Good Night Stories for Rebel ... Boys? Male versions of bestseller arrive on shelves

After the huge success of Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls, similar projects for boys are beginning to showcase men like Grayson Perry, Stormzy and Usain Bolt

After harnessing the imaginations of millions of girls with a wave of nonfiction books aimed at empowering women, such as bestseller Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls, the book world is now preparing a clutch of inspirational titles for boys, portraying an “alternative type of hero … a man who checks his privilege and who is kind, selfless, courageous and not afraid to stand up for what’s right”.

Stories For Boys Who Dare to be Different

The first to appear is Stories for Boys Who Dare to Be Different, by Ben Brooks, a collection of 100 stories of men – some famous, some less so – from Bill Gates to Stormzy, and Ai Weiwei to Salvador Dalí.

Hoping to show an alternative to the “stereotypical idea of masculinity” delivered by fictional role models such as dragon-slayers or Prince Charmings, Stories will be followed in September by The Good Guys: 50 stories of men “who have showed that changing the world doesn’t require a sword or a corporate jet”. This includes everyone from athlete Usain Bolt to James Harrison, a prolific blood donor whose rare plasma has saved millions of lives over the last 50 years.

These titles come after the huge success of books including Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls and Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World, which have topped bestseller charts over the last year. The former has sold more than 1m copies around the world, while the latter has sold more than 50,000 copies in the UK so far this year. Others, like Women in Science and Girls Who Rocked the World, have followed in their wake.

“All of the focus has been on girls, which is great, and necessary,” said Quercus Books nonfiction publisher Katy Follain, who published Stories for Boys Who Dare to Be Different this month. “But statistics show that male suicide is on the rise, and the more I looked into it, the more I thought there was something there for boys.”

The books for boys take a different approach to their female-focused predecessors. While the likes of Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls showcase women succeeding in their careers, books like The Good Guys show boys it is OK to take part in traditionally non-masculine pursuits.

George Michael in The Good Guys by Rob Kemp
George Michael in The Good Guys by Rob Kemp. Photograph: PR

Debbie Foy, publishing director at Wren & Rook, which is putting out The Good Guys in September, says the crisis in male mental health showed her such books were necessary. “Boys and girls need good male role models to look up to, and to know that being male doesn’t have to involve being a petulant man-baby or a sword-wielding superhero,” she said. “The alternative type of hero is a man who checks his privilege and who is kind, selfless, courageous and not afraid to stand up for what’s right.

“We saw the enormous impact that the anthologies and biographies of under-recognised women were having in the market, and every publisher was bringing out their own version. But rise of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements also brought the behaviour of some really powerful men such as Trump, Weinstein and many others to the fore. We felt that, in this era of so-called ‘toxic masculinity’, it was time to shine a light on some positive male role models for boys and girls.”

The Good Guys by Rob Kemp

“We know our children are increasingly turning to other forms of media for entertainment and information, and we know that these tie in with social media feeds and 24/7 news – little of which is painting a very positive picture of men, especially at the moment,” said Rob Kemp, author of The Good Guys. “The #MeToo and #TimesUp movements have not only highlighted the poor behaviour of men – and demand they’re rightly made culpable for it – but also shown us how the vast majority of people want to look to positive role models and be inspired by those who don’t mean to harm others, but help them instead. I hope these kinds of books reflect this and inspire young minds to follow a more positive path.”

Poet Benjamin Zephaniah, who features in Stories Who Dare to Be Different, has praised it as a book that could “save” and “change” future generations. Pre-orders have already reached 100,000 copies around the world, according to Follain. She has three daughters and says that she has “very different conversations about our concerns about our children with my friends with sons”.

“People have said: ‘Why aren’t there books for boys and girls – why not mix the two?’” she said. “But I don’t think we are there yet – we will be, but not yet.”


Alison Flood

The GuardianTramp

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