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Buster Books, the children’s imprint of Michael O’Mara Books, is one of the biggest publishers of gender-labelled children’s titles, including ‘The Big Brilliant Colouring Book for Boys’ and the ‘Big Beautiful Colouring Book for Girls’. We wrote to Michael O’Mara to explain why it’s time to Let Books Be Books, but we haven’t yet had a reply.
Michael O’Mara responded to the launch of the Let Books Be Books campaign in a comment to the Independent back in March, saying that gender-specific titles are ‘easier to sell’. We don’t think profits justify telling children what they should or shouldn’t like. Read more…
Igloo Books are among the biggest publishers of gender-labelled children’s books in the UK, with titles like ‘2001 Pretty Stickers for Girls’ and or the Story Time Treasury: ‘Stories for Boys’ containing “classic adventures, from Aladdin to Jack and the Beanstalk” (shame these are off limits for girls)… We wrote to them back in May, but we’re still waiting for a reply.
Since we launched the Let Books Be Books campaign in March we’ve seen major publishers confirm that they will no longer publish titles labelled ‘for girls’ or ‘for boys’. So who’s still holding out for gendered marketing, and where next for the campaign?
We’re really pleased that high-street stationer Paperchase has announced it will be withdrawing its ‘Boys Activity Pad’ and ‘Girls Activity Pad’ sets following the summer sale, following customer feedback. Read more…
We’re really happy that award-winning children’s publisher Usborne Books have confirmed to us their decision to stop producing books with ‘for girls’ or ‘for boys’ in the title.
Usborne were the first publisher to respond positively to the #LetBooksBeBooks campaign, telling Guardian Books on 7 March that they took feedback on the gender-specific titles very seriously, and had no plans to produce any new gender-specific titles. Read more…
- "When I was a kid I devoured comics.The Beano, Dandy, Nutty, Whizzer and Chips, Beezer, Buster - basically anything funny I could get my hands on. The Beano was always my top read, filled with such favourites as Dennis the Menace and Roger the Dodger. However, The first strip I always turned to was Minnie the Minx. It never even occurred to me that I was reading about a girl! She was the funniest and, most of the time, the naughtiest. (Sorry Dennis, please don't set Gnasher on me!)This year I started writing for the Beano. My first strip was a Minnie and I couldn't have been happier. To me, Minnie is the Beano. Always was, always will be!" Children's and YA author, Cavan Scott
- "M loves his Peppa Pig books. His favourite character is Suzy Sheep."
- "As a child, I thought she was called 'Alison Wonderland' and I loved her adventures. It never even occurred to me that we weren't the same gender. Now, as a writer, I see that Alice is the first great character of children's literature: an iconic heroine who transcends gender, age and time. Every book I write owes her a debt." Author, SF Said
- "I love Daisy because she is so funny. She does silly things and always says it isn't her fault"
- "The Hunger Games is a brilliant book - a thrilling, thought-provoking story that grabs you from the first page. It makes you angry about injustice, stupidity and cruelty. And Katniss is the sort of hero we can all look up to." Children’s author and poet, John Dougherty
- "P loves reading about Sophie and all of the mischief and adventures she gets up to. Best of all she is also 7, just like him!"
- "When I was growing up, lots of my favourite characters were girls - Pippi Longstocking, Marmalade Atkins, Dorothy Gale, the Blackett Sisters. The book I'm reading here is called 'Travel Light', its about a little girl who's brought up by dragons before going out to explore the real world. It's a bit like 'The Hobbit', only backwards, and it's completely great." Author, Tom Huddleston
- "Since childhood I have loved Little My from Tove Jansson's Moomin books. She is subversive, dangerous, wise, and unlike any other character I can think of anywhere." Author, Illustrator, and TV Director, Joel Stewart
- reading Sophie's complete adventures on a long ferry trip to Spain
- "In childhood, it's heros like Matilda that really matter. She's only five years old but, by using her intelligence and imagination, takes on the formidable Miss Trunchbull and wins." Simon, London.
- 5yo Joe (who doesn't stay still!) loves Clarice Bean
- "As a boy I loved adventure books like C.S Lewis's The Silver Chair. Jill is the main character and she travels across the Wildlands on a mission to rescue Prince Caspian" Alan, Durham.
- "I always enjoyed getting Milly Molly Mandy books from my local library when I was a child. I never thought of them as 'girls' books." Barry, London.
- “September’s an amazing role model for all ages and genders, especially since she’s not tied down by stereotypes. She’s a fantastic character with a uniquely cynical personality"
Children’s publishers often say that boys won’t read about girls. We think it’s plain daft to think that boys aren’t capable of empathising with half the planet’s population, and irresponsible to market books in a way that suggests they’re not meant to.
We asked a few boys (and former boys!) to tell us about books that they love featuring girls. Read more…
Our friends at Letterbox Library have picked out some great books that offer an alternative to fighting and snot vs fairies and cupcakes. Which books do you love that show boys exploring their emotional side, or girls making their mark?
At Letterbox Library all our books are chosen by a team of volunteer reviewers: teachers and parents and children. We know that followers of Let Toys Be Toys will have their favourites so we’ve tried to introduce some lesser-known titles into the mix. (Ages are guidelines only) Read more…
Let Toys Be Toys campaigner Tessa Trabue reflects on what her son loves to read, and asks, if it’s true that many boys won’t read about girls, where are they getting the idea that they shouldn’t? Read more…
Fen and Kerry of stereotype-busting children’s booksellers, Letterbox Library, take a look at the gendered world of reading, and ask, why are publishers so keen to tell children which sort of stories are for them?
Flick through pretty much any publisher’s catalogue these days, or search using the same publisher’s website and you will most likely be hit by a collection of books which have been so gender-specifically packaged that they even include the words ‘for girls’ or ‘for boys’ in the title. Read more…