Yesterday, the Independent on Sunday published an editorial stating that the U.K. newspaper will no longer review gender-specific children’s books.
Literary editor Katy Guest writes, “I promise now that the newspaper and this website will not be reviewing any book which is explicitly aimed at just girls, or just boys “¦ Any Girls’ Book of Boring Princesses that crosses my desk will go straight into the recycling pile along with every Great Big Book of Snot for Boys.”
The editorial was in response to Let Books Be Books, a parent-led campaign and petition asking “children’s publishers to take the “˜Boys’ and “˜Girls’ labels off books.”
Guest joined the campaign alongside Parragon Books, a publishing house that sells Disney titles, and Usborne Books, the 2014 Independent Publishers Guild publisher of the year. The two companies agreed to cease marketing books specifically titled for boys or girls.
In the editorial, Guest cites frustration with Buster Books owner Michael O’Mara, who claims that gender-specific books are easier to sell. O’Mara points to Amazon analytics to suggest that gender-directed shopping trends are “a fact of life.” Guest responded by calling Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games series a successful example of gender-neutral book marketing, noting that its heroine, Katniss Everdeen, offers a role model for girls that is not “passive, domestic and in front of a mirror.”
The U.K. children’s laureate Malorie Blackman, poet laureate Carol-Ann Duffy, and His Dark Materials author Philip Pullman have also announced support for Let Books Be Books. Retailer Waterstones has joined the charge with a promise to avoid gender-specific book displays.