Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Book Series Review: The Boys Against the Girls Series

I'm happy to be able to say that I have at least one child who is deeply interested in reading and loves our read-aloud times. Sean is currently heavily involved in several series books and begs for me to read more daily. His classroom teacher sent home a reading chart encouraging students to read for at least 400 minutes in the last three weeks of August. We logged 1444 minutes of read-aloud time! We are on book 4 of the Harry Potter series (although I'm not sure I'll go on beyond this book until I pre-read books 5-7 to make sure they are appropriate for his listening ears). We are on book 8 of the Just Grace series by Charise Mericle Harper. This series really surprised me because the book covers are so completely girly, I was sure he would balk at continuing the series, but he is unabashed in his interest in the books. We are contemplating starting Jerrry West's Happy Hollisters series (not sure where I heard about these, but purchased six of them from E-bay and have access to another twenty or so through various local libraries).

Although Sean would say that his favorite is the Harry Potter series, we just finished Phyllis Reynolds Naylor's Boys Against the Girls series and he was anxious for each book to continue the tale. She has a great knack for creating interesting adventures and getting into a child's mindset. We loved each and every book in the series and couldn't wait for more. The war could have gone on and on and we would have been thoroughly content. As it is, the war between the boys and the girls only lasts for the space of one year. Sean even said last night that he wondered if the author would ever create a book about the kids when they have grown, showing Caroline on Broadway and Wally in some interesting thoughtful career.

The series revolves around the antics of the Hatford brothers and the Malloy sisters. The Hatford boys are disgruntled when they learn that their best friends, the five Benson boys, are moving to Georgia for a year while their father takes a coaching position in a different college. Coach Malloy has come to fill the position and rent the Benson's house. Instead of getting more boys for neighbors, the Hatfords revolt when they discover Coach Malloy has three daughters. The boys are determined to make the sisters so miserable they'll want to move back to Ohio, but the girls are not about to take the mischief of the boys sitting down. They fight back in their own clever ways and throughout each book in the series there is a rivalry which drives the plot again and again.

Each of the characters stands out in their own particular way. The boys have dubbed the girls "The Whomper, the Weirdo, and the Crazy," because the eldest sister, Eddie (short for Edith Anne), has a fantastic pitching arm, the middle sister, Beth, reads spooky books, and Caroline, the youngest, has a dramatic flair which leads to downright crazy behavior. As for the Hatfords, the twins, Jake and Josh are athletic and artistic, Wally is the middle boy, with a thoughtful bent, who always gets stuck with the dirty work, and Peter is just the adorable youngest, who actually likes the girls and especially enjoys their cookies.

Some of their antics include pretending to dump a dead body, Halloween tricks to scare the girls, news of a mysterious creature known as the "Abaguchie," a bottle race down the Buckman River, and the discovery of embarrassing pictures of the boys. Full of pranks galore, the two sets of siblings are constantly stirring up trouble and their parents shake their heads in wonder with each upping of the ante between the kids. The rivalry creates no end of unexpected adventures and the reader is thoroughly sucked into the world of these not-so-neighborly neighbors.

I'm with Sean in thinking Naylor has plenty of material to reintroduce a new series of books based on these fighting sets of siblings. There are twelve books in the series: The Boys Start the War, The Girls Get Even, Boys Against Girls, The Girls' Revenge, A Traitor Among the Boys, A Spy Among the Girls, The Boys Return, The Girls Take Over, Boys in Control, Girls Rule!, Boys Rock!, and Who Won the War? We loved every minute of reading this series.

The author indicates the germ of the idea for this series, saying "I was waiting to speak to a large group of students, and as they noisily entered the gym, one of the teachers yelled, 'If you don't quiet down, I'm going to seat you boy-girl-boy-girl.'" We think Naylor struck gold with that idea. Boys and girls do have a natural sense of rivalry and this series will appeal to any dynamic of siblings (either families with both genders represented or families like ours). They would make excellent read-alouds for the classroom, as well. The ages of the characters range from seven to eleven and the chapters provide brief chunks of action (shifting back and forth from the girls' perspective to the boys' perspective, focusing on the middle kids, Caroline and Wally). If you tackle this series with your kids, I'd love to hear their reaction.

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