chapter  12
10 Pages

Representing Boys and Girls in the 1912 Book of Knowledge

ByClaudia Nelson

This chapter discusses the rise of the spunky girl as ascendant over the hapless boy in the subsequent decades of American children's literature. Consider Junie B. Jones and Clementine versus Alvin Ho and the Wimpy Kid whose popular diary bears that name. The origin of this trend in the influential mid-twentieth-century Henry Huggins and Ramona books of Beverly Cleary. Every single title in the Henry Huggins series begins with Henry's reflection on the lack of any adventure in his life. Despite Henry's efforts to take part in 'important' male-gendered activities whether by locking him in his own clubhouse or following him on his paper route as his 'little shadow'. Cleary presents Henry's passivity as consistent with his masculine aspirations and achievements, she likewise presents Ramona's assertiveness as consistent with aspirations toward conventional femininity. Perhaps the literary trend toward depictions of trouble-making girls and victimized boys is a reaction against the disturbing contemporary pattern in actual classrooms and families.