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Thursday, 25 June 2015

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Jenny @ Reading the End

What a funny thing! The best-laid plans of mice and men, eh? I don't think I ever made major changes to books I read to my little sister -- the most I've ever done is change a character's name because I wasn't sure how to pronounce the real name, and even that was quite difficult to keep track of.

Harriet

Fascinating. I wonder if she'll grow out of it, and whether it is desirable for her to? I love the idea of a female Bilbo Baggins! I think you'll have fun coming up with some creative gender transformations for her!

Helen

How lovely that you read to your sister, Jenny! I never did that for my younger brothers, we were more interested in fighting with each other.

Now I think about it, my family has been tampering with books for a long time... My father was so distressed at the ending of The Tale of Pigling Bland that his mother wrote a new one on the back endpaper of his copy (Pigling Bland settles down, gets steady job, grows potatoes etc.). We still have that book, he's given it to me, and it's actually very precious.

And a few weeks ago I read Operation Bunny to my daughter; after a few chapters a very nice character called Miss String is murdered by an evil fairy. This came right out of the blue and my daughter wept and wept so I ended up lying furiously and saying that Miss String didn't really die, and then I had to invent a bit at the end where Miss String returns - it was eye-wateringly crap compared to the rest of the book but my daughter accepted it. I DO hope we don't have to reread it though, as I've forgotten most of it.

Helen

Harriet, I hope she will grow out of it! Not least because it increasingly is accompanied by quite rigid ideas of what 'boys' do and what 'girls' do, I don't know where she gets it from. Girl Bilbo might be a useful antidote to this.

I'm rereading 'A Wizard of Earthsea' and already wondering how it might be if Ged were a girl... I can see this might be quite addictive.

Lory @ Emerald City Book Review

Very interesting post! The received wisdom in children's lit is that boys need same-gender protagonists but that girls are fine with either. It's good to know that doesn't always hold water, and that creative solutions are possible. Changing girl characters into boys, now, could definitely pose some challenges, depending on the book. There could be a doctoral thesis in here.

I'm reading the E. Nesbit "Five Children" books to my son right now (which has a gender-balanced cast of characters), and find that I'm just leaving out some of the derogatory comments the boys make about the girls. They're certainly true to life in that boys would have talked about girls in that way in the Edwardian period, but so unnecessary. B can deal with that when he's older and reading the books on his own, but I don't like saying them out loud.

Helen

Lory, I've read too that boys prefer same-gender protagonists but that girls accept/are expected to accept either. I expect it's true in general, but there are always exceptions! In her first article on this (http://www.lastwordonnothing.com/2013/12/18/one-weird-old-trick/), Michelle mentions that swapping Peter and Susan's genders in the Narnia books led to an interesting moment.

(When I was a child I remember refusing to read a book because the protagonist's name was David and I didn't like it. Children can be a bit illogical!)

I do the same with dodgy remarks in older books (so often is there something about being girly or crying!) and I completely agree with your reasoning. I hope that B is enjoying the E. Nesbits! I might try them with my daughter soon.

Alex

All of my reading was done to mixed primary classes so change of gender is something I probably wouldn't have got away with. I wonder how your daughter will deal with Gene Kemp's 'The Turbulent Term of Tyke Tiler' when she is old enough? Do you know it? If not, I shan't say any more as it would be a shame to spoil it for both of you.

litlove

How intriguing! I never did this with my son but somehow it never came up. Jacqueline Wilson was the closest we came to a truly girly author and even so we read her more gender neutral books (and quite often her girls are quite tomboyish anyway). It's terrifically clever of you to alter the gender as reading out loud is an easy way to slip up. I would occasionally forget which country the characters came from, particularly in Alex Rider novels where I would be juggling some demanding combination of voices like a Russian and a South American and a German. Inevitably there were evenings when it all fell apart and everyone was Welsh. But thank heavens, children are very uncritical listeners!

Elizabeth

I can see how making Joseph the girl is bothersome. I've never changed something in the reading of a book, but I like the idea in general if it makes it more fun for the reader/listener. Like Helen above, I had read that girls are more accepting of boys as protagonists than boys of girls. I like that you leave out the old put-downs when reading E. Nesbit to your son. Brothers and sisters will always go after each other, but we don't need to teach them more ways to do it.

Helen

Alex, I have heard of Gene Kemp, I don't remember where or how, but I'll look that up - thank you! I'm always on the look-out for book recommendations, especially anything published more recently.

litlove, I slipped up a lot while reading aloud! And oh, accents! I am impressed at your range. I had to stop giving characters my idea of a French accent because it just sounded as if everything they said was a double entendre (not that my daughter noticed, but it made me giggle inappropriately) (Grey Rabbit books were the worst for this).

Hello Elizabeth, thank you for commenting! Absolutely true, and I completely agree with you about brothers and sisters always going after one another (in that, the way E. Nesbit's siblings talk to each other is right on the money: I reread The Treasure-Seekers recently, had forgotten how funny it was). No need to give them other people's prejudices as further ammunition when they're not yet ready to process them.

Stefanie

I love the thought of Bilbo being a girl! Maybe I would have liked The Hobbit better. I have never gender switched characters in my own reading and don't have children. How interesting the effect of changing Joseph to she had.

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