Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Good "Boymanship" Awards

Okay, so I normally try to keep my personal blog and the PM blog separate, but I've had some recent conversations about the topic of what I call "boymanship" and I wanted to run it past everyone over here at PM. So, here goes:

I write "boy" books. Problem is, it seems to take a village to raise the consciousness of the boy sensibility in MG. A while back, I was involved in a great Twitter chat during #kidlitchat and we discussed boy books. I made a comment that I wished more MG books would accurately depict the way boys interact with one another. I went on to explain that the back-and-forth joking between boys, heavy on sarcastic razzing, is a sign of true friendship between boys, and those who don't understand this or want to paint a different picture are not being true to reality. Boys make fun of each other when they're friends (all in good fun), but the moment they need to have each other's backs they do. I equate this to the wartime bond soldiers have. It's a brotherly thing, and I don't see this truly represented in many MG books. Toward the end of the conversation I coined the term "boymanship" and I really think it fits. A perfect example is found in the following scene from the classic movie Stand By Me, and actually, in just about every scene in the movie.

This scene is true-to-life. These boys are the best of friends, but look at how they razz each other. And if you've seen the movie before, you know these kids are 100% "there" for each other (they have each other's backs). This is what I'd love to see more of in MG books of today. Please, give me "real" kids.

I have a great deal of experience with boymanship (heck, I'm a black belt). I am a teacher of junior high kids (for 12 years now), I was a boy once (shocker, I know), and I still see myself as a big kid at 37 years of age. So let me tell you: BOYS ARE LIKE THIS! And the point I made during that chat was the fact that if we can accurately capture this in MG boy books, it helps to educate boys about "boymanship" and also educates adults who've lost touch with this. I'm sick of seeing MG boy books that are treated like after-school specials (corny, cheesy, and just plain unrealistic).

Another movie that I feel accurately portrays the way boys interact with one another is the old 80's flick (dated, but still timely) My Bodyguard (trailer below). Clifford (the main character) and Linderman (his bodyguard) capture the true sense of boymanship in their friendship. And even though the bullies are nasty, their relationship is realistic as well (so is the evil streak they have as bullies). In all, kids are kids in this movie. Real kids. I highly recommend you check out this movie if you haven't seen it. 

Um, why do I find it necessary to refer to MOVIES and not books? Interesting question. Think about why that might be the case.

Okay, tell me, is there any book I might be overlooking that gets your good boymanship award?


  1. Oddly, Charlie Higson's The Enemy and The Dead might be on that list. Tim Green's characters don't always get along perfectly.Allen's How Lamar's Bad Prank. Sonnenblick. But you're right. Too many "life lesson" books for boys, when what I really need are funny books. And boys razzing on each other? They would love it. I will definitely keep this in mind. Thanks for the food for thought.

  2. Umm, I hate to say this but the trailer makes My Bodyguard look pretty silly, when it's actually a great film. It may just be the voice over.

    I mean, I was only 3 years old when it came out, but I remember it well.

    It's not a MG book, but The Marbury Lens, by Andrew Smith, portrays an incredibly powerful and authentically realistic relationship between two young men who are best friends. I consider it a must read.

  3. Great post, Michael. I was never a boy (!), and so was amazed when I started eavesdropping in on my son and his friends. The amount of razzing surprised me, especially because there is not a hint of meanness in it. It's facinating really, kind of like a game of one-up-manship.

  4. Hmm, thanks for the tip. I'll try to keep that in mind if/when I revisit my MG sci-fi since the main character is an8/9yo boy.

  5. Good insight! My WIP has a boy MC (and I'm not a boy) =) so it's difficult to get in his head sometimes. I do have a son and husband whose behaviors help me with boy-ness, but that's one of my main concerns about my WIP - is my boy, boy enough? I chose a boy MC because my son feels like there are too many girl MG books!

  6. As the only girl in the house, I understand this boymanship thing. It doesn't seem to stop with when they stop being boys either, or maybe they never stop being boys, eh?

    For books, I would recommend The Schwa was Here and Sophmore Undercover.

  7. Ben Esch's Sophmore Undercover has some good razzing. Ben captures a good voice in there. I've always wanted more MG books that were close to The Goonies or Monster Squad. The boys in those movies always give each other a hard time. It flows well and reminds me a lot of how I grew up with my friends.

  8. Ms. Yingling: Tim Green is a local author for me (Syracuse, NY). Went to the same high school, actually.

    Matthew: Yeah, that MY BODYGUARD narrator is covered in cheese, but the movie is darn good. And yes, MARBURY LENS is a GREAT boy YA book (loved it). I find there are quite a few YA boy books that "work" for me, and Shaun David Hutchinson's DEATHDAY LETTER is one where the characters are true-to-life (if you haven't read it, do so).

    Dee: Having read WILDFIRE RUN, I think it paints realistic characters (though I wouldn't strictly call it a "boy" book), and the back-and-forth between Callie and Luke is a good example of what real kids are like. You and I see eye-to-eye on this, I know.

    Jenny: Only keep it in mind if you feel it's true to your story and only if it works for your characters. Don't force it, because that will come through in the writing.

    Barbara: I agree with your son...we need more boy books, and my students would agree with him, too. Is your son a PENDRAGON fan? My students love MacHale's series, and I'm a fan too.

    Lily: I need to check out those books. Thanks for the recommendations.

    D.M.: That's the second recommendation in a row for SOPHOMORE UNDERCOVER. That'll be next on my Kindle purchases. And YES, give me those GOONIES kids! I have to admit, I had the GOONIES characters in mind when I wrote my book.

  9. My favorite boy character is Seth in the Fablehaven series by Brandon Mull. He is all boy through and through! Reminds me of my little guy! :)

  10. Pssst ... Michael, I think Ms. Yingling is referring to you here. :)

  11. Um ...

  12. Well, that didn't become a hyperlink at all! :)

  13. Thanks, Timothy. I checked it out and commented.

  14. I love books in the To Kill A Mockingbird vein. I just read one that has deservedly won all sorts of awards and accolades -Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey. Brilliant. I defy anyone not to love it.


Thanks for adding to the mayhem!