Boys Are Best!
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In this picture book, originally published in Switzerland, two unappealing brothers, sharing a bed, spend their time talking up boys and rubbishing girls. They are a scary pair, with crudely realised figures and potato heads, one round and fat, one thinner and pointed. As they egg each other on, the text bellows in black and red; and, in a scene where the boys mock their sister’s dressing and undressing of dolls, the text bounces around them, ‘on, off, on, off’ as they climb on top of the bed to show off their bum cleavage. The laddish behaviour peaks with the assertion that when girls are really scared, they wet their pants – and there’s an image of their sister, reduced to tiny proportions by their belittling of her, clutching desperately at her nightdress. They get their come-uppance, of course. The mention of ghosts has them looking sheepish, tucking themselves down in the bedclothes, and eventually sloping off to climb in bed with their sister, hugging her soft toys in their terror, while she sleeps serenely between them and the text confirms that ‘boys are so silly’. The ‘in your face’ caricature of the boys is effective, but I don’t feel this is a book for pre-schoolers. The boys’ behaviour is characteristic of an older age group, one that wouldn’t be convinced by the ending. And the final assertion that ‘boys are so silly’ makes me uneasy. The book gives these boys a taste of their own medicine, and it’s a strong and unpleasant one. But it’s their behaviour not their gender that should be condemned.