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Stories for Boys Who Dare to Be Different: True Tales of Amazing Boys Who Changed the World without Killing Dragons

Book review by
Regan McMahon, Common Sense Media
Stories for Boys Who Dare to Be Different: True Tales of Amazing Boys Who Changed the World without Killing Dragons Book Poster Image
Inspiring stories celebrate difference and bold vision.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Fascinating, engaging stories of extraordinary people and their accomplishments. May lead to more investigations of some of the people featured. 

Positive Messages

It's OK to be different. If you feel different, rest assured you're not alone. Being different can actually lead you to accomplish great things. Many famous people had hard childhoods or obstacles to overcome. Follow your dreams. Be true to yourself. Be whoever you want to be. Don't let the bullies get you down. Also great messages about being kind and generous and using your talents and creative vision to help others and change the world for the better.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Each of the 76 men or boys profiled is a role model. LGBTQ people, men and boys from many nations and cultures, and people of color are represented.

Violence & Scariness

Mentions of bullying, battles, someone being killed or dying, four chaplains who went down with a sinking ship during World War II after they gave up their life jackets to let others survive on lifeboats.  

Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Ben Brooks' Stories for Boys Who Dare to Be Different offers 76 short, 8- to 10-paragraph stories of men who accomplished great things, with a full-page portrait on the facing page. There's a wide range of people, from the famous -- including Bill Gates, Jim Henson, Frederick Douglass, Oscar Wilde, Nelson Mandela, actors Daniel Radcliffe and Jesse Eisenberg, comedian Trevor Noah, soccer star Lionel Messi, author John Green -- to the not well-known, from Baldwin IV, the 12th century king of Jerusalem, to a teen who invented a tool to remove plastic trash from the sea. The message is clear: It's OK to be different.

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What's the story?

STORIES OF BOYS WHO DARE TO BE DIFFERENT shows there are all kinds of heroes in this world, from battle-winning kings to creative artists to sensitive writers. In 76 short profiles, kids see boys who overcame adversity or were driven by their own vision to do or create something great. The stories span many nations, religions, and centuries, from B.C. history up to our present-day media culture. Many of the men profiled will be familiar to parents and kids, but many others are ordinary people who've done extraordinary things.

Is it any good?

Young readers will find this lively, inspiring collection of stories appealing and accessible. It covers artists, inventors, writers, athletes, actors, explorers, politicians, and more. A celebration of difference, Stories for Boys Who Dare to Be Different highlights some people who broke gender or sexual identity boundaries, including Oscar Wilde, Harvey Milk, and makeup artist and international cosmetics mogul Jeffree Star. The main takeaway throughout the book is that it's OK to be different, and being different can lead to doing great things. It also shows there are all kinds of ways to be strong and successful, thereby expanding the concepts of masculinity and heroism. Illustrator Quinton Wintor's engaging portraits highlight key aspects of each person's life or career.

One quibble is that author Ben Brooks' mini-biographical sketches often leave out basic details that young readers might not miss but would be helpful for context -- details such as where the person lives or lived, or when certain events happened. A birth date or birth-death date range appears under the person's name atop each bio, but sometimes that's the bare minimum to orient the reader. For example, in the profile of Ludwig Van Beethoven, there's no mention that he was German or lived in Austria. The core tale of what happened to the person "at school" or "at home" is what comes through.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the tales in Stories for Boys Who Dare to Be Different. Which ones do you find most inspiring?

  • How did feeling different move the boys in these stories to make their mark? Have you ever felt different from other kids? 

  • There are all kinds of heroes in this book. Which heroic actions stand out to you? Is there more to being a hero that being physically strong and adventurous?  

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