it. But, I’m sure my parents didn’t get my obsession with watching a baby dinosaur hit his dad on the head and say “not the mama” either. (If you are too young to remember what show I am talking about, look for “not the mama” on YouTube; it really is as strange as it sounds. But dang if it wasn’t entertaining when I was his age).
To a boy who loves YouTube and told me the other day that, “reading, drawing, and video games are [his] absolute favorite things,” John Green was super-impressive. He thought it was so cool that a guy and his brother could help make the world better through YouTube AND books. And I scored some major cool-mom points for going to see them the next day.
I don’t honestly know much about Hank’s book, An Absolutely Remarkable Thing, yet. I did love the part he read at the reading, and from what I know of him through John’s videos and my amazing co-academy-science-teacher-bestie, I will love it as well.
But back to Stories for Boys Who Dare to be Different. We have found that some of the stories are a bit intense for a 7 1/2 yo. So far we have read them anyway. I sometimes struggle with how much to tell him about history and the reality of situations in general. And this book definitely brings some of that to the forefront. It is technically a book for “middle-grade” kids, which I knew when I purchased it. But I remember feeling more than a little betrayed when I found out that some of what I was taught about the history of our country was misrepresented. So I actually like when I find kid-friendly-ish ways to introduce those realities to my boys at a young age. We always follow it up with some discussion, but it isn’t always easy to see him struggle with the truth.
Many of the stories though, have been nothing but inspirational. We especially liked the one about Ryan Hreljac who started working to raise money to build wells in Africa to allow people to have more access to clean water after learning about Africa when he was 6 years old. The Ryan’s Well Foundation is still active today and has helped over 900,000 people get access to clean water. This also led us to talk about Seth Maxwell who was born and raised in Indianapolis and is now the CEO of The Thirst Project and how cool it is that young men just like my son can and have worked so hard to make the world a better place.
And of course I loved the story about one of my other favorites, Trevor Noah. I loved his book, Born a Crime, and love how much he attributes his success to his amazing mother. We also discussed the fact that Trevor is just a year younger than me, and yet his parents were not allowed to be together in South Africa when he was born. Kids (from my own son to my high school students) often have trouble recognizing how recent so many of the stories they hear about racism actually were (not to mention how many horrible things are still happening), so it is nice to have some context to help show that point.
There are so many other great stories included in this book, and I cannot wait to read them all with my boys. We love the She Persisted books for the same reason – so many great stories of women doing amazing things. And when we read those, my son actually asked (in his sweet innocent little voice) if there were boys who had changed the world too. I am so thrilled to have a book that helps to show him that yes, many men have changed the world, and many have done so “without killing dragons.”
Thanks for reading! If you would like to keep up with our reading adventures on a regular basis, check out the links in the sidebar to our social media. If you have other books you love to use to show your boys (or girls) some positive male role models, I would love to hear about them! Feel free to comment below or on one of our social media pages.