Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Gender and children’s book publishing

As someone who frequently gives training on boys’ reading, and sometimes courses on girls’ reading too, I’m fascinated by the current debate in the blogosphere about the gendered nature of children’s book publishing. Girls will be girls … or will they? is a thought-provoking blog post about gender-skewed children’s book packaging. Blogger Mrs H is infuriated by the ubiquity of gender stereotyped books. This has been a bone of contention for me too for a very long time, and sadly, I think the situation has worsended in recent years. I am sure gender-specific covers put both boys and girls off many books they would enjoy. I can just imagine how my daughter would have reacted as a child to all the pink and shiny books now to be seen in every bookshop and library. Certainly not positively. It’s well worth reading the comment stream on Mrs H’s blog and this interesting response from publisher Nosy Crow.

If you don’t know it, Princess Grace by Mary Hoffman is a great picture book which questions and subverts gender stereotypes. I’m not keen on the pink cover, but it’s there for a purpose. Robert Munsch’s The Paper Bag Princess has been a big favourite of mine for many years, for the same reason. Not that this debate is only about picture books or young readers. Regrettably, it  applies to lots of fiction for all ages, and to some information books too.