books, children's books, non-fiction, review

Review: Stories for boys who dare to be different by ben brooks


There’s a really big trend on children’s history books, and especially on women. I absolutely love it and own and have read most of them all ready! But then this book came along. It’s about men and written for boys so at first I was skeptical: “Hm, finally there’s something for girls and men have to make it all about them again!”but oh boy I was wrong. So very, very wrong.

Prince charming, dragon slayer, mischievous prankster… More often than not, these are the role-models boys encounter in the books they read at home and at school. As a boy, there is an assumption that you will conform to a stereotypical idea of masculinity.

But what if you’re the introvert kind? What if you prefer to pick up a book rather than a sword? What if you want to cry when you’re feeling sad or angry? What if you like the idea of wearing a dress?

There is an ongoing crisis with regards to young men and mental health, with unhelpful gender stereotypes contributing to this malaise. Stories for Boys Who Dare to Be Different offers a welcome alternative narrative. It is an extraordinary compilation of 100 stories of famous and not-so-famous men from the past to the present day, every single one of them a rule-breaker and innovator in his own way, and all going on to achieve amazing things. Entries include Frank Ocean, Salvador Dalí, Rimbaud, Beethoven, Barack Obama, Stormzy, Ai Weiwei and Jesse Owens – different sorts of heroes from all walks of life and from all over the world.

I love this book. I love it so much. Some people in this raised my eyebrow a little bit, but I understand WHY they were put in there. I mean, I know why people love Florence Nightingale, but I also know she’s a horrible person, that doesn’t mean I don’t want my children to know about her. This book is for children, so it’s bound to make some stories a little bit more pretty than they actually are, AND THAT’S OK. Children need heroes to look up to now, they can discover more about the bad when they are old enough to understand.

We need more books about women in history, yes, but we also need more books about that it’s ok to be yourself! It’s ok to be a boy and play with dolls, to like dresses, to like makeup, to like drawing, to like dancing, to like the things they like. We need this. Boys are forced into this mold that doesn’t fit everyone, and that causes a lot of hurt and anger.

Ok, with that being said, this book is incredibly inclusive. My main issue with most of these books is that they aren’t really inclusive, they talk about a lot of white people and then they realise that other people did some things too and add those randomly. Except Rejected Princesses, that one is amazing. I nearly cried when I flipped through this book, because the third story in this book is about a trans man. A trans person! In a children’s book! And guess what, they used the RIGHT pronouns and explained what it’s like to be trans in like 2 sentences without making any fuss and I was so happy. So happy because trans people get excluded so much, or people use the wrong pronouns or are just plain rude so I was so excited. After reading this book I discovered that this person wasn’t the only one in the book! I read so many of these books, and this is the first time they actually talked about trans people, I’m just so happy!! I really liked that they talked about a lot of people, not just white people, but POC from all around the world. The stories don’t always tell where the people they talk about are from, which I found a bit of a downside, as it would be great for children to see that someone is from their culture, it would make the excitement bigger, I think.

One other downside to this book is that there aren’t many historic people in it, most people in this book are still alive today, which I don’t read these books for, I love the history aspect of it, but that doesn’t mean that the book is any less great, it’s just a personal preference.

This is a book that was highly needed. I’m really happy that I could add this to my collection and I can’t wait to share these stories with the children in my life.

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