Further to the heated publishing debate about whether children’s books should be made gender neutral, as discussed in The Bookseller following the heated campaign Let Toys Be Toys, we express our support for a move to stop designating books as either for girls or boys.
At such a young and impressionable age, we shouldn’t be pushing children into unnecessary categories.
Gender is not a fact of life. Females aren’t born with an innate preference for horses, glitter and fairies. Nor do males have a congenital predisposition to playing with dragons and rockets. Yes, many parents may shop for gender specific titles. But as agents and editors, we are at the core of making these reading options available. Do we really want to reinforce what is “acceptable” to read? What makes a child a proper girl or a proper boy? Or do we want to inspire their imagination and encourage them to read anything and everything that they enjoy?
We must allow children to gravitate towards whatever books they want to read, without labeling it and thereby imposing unnecessary restrictions or taboos. There will be girls who read about sports cars, and boys who read about ponies – so make this mainstream, not closeted reading that can target bullying.
Books aren’t “gender specific”, but how they are marketed is. As an agent, I am always on the lookout for books that, regardless of the theme or the gender of the protagonist, appeal to a wide range of children. We are currently at auction in countries all over the world with the middle grade book, Anyone But Ivy Pocket by Caleb Krisp so, internationally speaking, ‘gender neutral’ books have far wider appeal. We’ve had great success with other gender neutral titles by our authors: C.J. Daugherty, Lara Williamson, Rupert Wallis, Holly Bourne and Dave Lowe.
Read the Bookseller article, “Children’s book trade: gendered titles ‘limiting'”, to see how other agents and publishers have responded to the debate on on gendering children’s titles.