Gender Specific Survival!

Survive Anything cover

How to Survive Anything: Girls Only
Stride, Geremia, and Jones

How to Survive Anything: Boys Only
Oliver and Ecob

Submitter: I came across these two gems in the non-fiction section. According to the covers, they should be mirror images of each other, right? Both girls and boys doing awesome things. Maybe some school survival stuff. Maybe some non-school-related survival stuff. But the contents of the book were quite a different story.

According to these books, here are things boys can survive:
-a shark attack
-a plane crash
-an earthquake
-whitewater rapids
-a swarm of bees

And here are things girls can survive:
-a bff fight
-a fashion disaster
-truth or dare

To be fair, both books have “how to survive a zombie attack.” But what is the point of these matching books? That girls shouldn’t (or couldn’t) know how to survive disaster situations? That boys don’t have to know how to pass a test? This baffles me.

Oh, an addendum: upon closer inspection, in the zombie survival chapter, the boys’ book suggests hitting the zombies with baseball bats, while the girls’ book encourages running away. Ugh.

Holly: Kids in the “cooties” stage (who hate all things about the other gender) go for girls only/boys only kinds of things. I am surprised, in 2012, that this is so blatantly sexist, though. What a missed opportunity, Scholastic. I do like the comic book layout, though, which is appealing to kids.

How to survive a fashion disaster

How to spot a frenemy

How to survive in a forest



  1. It sounds like the girls survival book has much more practical and useful information than
    the boys book. Survival in the forest would be useful for anyone (even though unlikely),
    but polar bears? Really?

    1. I’m going to have to agree with you there. The girls’ book seems to deal with everyday issues that young teenagers would face, but who are these boys the “boys'” book is aimed at? Why aren’t they in school? Who lets a young boy out onto the tundra?

      1. LOL! (Indeed the Tundra!) Really what these books do is instill that femininity (surviving proscribed weakness I call it), which keeps us placid. The silly examples in the boy’s book impress on him he must be masculine and forceful in the world. These are aimed at tweens ; the same time girls start to lose confidence and as studies show, starts to do less well in school generally. Setting us up to fail really.

    2. Some contrary views from me, without actually reading the books:

      It’s only a problem if you read both and expect to find the same content, and of course you’re not supposed to read both.

      There are different authors, although apparently the same designer and maybe editor. They took a different approach to the subject.

      Both books are about being confident dealing with difficult situations. But there is a difference of whether these situations are likely to happen. For instance, don’t boys ever have to customise their clothes? When they aren’t feeding them to a polar bear? (anecdotes from relationships, some are… I’ll say saucy) has a lot of cases of discussion of how to behave in the vampire apocalypse, but not an actual category. If he and she have different answers in this situation, from reading these books, well, they have something to discuss, and they find out whether they can make compromises.

      Mostly it’s about what if the couple are on opposite sides of the survivor vs. zombie fight when it happens.

  2. And what if you need to combine skills from the two books? If I was trying to survive in the forest, I’d want to know who my frenemies were. And has anyone checked if polar bears aren’t more likely to attack someone wearing a poor wardrobe choice?

  3. I find these kind of books a bit offensive. Thankfully, the girl’s book doesn’t use the typical comic book female to show what to do. Then it would be blatantly offensive.

  4. Really? It’s hard to believe Scholastic would publish books like this so recently! What to wear to a party? Does it go into details of how to turn that long drab skirt (that isn’t something the girl would own) into a mini-wrap skirt? Actually, a book showing that, along with putting on the studs or gems, and how to update t-shirts is a good idea. But, NOT under the “survival” name!

    1. It is a good idea, but given the rest of the book’s sexism, the “make your skirt shorter and tighter!” comes off (to me) as kind of icky here.

  5. Actually, I’ve heard the exact opposite about dealing with bears (not that I’m an expert on this). But I guess if you’re equating a “fashion disaster” with a polar bear confrontation, your perception of reality is rather skewed to begin with.

  6. I don’t like this at all! It seems rather dumbed down for it’s target audience, which I am guessing is teens – or- party going girls and Arctic camping boys. It trivializes REAL disasters by putting them in the same book and social disasters. Yes, teens can have a skewed view of reality, but do we need to encourage overly dramatic reactions to everyday life?

  7. Everything about this is offensive, but what pushed me over the edge wasthe zombie issue: that the two books suggested different solutions to the SAME problem! Aargh!
    I’d love to know how well (or poorly) these titles circulate.

  8. Well, when Rachel Buchholz put out her “How to Survive Anything” (non gender specific) in 2011, clearly Scholastic wanted to jump on the bandwagon, but couldn’t quite figure out how without looking like a copycat. Not sure this was the best solution.

  9. How about ‘How to Survive Gender Stereotyping’?

    Girls: ‘How to Survive a Broken Fingernail’

    Boys: ‘How to Survive Nuclear Armageddon’

    Interesting that those responsible for these books have decided that young female people live in a realistic, if catty, world. Young males just inhabit a fantasy one… But hang on, isn’t it young females that read fiction?

    (BTW: Polar bears are extremely aggressive and, alone amongst all animals, will go for humans. They don’t like being shot at. You carry a gun in the Arctic.)

  10. This is exactly why I did not purchase these books for my library, although the format and subject matter would appeal to my patrons. We have a few books like “Cool Science Experiments for Girls” which were purchased by my predecessor, but I stick with gender-neutral books or books that don’t stereotype like this. Sigh.

  11. I started writing a crass commentary, but I couldn’t get it sharp enough for my thoughts on these books.
    They are just horrible. Sigh!
    Had they been combined into a bigger book with all the tips for both genders it would be better. They could even be made as mirror copies and I would have liked it better.
    Girls: how to make your clothes cooler. Boys: how to make your clothes cooler”
    Zombies: well it depends on wether they are slow and shambling, or fast and hungry. Running is best, if you have to make a stand, aim for the head but keep your distance.
    Polar bears: nobody ever goes into polar bear areas without a gun! They are not scared of you. ever. You cannot run away. Your only chance is to have a gun – or a slower and fatter companion…
    Lost in the forest: happens to girls as well as boys, honestly

  12. We have both of these in my library, and we also have Rachel Buchholz’s non-gender-specific “How To Survive Anything.” The gener-specific ones have not circulated well at all. The non-gener-specific one, by Buchholz, has circulted pretty well. I guess these didn’t appeal to kids, either.

Comments are closed.