The question of safety came up early in a discussion about promoting my new book, Nightwanderers. Was it responsible, I asked my publicist and editor, to show teenage girl friends creeping from their bedrooms after dark, to wander their home turf in the moonlight?
It’s something I did as a teenager with one of the friends who inspired the character of Titania De Furia. She led me, breathless, through the deluxe garden of her rich neighbour, past his babbling rush of brook, and with cool, dewy air on our faces, we were giggling and tickled and free.
A 2011 Florida State University study found that just 7.5 percent of nearly 6,000 picture books published between 1900 and 2000 depict female animal protagonists; male animals were the central characters in more than 23 percent each year. (For books in which characters were not assigned a gender, researchers noted, parents reading to their children tended to assign one: male.) No more than 33 percent of children’s books in any given year featured an adult woman or female animal, but adult men and male animals appeared in 100 percent of the books.
My own nonscientific research suggests that not much has changed.
Long ago, I endured a disastrous book tour of America (just two children and a shopper taking the weight off her feet at one venue). I had less than an hour to myself in Chicago, but I ran to the Art Institute, determined to see its famous Seurat. I only managed a few minutes in front of it because I was waylaid by Renoir’s painting of two circus girls. I’ve never admired Renoir’s salmon-pink fleshy ladies, but I loved these girls in their white-and-gold costumes, collecting oranges as a tribute to their performance. There’s such an immediacy about the painting that it was a surprise to discover it was painted in Renoir’s studio. The real girls, Francisca and Angelina, were 17 and 14, but the girls in the painting seem much younger. I looked at this painting and decided to write about a Victorian circus girl one day. And now I’ve written five books about circus star Hetty Feather.
fro a big piece by Sarah Hughes in today’s Observer:
[Louise O’Neill’s Only Ever Yors] was shortlisted for both this year’s Waterstones children’s book prize and the Children’s Books Ireland book of the year and won the inaugural Young Adult book prize while the Irish Book Awards named O’Neill newcomer of the year. In the US it sold out on pre-order and was reprinted before its publication in May. Small wonder then that her publisher Quercus, convinced of the book’s crossover appeal, will bring out an adult edition on 2 July, an honour previously bestowed on the bestselling likes of JK Rowling and Suzanne Collins, author of The Hunger Games.
“I’m trying not to get too caught up in it all,” O’Neill says. “I’m really grateful that people understand the work and the message I’m trying to put across because I felt passionately that we needed to talk about the way in which we view women’s bodies. We spend our lives looking at images of 6ft tall, size six Victoria’s Secret models and our self-esteem and self-worth starts to dip.
Of the women I know, only three or four aren’t affected in some way by the idea they should look a certain way
“I’d say that of the women I know only three or four aren’t affected in some way by the idea that they should look a certain way. Many women make a correlation between moral worth and weight and I really wanted to explore that. I didn’t set out to write a young adult novel when I wrote Only Ever Yours but I was in a way writing for myself at 16.”
That willingness to tackle dark and difficult themes – her second novel, the brilliant, harrowing Asking For It, due out 3 September, is set in present day Ireland (O’Neill is from the small town of Clonakilty in Co Cork) and focuses on a rape at a party – has placed O’Neill at the forefront of a young adult publishing revolution. For it’s not just that young adult novels are among the most popular genre in publishing (and read by teenagers and adults of both sexes alike), it’s that increasingly they are tackling important issues with honesty, humour and a steely precision that other supposedly more serious novels frequently lack.
Robert Muchamore with interesting observations about gender and children’s publishing….
Speaking at the Hay Festival, in an event with author Sophie McKenzie, [Robert] Muchamore, the author of the best-selling Cherub series, said: “The longer I’ve been a writer, the more I’ve realised that actually girls and boys are more into the same things than they are into different things.
“There’s a lot of convention in children’s publishing – that if you write a book for a boy it’s got to be very simplistic, it’s got to have lots of action in it because all boys want to do is run around and bang their heads up against the wall because they’re lunatics.
