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NCFM PR Director Steven Svoboda book review of Kenneth T. Jolivet’s new series of books for children. Three Cheers!

September 11, 2021

Brilliant Bob is Brave, Brilliant Bob is Competitive, Brilliant Bob is Strong, Brilliant Bob is Curious, Brilliant Bob Takes a Risk!, Brilliant Bob is Stoic, and Brilliant Bob is Persistent. By Kenneth T. Jolivet. Illustrated by Renata Christine. Norfolk, Virginia: Brilliant Bob Publishing, 2021. 44 pages each. $9.99 each. Review by J. Steven Svoboda.

Retired Air Force officer Kenneth T. Jolivet, a holder of four academic degrees, and author of Society Kills Men, Love, Marriage, and Divorce, and What Men Want Women to Know: 100 Revelations (all three of which received rave reviews from this reviewer), has done it again. But this time, with a twist.

Jolivet is writing kids’ books now. And why not? If I think of the many hundreds of men’s books I have considered reviewing since 1996, as well as of the over 200 of which I have in fact published a review, I ask myself if any of them has been a kids’ book. Certainly not many have been.

Steven SvobodaJolivet is being smart here. First, men’s rights authors often write their books because they are (understandably of course) angry or at least disturbed by injustices they have seen or experienced themselves involving anti-male discrimination. Somehow children’s books work at right angles to those sorts of feelings, as it were, cutting through such “adult” considerations and meeting a child on his or her own level.

Secondly, it seems fashionable these days to hate men, or at least not to like them, and seemingly that holds all the more true for those men that don’t partially redeem themselves by hailing from favored racial or sexual minority groups.

BUT (THANKFULLY): This hate is not as much of an issue for boys. Sure, boys become men eventually, but there seems to be a limited time period when some male beings on this planet maybe aren’t thought of as all that bad. And Jolivet is exploiting this limited opening the world seems to be allowing us by writing books directed to boys ages four and up.

Not only that, the author is putting front and center the possibly (to some adults) “surprising” concept that masculinity is good! Moreover, Jolivet names, in the titles of his seven children’s books, seven different positive qualities, each of them the focus of one of the books: bravery, competitiveness, strength, curiosity, risk-taking, stoicism, and persistence.

Sometimes the simple ideas really are the best. Here is another one: The names of the books’ boy characters each include a positive adjective: Brilliant Bob, Dazzling Dave, Genius George, and Superboy Sam.

It so happened I read the books out of order and started with the stoicism book, in which the four boys and Brilliant Bob’s father go camping. Right off the bat, I was charmed by the positive retelling of an awesome setup process by the five of breakfast and of their group tent. The reader learns in an organic way as the story evolves about the benefits provided by a traditional masculine feature, stoicism. The five get lost hiking and can’t find their way back to their campsite but work together as a team to survive the night without too much trouble and more to the point, to enjoy themselves while doing it. “Of course it’s scary but there’s no time for fear now.” The moral we can draw from this, as the author phrases it, is “Being stoic is cool.”

The book on persistence shows the boys working together to master two tasks—learning to ride their bicycles for a whole block while doing a wheelie, and mastering their multiplication tables. They boys do eventually succeed at both tasks.

Fathers are prominent in these books and important to them but mothers are not at all left out either. Positive role models are provided by both parents.

In the curiosity book, the boys rescue a bicycle they find in the trash (after asking the family to confirm the bike was in fact being discarded) and then upgrade it by adding new parts salvaged from a junkyard. The lessons offered by this book on the benefits of curiosity are so wonderful that I’m going to reproduce them in full: “…Curiosity helps you learn things…. Destruction is a part of curiosity and learning about something. Taking your time on a project, instead of rushing, helps you do things the right way. Most projects need a step-by-step process, and it’s okay to make mistakes along the way. Mistakes are great teachers… Because you learn not to repeat them!”

The book on risk delves into one easy yet relatively rarely exploited way to make schools more male-friendly to young boys: “Running around helped them focus better when they got back to class.” Also a few wise statements about risk are woven into the story: “Just about everything in life is risky, though some things are riskier than others.” One boy experiences a painful belly flop while trying to make his school’s diving team, but realizes that “this was the price he had to pay to succeed,” following which he manages to execute an awesome dive. The most important lesson about risk may be one boy’s conclusion that, “It would have hurt more if he hadn’t taken the risks.”

Finally, the book on competitiveness offers a wise lesson to boys each of whom “had already been told a few times that being competitive wasn’t a good thing”: “Everyone receiving the same prize didn’t feel good.” How many of us have been wrongly and repeatedly told that the usually male virtue of competitiveness is not good?

If Kenneth Jolivet’s kids’ books tell stories of a world of great role models provided by both mothers and fathers, and of a world in which the very names of the boys carry praise, can we work, using these books as a guide, to bring that world a little closer to reality? The author is helping us get there, and in doing so, this ex-military man (thank you for your service) may be doing his greatest service yet for the country and for the world. Three cheers.

national coalition for men

NCFM PR Director Steven Svoboda book review of Kenneth T. Jolivet’s new series of books for children. Three Cheers!

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2 Responses to NCFM PR Director Steven Svoboda book review of Kenneth T. Jolivet’s new series of books for children. Three Cheers!

  1. Robin Stevens on October 3, 2021 at 1:44 PM

    I requested that my local library purchase some or all of the Brilliant Bob Series. They replied that they would be unable to do this because “it is not available through our vendors.” I suspect that this excuse may be bogus, and perhaps the library just did not want anything to do with these masculine-positive books. I considered purchasing the books myself and donating them to the library, but when I have donated male-positive items in the past, they have shortly disappeared. One book disappeared within a day, which makes me think a librarian probably removed it from the shelf and threw it away. So much for the library’s goal of freedom of access to information.

    • NCFM on October 4, 2021 at 2:11 PM

      What’s the name of the library, librarian, city and state. Address would be helpful.

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