Attorney, former gymnast, and abuse survivor Rachael Denhollander wants to remind boys of their immeasurable worth in a new picture book, How Much Is a Little Boy Worth? (Tyndale, Feb. 8). Denhollander became a leading evangelical voice against sexual abuse after her eyewitness testimony helped lead to the conviction of former USA Gymnastics doctor and serial abuser Larry Nassar in 2018.
She wrote about her experiences, including why she decided to speak out publicly and testify against Nassar, who sexually assaulted her when she was 15, in the 2019 memoir, What Is a Girl Worth? Published simultaneously, the children’s book How Much Is a Little Girl Worth? featured a poem meant to teach young female readers to love themselves. Now, Denhollander is encouraging boys to look away from “man-made standards” for self-esteem in How Much Is a Little Boy Worth?
“Really, boys struggle with the same core issues of understanding their own value and identity, and learning to derive it from the right sources,” she tells PW.
Linda Howard, associate publisher at Tyndale Kids, agrees. “In a society where men are consistently told that their worth lies in their accomplishments and strength, this book reminds boys that their value isn’t earned by the things they do, it is a gift from their creator who has loved them from the beginning of time,” she says.
It was important for Denhollander to write a book for boys in order to expose social stigmas that can jeopardize their sense of self-worth and even silence victims of abuse. Additionally, How Much Is a Little Boy Worth? “takes a visible stand for male survivors of abuse in all forms,” she says. “Even during the Nassar trial, I felt the voices of male survivors was noticeably absent from discussion. So much suffering has been endured in silence, with deep social stigmas.”
Denhollander’s husband, Jacob Denhollander, co-authored the book. He explains: “We felt it was helpful and important to hear these truths coming from a male voice also, especially since there can be such a stigma around men discussing ‘emotional’ topics.”
He adds that How Much Is a Little Boy Worth? will serve the next generation of boys in a post-#MeToo world—the #MeToo movement caught global attention in 2017 and brought worldwide awareness to how widespread sexual harassment is.
“Culturally we are finally beginning to reckon with the reality of male abuse, and also the struggles boys and men have with low self-image,” Jacob tells PW. “And we have to grapple with the reality that when boys are not emotionally healthy and secure in their own value and identity, it can set the stage in adulthood for aggression or acting in damaging ways to others who are vulnerable.”
Rachael Denhollander helped spur momentum around #MeToo after coming forward with her accusations against Nassar. Hundreds of women followed with their stories, and the former physician was sentenced to up to 175 years in prison for criminal sexual conduct. Denhollander continues to work as a speaker, advocate, and educator to bridge “the gap between survivors and the society and institutions that may have failed them,” according to her website. Ultimately, the Denhollanders want How Much Is a Little Boy Worth? to start conversations between caregivers and young readers “about the ultimate questions we all wrestle with in life: Who am I? Where does my value come from? What defines me?,” Rachael says.
She adds: “And we hope that our little men everywhere will absorb the love, compassion, and strength that comes from knowing how deeply and securely they are loved and valued.”