A few months ago, we curated a list of books about children who challenged gender stereotypes. This time, we’d love to share with you a list of books focusing specifically on boys and masculinity! Each of these books targets the many ways patriarchy hinders boys from expressing themselves, and the numerous stereotypes that are heaped upon young boys from childhood. If you’re aware of more books that could be a part of this list, do let us know in the comments!
Be Boy Buzz by bell hooks
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
I be boy. All bliss boy. All fine beat. All beau boy. Beautiful.
Here’s a tight, exuberant story from two award-winning creators that captures the essence and energy of what it means to be a boy. A book about loving boys and celebrating boyhood without re-inscribing patriarchal norms. Chris Raschka’s soulful illustrations buzz with a force that is the perfect match for bell hooks’ powerful words.
The Unboy Boy by Richa Jha
Publisher: Pickle Yolk Books
This is the story of Gagan. His family and friends think of him as an un-boy boy. They want to make him more boy-like. Do they succeed? If you look closely, you may spot ghouls and monsters, witches and the dead. And chopped limbs. And cat soup. But this is not a ghost story. It is the story of Gagan, a boy. No more. No less. Writer Richa Jha and illustrator Gautam Benegal know that there are no un-boy boys or un-girl girls in this world. And they can tell you how cool it is to be just the girl or boy you are. Richa Jha is a Lagos-based picture book enthusiast. Writer, artist, and animation filmmaker Gautam Benegal is based out of Bombay.
William’s Doll by Charlotte Zolotow
Publisher: Harper & Row
More than anything, William wants a doll. “Don’t be a creep,” says his brother. “Sissy, sissy,” chants the boy next door. Then one day someone really understands William’s wish, and make it easy for others to understand, too. William gets a doll, so he can learn to be a loving parent someday.
Oliver Button is a Sissy by Tomie dePaola
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Oliver Button is not fond of things other boys his age typically are, and he would rather play with paper dolls and draw colorful pictures. As a result, the other boys end up calling him a sissy. Things finally change for the bullied Oliver when his parents sign him up for a dance class. He enters a talent contest and although he doesn’t win, he changes his friends’ opinion of him, and they start calling him a star and not a sissy. This book is about accepting who you are, developing your inherent talents, even if they may not be ‘typical’ for your sex, and is as important a read for parents as it is for children.
Made by Raffi by Craig Pomranz
Publisher: Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
Raffi is a shy boy who doesn’t like noisy games and is often teased at school. But when he gets the idea of making a scarf for his dad’s birthday he is full of enthusiasm, even though the other children think it is girly to knit. Then the day draws near for the school pageant, and there is one big problem – no costume for the prince. And that’s when Raffi has his most brilliant idea of all – to make a prince’s cape. On the day of the pageant, Raffi’s cape is the star of the show.
Tough Guys Have Feelings Too by Keith Negley
Publisher: Flying Eye Books
A boldly illustrated picture book read-aloud about how everyone gets sad—ninjas, wrestlers, knights, superheroes, everyone . . . even daddies have emotions!
Did you know wrestlers have feelings? And knights. Even superheroes and ninjas feel sad sometimes. In fact everyone has feelings—especially dads who love their children!
Children will love recognizing their feelings in Keith Negley’s bold illustrations which accompany a fun-to-read-aloud narrative.
The Boy with Big, Big Feelings by Lee Britney Winn
Publisher: Beaming Books
Meet a boy with feelings so big that they glow from his cheeks, spill out of his eyes, and jump up and down on his chest. When a loud truck drives by, he cries. When he hears a joke, he bursts with joy. When his loved ones are having a hard day, he feels their emotions as if they were his own. The boy tries to cope by stuffing down his feelings, but with a little help and artistic inspiration, the boy realizes his feelings are something to be celebrated.
My Princess Boy by Cheryl Kilodavis
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Dyson loves pink, sparkly things. Sometimes he wears dresses. Sometimes he wears jeans. He likes to wear his princess tiara, even when climbing trees. He’s a Princess Boy.
