Friday, July 9, 2010

Bull Rider and Suzanne Morgan Williams' take on books and boys

So I spent four days selling books, and particularly my book, Bull Rider, with a local indie bookstore at the Reno Rodeo at the end of June. We had a great view of team roping and cutting events and the people watching was to die for. I learned more about readers there than I do at a lot of other places. Mostly because people don’t come to the rodeo to buy books – even if the books are about rodeo and the West. When I go on a school visit, kids know what they are supposed to do, and at libraries and book stores the audiences are self selected book lovers, or children of book lovers. The rodeo is different. Here’s what I observed about the boys.

Most of them won’t look at books. Those that do are often accompanied by a parent and after a little coaxing they may admit that they love to read. I think it’s a status thing. Books are academic. They are often written for girls. They aren’t necessarily cool. Many of those boys at the rodeo, if they are young teens, are sure to tell me they read “adult” books or that they follow the big fantasy series. Some of the rodeo type kids like old time adventure Westerns like Louis L’Amour’s. I don’t think a lot of those boys have read much contemporary adventure – which if they do, many of them love.

So first, hats off and a standing ovation to the librarians out there, who when an active boy appears at your desks, find them something great to read, whatever their taste – fantasy, adventure, sci-fi, nonfiction. And here’s a double cheer to those of you who will stretch those boys and offer them something new to read that you believe will suit them. You provide sustenance for their minds and support for writers like me who love writing for boys but aren’t so much into sci-fi or fantasy.

The publishing market has tightened during the recession and many of the big publishers are looking to produce big hits and that often means creating more of the same. And here’s what you already know – most block buster books aren’t written with boys in mind. It is girls who generally peruse bookstores looking for a new book to read. Boys will read, but they may need an excuse to do it. So here are some of the books I’ve read this year that I think boys would get into. Feel free to give them a gentle nudge.

About war – these are YA books and certainly suitable for any junior high or high school kid:

The Ghosts of War; the true story of a 19-year-old-GI, by Ryan Smithson, Collins, 2009

Purple Heart, by Patricia McCormick, Balzer and Bray, 2009

About military family life – these are sweeter and will appeal to boys and girls from 3rd through 6th grade

Heart of a Shepherd, by Rosanne Parry, Random House, 2009

Operation Yes, by Sara Lewis Holmes, Scholastic, 2009

Contemporary issues

Freeze Frame, by Heidi Ayarbe, Laura Geringer Books, Harper Teen, 2008 (fallout when teen accidentally shoots and kills his best friend.) YA

Home of the Brave, Kathryn Applegate, Feiwel and Friends, 2007 (African refuge boy adjusts to a new life in Minnesota, in part because of a connection with a cow and its owner.) MG

I Am Jack by Susanne Gervay, Tricycle Press, 2009 (addresses bullying in school) for young MG readers


When the Whistle Blows by Fran Cannon Slayton – (Jimmy Cannon celebrates six Halloweens between his 12th and 18th birthdays learning about the changes that life brings to his small town and his family.)

My novel Bull Rider (Margaret K. McElderry/Simon and Schuster, 2009)fits all these categories –

It’s the story of a 14 year old Nevada ranch kid whose life is turned upside down when the older brother he idealizes returns from Iraq with a traumatic brain injury and having lost an arm, Cam struggles to find a way to help. a good read for anyone ten or eleven and up, I’d say, and Bull Rider has appeared on both intermediate/junior high and high school state reading lists.

To learn more about Suzanne, click here.


Anonymous said...

Bull Rider is a brilliant novel about the impact of war on rural communities

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