One of the greatest things anyone ever said to me was said over a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. Okay, not so traditional -- it was at an Italian restaurant in New York City -- but traditional in the sense that it was with a lot of family. Grandparents, parents (can’t believe that’s me now!), kids. Dress-up clothes covered in spaghetti sauce -- that’s how you know you are having a good time.
At some point a family friend came by and congratulated me and my rounded belly on the news of our second son. She told me that she had loved being a “boy mom” and how some people are just meant to be one and that I was obviously one of them. Her simple pronouncement of the idea made it seem so grand. I felt like she was including me in a special club, a club in which she was obviously proud to be a member. I love, love, love having boys, and can think of a lot of other reasons it’s great that I’m a “boy” mom:
1. My oldest son is 3 1/2 and I have never (really, never) combed or brushed his hair. (In that period of time -- no make that about five times that period of time -- I have also ever combed my own hair, no matter how long. Fingers work perfectly well thank you very much.)
2. I have cut his hair, sometimes well, sometimes not so well, and will probably do it again.
3. I am proud of the scar on his face (I know this is a boy thing because every time I tell the story people say “Oh, that’s such a boy thing!”). So there you go.
4. I signed him up for ballet class. (Pretty sure this is also a boy thing, although the general commenting public doesn’t seem to agree. They often smile and say how good that will be for his “balance” when he plays sports. Sigh.)
5. I let him climb as high as he wants on the swing sets, within reason of course, but it’s obvious from comments by other parents directly to my son (bypassing me) that this is higher than they would have let him climb.
All of this is to say, I am excited to be a boy mom and excited to be reading boy books that hopefully my sons will someday love. This is a great boy book, although the sibling rivalry and love that goes on in the story could apply to girls as well (as could bad haircuts, scars, and yes, even ballet class), so I think it’s a great read for any elementary school kid. Especially one with a sibling. And, of course, their parents.
Title: The Kite Fighters
Author: Linda Sue Park
Genre: Historical Fiction
Age Group: Upper elementary students and young middle schoolers, ages 7-12
Summary and Review:
Like A Single Shard (read review: "A single good book in A Single Shard"), The Kite Fighters is sparse and beautiful. It’s about two brothers who learn to fly a kite. (And after reading this, you will want to as well.) The oldest brother is patient and artistic and makes the most beautiful kites. The youngest is impulsive but instinctive and a very talented kite flier. Together they defy family traditions, stand up to their father, and befriend the king, who is a boy about their age. Sibling love and rivalry at its best. The book is very simple, and older readers might find that the conflicts are too easily solved. However, this makes it an easy read, which is at times very welcome, and it also allows the reader to focus on the great characters and the way they interact with each other.
Follow up with the kids:
This would be a great book to talk about sibling dynamics. The book is set in a culture where the oldest brother has status over his younger brother. There is respect that is demanded. The boys have to learn how to play within the rules of the family while also being true to their own desires and talents. Talking with your child about how this family structure is different than the one in which they are growing up will help them understand that all families are different and will also give them a context for seeing the ways their own family works, which is something they have probably not thought consciously about before but rather taken for granted.
You can also have a great discussion about the behavior of the king, who is also a boy. The king wants very much to learn from the boys how to act like a normal boy and the way they teach him is beautiful. Talking about the rules for a king’s behavior and when it’s okay for the king to act like every other boy would be a great way of teaching how different kinds of behavior are appropriate for different settings.
Wendy Lawrence is a Seattle native who is now living with her husband and two young sons in Nashville, Tenn. A longtime educator and former middle school head at Eastside Prep in Kirkland, she now blogs about parenting and books at The Family that Reads Together.