Inspired by the author’s son, and by her own initial struggles to understand, this heartwarming book is a call for tolerance and an end to bullying and judgments. The world is a brighter place when we accept everyone for who they are.
10,000 Dresses by Marcus Ewert
Publisher: Seven Stories Press
Bailey has a special dream every single time. The dreams are full of beautiful dresses, with studs, rainbows, sparkles, crystals, flowers and more. When he gets up, he wants to talk about his dreams; the problem is no one wants to hear him out. And what do Bailey’s parents have to say “Bailey! You are a boy, you shouldn’t be thinking of dresses at all.” He feels sad, until he meets Laurel, a girl who understands his dreams and loves talking about them. Both of them make dresses and Bailey is the happiest in this space.
Big Bob, Little Bob by James Howe
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Despite the fact that they share a name, Big Bob and Little Bob are different. Big Bob likes trucks and throwing balls and being loud. Little Bob likes dolls and jingling bracelets and being quiet. No matter what they do, they do not do it the same. Could they possibly be friends despite these differences? With humor and tenderness, James Howe and Laura Ellen Anderson beautifully depict the struggles and rewards that come when friendships are forged between different kinds of people.
Jacob’s New Dress by Sarah Hoffman
Publisher: Albert Whitman & Company
Jacob loves playing dress-up, when he can be anything he wants to be. Some kids at school say he can’t wear ‘girl’ clothes, but Jacob wants to wear a dress to school. Can he convince his parents to let him wear what he wants? This heartwarming story speaks to the unique challenges faced by children who don’t identify with traditional gender roles.
The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf
Publisher: Viking Hardcover
Now adapted into a feature film, Ferdinand is the story of a bull who would rather stop and smell the flowers than become a bullfighter. The book teaches boys that masculinity and aggressiveness don’t have to go hand in hand. As the book reveals, it’s a perfectly acceptable alternative to enjoy things that are typically coded as ‘feminine’ like flowers, introspective reflection, and gentleness.
Sparkle Boy by Leslea Newman
Publisher: Lee & Low Books
Three-year-old Casey wants what his older sister, Jessie, has–a shimmery skirt, glittery painted nails, and a sparkly bracelet–but Jessie does not approve. After two boys tease Casey about his appearance, Jessie evolves to a place of acceptance and celebration of her gender creative younger brother.
Introducing Teddy: A Gentle Story about Gender and Friendship by Jessica Walton
Errol and his teddy, Thomas, are best friends who do everything together. Whether it’s riding a bike, playing in the tree house, having a tea party, or all of the above, every day holds something fun to do.
One sunny day, Errol finds that Thomas is sad, even when they are playing in their favorite ways. Errol can’t figure out why, until Thomas finally tells Errol what the teddy has been afraid to say: “In my heart, I’ve always known that I’m a girl teddy, not a boy teddy. I wish my name was Tilly, not Thomas.” And Errol says, “I don’t care if you’re a girl teddy or a boy teddy! What matters is that you are my friend.”
Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress by Christine Baldacchino
Publisher: Groundwood Books
Morris loves doing many things at school: painting, doing puzzles, and singing the loudest at circle time. But his favorite thing is to put on the tangerine dress in the dress-up corner. Its color reminds him of tigers, the sun, and his mother’s hair. He loves the swish and crinkle noises the dress makes when he walks.
His classmate Becky tries to pull the dress off of him, insisting that boys can’t wear dresses. The other boys won’t let him ride in their cardboard spaceship because “astronauts don’t wear dresses.” After a few days of this, Morris doesn’t feel so good. His mom lets him stay home from school. At home, he imagines going on a space safari while wearing the tangerine dress. When Morris goes back to school, he’s ready to be just who he wants to be, and play how he wants to play.
Julian is a Mermaid by Jessica Love
Publisher: Candlewick Press
In this adorable tale of self-expression, Julian decides he wants to be a mermaid after he sees three spectacularly dressed women on his subway ride home from the pool. Luckily, Abuela is there to help.