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BOOK REVIEW: Stories for Boys Who Dare to be Different- True Tales of Amazing Boys who Changed the World Without Killing Dragons written by Ben Brooks and illustrated by Quinton Winter

| 10 August 2019 | Reply

BOOK REVIEW: Stories for Boys Who Dare to be Different- True Tales of Amazing Boys who Changed the World Without Killing Dragons written by Ben Brooks and illustrated by Quinton Winter

Quercus Publishing
April 2018
Hardcover, $35.00
Reviewed by Natalie Salvo

Children’s Non-Fiction / True Stories for Children & Teenagers

65% Rocking (21)

Stories for Boys Who Dare to be Different comes hot on the heels of Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls. The two titles are unrelated but share the same purpose: to challenge gender stereotypes with some inspiring children’s stories. The idea is commendable, even if both books fail to appreciate that kids and adults can be inspired by role models from any gender.

An inspiring collection of 100 stories of famous and not-so famous men from the past to the present day, who went on to make the world a better place through compassion, generosity and self-belief (no action heroes or princesses to be saved here).

Ben Brooks has written several books. For this one he writes some short profiles about 100 people who identify as males. While these short biographies are succinct, sometimes this means that crucial information is left out. In fact, if you want a more in-depth analysis of an individual’s achievements, then Wikipedia would perhaps be the better answer. Consider the following text about Bill Gates where fellow Microsoft co-founder, Paul Allen, is credited only with his first name:

Once school was over, Bill’s dad pressured him to go to university to study law. Bill went, but his heart wasn’t really in it. All he could think about was computers. He kept imagining how they could become windows to everything he wanted to know about the world.

So he dropped out of university, called his old school friend, Paul, and started a computer company called Microsoft.

This book offers no introduction or conclusion, and the inclusion of these could have helped tie things together into a more cohesive whole. There is also no reference list or bibliography, so readers who are intrigued by the individuals they learn about will have to do their own research if they want to know more.

Harvey [Milk] realized he was gay when he was fourteen, but at first he chose not to tell anyone. After school, he joined the navy. Later, he fell in love and moved with his partner to San Francisco, where they opened a camera shop. It was while working there that Harvey discovered how much he enjoyed helping people with their problems, perhaps because he hadn’t let anyone help him when he needed it most. To carry on helping others, he decided to go into politics…
Harvey succeeded, becoming the first openly gay elected official in the history of the city.

The 100 profiles included in this book are ordered alphabetically by first name from South African Paralympian Achmat Hassiem, to Wonder Woman creator William Moulton Marston. This book could have benefited from ordering the individuals by either discipline or chronology. It would have meant that readers could pick and choose those profiles or periods that fascinated them the most. It would also mean that it would be less jarring for the reader to go from the boys from England’s ISCA Academy one minute, to Confucius and then Daniel Radcliffe shortly after. In its current state the book feels like it’s a bit all over the shop.

It was a long, hot summer in England, and at one school, in one corner of the country, all of the boys were forbidden from wearing anything but trousers…
The next morning, the boys arrived at school in skirts.
And that night, every newspaper across the country picked up the story. Headlines read: Boys Wear Skirts in Uniform Protest! Photographers flocked to the school to snap photos of the friends, laughing and posing in their new skirts, and people from across the world left comments on the articles congratulating the boys.

The aim of this title is to be representative of men. On this front it does succeed in describing quite a vast array of boys and men from the past to the present and including the famous, infamous, and the obscure. It also celebrates their genius by explaining how they acted against the grain. Many of the individuals here are already in the history books but this collection draws them all together into a handy package. Each profile features a full-page colour portrait illustrated by Quinton Winter. These are eye-catching and quite unique.

Some of the content in this book is better suited to both its target audience of those aged nine to 12 and even older readers. While this is a hardcover picture book, some mature themes are described like abuse and transgender characters. It is at the parent’s discretion whether they want to introduce these concepts to younger kids. This volume is a good little primer to some key players in politics, art, sport and history. It also shows that there are many ways to quantify success beyond the obvious money, fame and power.

When he was young, Alan [L. Hart] was known as Lucille; his parents named him that because they thought he was a girl. But Alan didn’t feel comfortable in his own body. He didn’t feel comfortable because he felt as if he was trapped in the body of a girl.

Society made life difficult for people like Alan, but that never stopped Alan doing everything he could for society.

Stories for Boys Who Dare to be Different is an accessible book that challenges traditional, macho role models. It is an educational and entertaining tool that is good but also has some room for improvement. Stories for Boys Who Dare to be Different is an important title because it adds to the vivid and rich commentary about inspirational characters from history. It also proves that HIS-STORY can be a nuanced portrait that proudly delves beyond neat and tidy boxes.

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Category: Book Reviews

About the Author ()

Natalie Salvo is a foodie and writer from Sydney. You can find her digging around in second hand book shops or submerged in vinyl crates at good record stores. Her website is at:

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