I need to think of a good word for a friend that I’ve never met. Because that is the word I need to describe Dana Alison Levy! Her huge and caring heart allows her to write lovely, humorous and thoughtful books. And we’re so lucky because today she’s telling us a bit about her newest title, This Would Make a Good Story Someday (Delacorte Books for Young Readers). One of my favorite reviews of the book said this, “ignore the title; this is a good story already.”
On Girl Books, Boy Books, and Everything In Between by Dana Alison Levy
My newest book, This Would Make a Good Story Someday, is about Sara Johnston-Fischer, her two moms, her two sisters, and her sister’s boyfriend, all taking a cross-country train journey that Sara chronicles (in a hopefully hilarious fashion) in her journal.
It’s about sisters and mothers and daughters and learning and trying to change your style while still being true to yourself. It includes:
- Hair dye disasters
- Attempts at learning Latin
- BFF emails
- Strangers who become friends
- Annoying younger sisters
- Annoying older sisters
- Annoying mothers
- Good food
- Good views
- Roman Centurions
And much more
It’s also my fifteen-year-old son’s favorite book that I’ve written so far.
I was totally delighted by this. That’s because this is the most girl-centric of my books. My first two novels, The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher and The Family Fletcher Take Rock Island follow the Fletcher family, which consists of two dads and four brothers and lots of shenanigans. I’ve gotten all kinds of fan mail from boys and girls. But I confess, I was a little worried that boys who liked the Fletcher stories would look at the new book, with Sara on the cover, and dismiss it as too girly.
Or really, I was afraid that parents, booksellers, and teachers would dismiss it for them.
It’s easy to fall into this trap. When a book is pink, or features girls on the cover, we have been trained to think, “oh, girls will love this book.” When a book has a cover with boys, or a scene of action or fantasy, we are trained to think of it as a book for all genders. And of course, a book with a football or hockey net? Well, unless it explicitly illustrates that it’s a girl playing the sport, it’s probably marketed as a boy book.
And of course many boys like books with footballs on the covers. And many girls like books about girls. But to limit our readers this way, to choose for them, because a cover has been designed a certain way, is a true disservice to kids. My niece has read every sports book Mike Lupica ever wrote. My son laughed so hard at Louise Rennison’s Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging that I thought he might fall off the couch. Kids find the books that speak to them, and those books are often not the ones we, as gatekeepers, expect.
When I wrote Good Story I was very much channelling my inner twelve-year-old, though I was far more obnoxious than Sara (no one would ever want to read my actual journal from that year…wow, I was a whiner!). I didn’t think of it as a girl book, even as I wrote about her wanting a new hairstyle, or attempting to wear a scarf. But in the end, it is a girl book, because it’s about a girl. But it’s also a travel book. And a family book. And a funny book. And my son’s favorite book.
I hope book buyers, be they parents or educators, remember to keep their minds wide open when thinking about what a reader might love. The windows and mirrors and doors that books provide are not gender-specific. It’s my fervent hope that boys and girls will laugh and ponder and think while reading This Would Make a Good Story Someday.
Dana Alison Levy was raised by pirates but escaped at a young age and went on to earn a degree in aeronautics and puppetry. Actually, that’s not true—she just likes to make things up. That’s why she always wanted to write books.
Her novels for kids, The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher, The Family Fletcher Takes Rock Island, and This Would Make a Good Story Someday have garnered multiple starred reviews, been named to Best Of lists, and were Junior Library Guild Selections. Also her kids like them. Find out more about her at www.danaalisonlevy.com