The adorable Kidsmomo recently did a podcast on "girl power" in honor of Women's History Month. The follow-up theme: books with boys' names in the titles. That got me thinking about the strange looks, at least, that they would've gotten if they'd done a podcast on "boy power."
There are so many great girl power moments in children's lit, of course. Jo March flouts convention and we cheer. Stargirl flouts convention and we cheer. Both are expected by some to fit into a fairly narrow model of what a female should be, and both make us proud by doing more than others expect of them.
But are girls the only ones with that power? I just picked up The Whipping Boy in Sid Fleischman's honor, and found myself cheering for Jemmy just as I did for Jo. Like so many literary ladies, Jemmy belies others' expectations. Expected to stand and wait during the Prince's lessons, Jemmy instead pays attention and learns to read, write, and do sums, and I don't know about you, but I'm darn proud of him. Class and position do for Jemmy what gender does for so many female characters, making us want to see him empowered because he isn't born with power.
Even the simple fact being a child can have that effect. Incantations and intrigue notwithstanding, kid power is a big part of the Harry Potter books' appeal. Harry and his contemporaries do more than wizards their age are expected (or, in many cases, allowed) to do. And we cheer.
How about you? What makes you root for a character?