As it is World Book Day, here is a book I love. ‘Boy in a Tutu’ by Kate Scott is a sequel to her novel ‘Boy in Tights’. The adventure continues for Joe (or Josephine) as he is now styled since going into hiding. The concept of parents who are spies is an outlandish one but it is full of comedy and this book’s audience of children will love it.
Joe must continue to pretend to be a girl as his new identity and to keep him safe from the enemy who want to track down his parents. In this book, Joe is coming to terms with the idea of spy parents and can even see some benefits; ballet is not one of them, though, and he is, once again, put into a difficult situation when he is sent to ballet lessons with his friend.
Being in disguise allows him to see what is hidden to others and there is a story spine running through the book of adults up to no good. Joe has to be a convincing girl to pass unnoticed at the local sports centre where an exhibition of World Cup memorabilia is vulnerable to thieves.
As well as being a comedy, this story highlights the border children cross when they understand what life is like for others. For Joe, being Josephine reveals a lot about the way girls are treated.
‘Spies in Disguise: Boy in a Tutu’ is a lot of fun. It is in my hinterland. What’s in yours?
The wearing of tights when playing soccer remains a minority practice in Britain but in other countries it is common. This must be because of cold temperatures with Russia a location where winter soccer makes tights a must.
One of the cultural differences that interests me is the wearing of tights by boys in some countries; it would be very rare to see a boy in tights in Britain. In Japan their use as acceptable wear seems to be more frequent.
There are rules, though! Boys wanting to wear tights when playing football have to observe the rule that the tights, short exercise lycra shorts or inner wear has to be the same colour as the main uniform. In case of doubt, there are helpful illustrations, shown below.
NG here is the ‘not okay’ message. These rules apply for official matches and things are more relaxed for practice sessions.
Tabio is a Japanese company that manufactures socks and tights. There are outlets in London but the company is based in Japan. This winter season advice is being offered to the men of Japan on how to keep warm under their business suits.
Tights and leggings are the answer to those winter days! Tabio sell leg wear that is designed to fit beneath the suit trousers- not so much a fashion statement as a practical solution to the cold days.
Also on offer, for the more adventurous are the patterned leggings to wear with shorts. These are definitely designed to be seen.
Cultural differences such as these are in my hinterland. What’s in yours?
This book from Kate Scott is great fun, if only because it plays on the central idea of a boy having to dress up as a girl. In our culture, boys are highly tuned to threats to their sense of boyhood. The author uses this affront to masculinity by placing young Joe in a position where pretending to be a girl is vital to his and his family’s safety. He discovers that his parents are spies (presumably on the side of good but actually it is never specified who they work for!) and when their cover is blown by some bad guys, they collect him from school and zoom off to a new part of the country, new names and, in Joe’s case, a new identity.
Joe is amazed to learn that his ordinary parents are, in fact, spies and not as boring as he thought they were. The good news comes with bad, though, when he discovers his new identity is Josie and not Joe.
The fun comes from the way he reacts to the clothes he has to wear. His dad’s idea of a girl is to cover him in pink and frilly things. When Josie befriends Sam at his new school, his view of what girls are like changes. Sam is a better footballer than he is and she does not take kindly to stereo types. Yet, it is the differences between boys and girls that provide the fun here. There are some serious points behind all this jollity, though. The way girls are perceived, especially by boys is brought up. Why do we think all girls like pink?
Josie has a wig and tights to contend with and a school day where the boys dominate the playground with football. When his/her parents get involved with a spy mission that involves Josie’s school, there is the perfect opportunity for the young boy to develop his own spy skills.
This is a children’s book that successfully plays on the way boys and girls see each other and treat each other. It is a lot of fun and the fact that there are now two sequels suggests that the central idea can run and run… as long as Joe/Josie is not uncovered!
It has been interesting learning about cultural differences. Nothing better exemplifies this than countries where boys wear tights. This one item of clothing signifies so much; in Britain boys just would not be seen wearing what are considered clothes for girls. In Japan, there is a different approach. Tights are marketed at boys, or their parents at least, and tights are considered the correct formal wear for occasions such as piano recitals.
My Japanese friends think that life there is pretty much like life here; both countries are part of the developed world. As soon as any discussion gets going, though, all the differences come forward. The one that is most significant, in my view, is the way boys and girls are treated and what I see as the protection of childhood.
I have written before about cultural differences such as boys wearing tights and it is one of the ways in which we can see how there are such different approaches to bringing up children. All the pictures are from blogs about family life in Japan. As these photos are not mine, I will, of course remove them should I need to.
Cultural differences such as this are in my hinterland. What’s in yours?