“And if you write for a girl it’s got to be about make-up and lipstick and kissing boys and all that. And it’ s just not true.
“My books have got bits of all of that stuff in and what I actually find is that I get emails from boys who are really interested in who James’s girlfriend is going to be or what relationship he’s going to have in the next book; I get emails from girls who are interested in the action scenes.”
Gendered book covers are a large part of the problem.
Muchamore said: “I think there’s a lot of cliché, especially the way children’s books are packaged sometimes. You’ve got the pink girls’ books, and the boys’ books with a man running on the cover. I find it all a bit depressing really, because the longer I’ve written I find once you’ve got past the barrier of getting the boy or the girl to pick the book up and read it, what they actually like inside the books is actually much more the same. “
The number of children who enjoy reading for pleasure has increased but the gender gap between girls and boys has widened, according to a new report from the National Literacy Trust (NLT).
For this year’s ‘Children’s and Young People’s Reading’, an annual report into children’s reading habits, the NLT surveyed young people aged eight to 18 in the UK in November and December 2014.
During that period, 54.4% of children and young people said they enjoyed reading very much or quite a lot, compared to 53.3% in 2013. Last year there was also an increase in the number of those who read daily outside school (41.4%, up from 32.2% in 2013).
The NLT asked participants about what types of reading the children did, dividing it into categories such as fiction, websites, text messages, song lyrics and e-books, and 46.7% said they read fiction outside the class. All formats had grown in popularity apart from magazines, which were read by 48.7% of children, compared to 52.7% in 2013.
However, the survey also showed that the gap between the number of girls who read compared to boys is wider than before, as 61.6% of girls said they enjoyed reading either very much or quite a lot compared with 47.2% of boys.
The gap rose from a 12.7 percentage point difference in 2013 to a 14.4 percentage point difference in 2014 because more girls said they enjoyed reading, while the number of boys who said the same thing remained static.
American writer Shannon Hale on the issue of segregating girls from boys on author visits.
I’d be interested to hear from UK authors as to how often / if ever this happens to them:
“The administration only gave permission to the middle school girls to leave class for your assembly. I have a boy student who is a huge fan of SPIRIT ANIMALS. I got special permission for him to come, but he was too embarrassed.”
"Because the administration had already shown that they believed my presentation would only be for girls?"
"Yes," she said.
I tried not to explode in front of the children.
After the presentation, I signed books for the students who had pre-ordered my books (all girls), but one 3rd grade boy hung around.
“Did you want to ask her a question?” a teacher asked.
“Yes,” he said nervously, “but not now. I’ll wait till everyone is gone.”
Once the other students were gone, three adults still remained. He was still clearly uncomfortable that we weren’t alone but his question was also clearly important to him. So he leaned forward and whispered in my ear, “Do you have a copy of the black princess book?”
It broke my heart that he felt he had to whisper the question.
So you know that teenage girl you need to buy a present for will already have Zoe Sugg’s novel Girl Online – what else can you consider?
She may very well have this book as well, but then again she might not. It came out in the Spring, and received a fair bit of media attention, but nothing like the amount of attention and hype that Girl Online has had. Steven Spielberg has apparently snapped up the movie rights, so he sees cinematic potential in the story told in Popular’s pages.
It is not a novel, rather a diary-style account of an American teenager’s rather clever plan of trying to lead her life according to advice set out in Betty Cornell’s Teenage Popularity Guide from the 1950s.
Betty Cornell herself writes, in a short Introduction, to the teenager’s memoir:
Maya Van Wagenen told me that I had changed her life. She had used my book for tops and hints on how to deal with the challenges she was facing in school. Remarkably she used advice I wrote decades ago and applied it in today’s world. I was so delighted that my book had withstood the test of time and was still providing help to teenagers.
When I finished reading Maya’s book… I felt a cascade of feelings: pride, love, satisfaction, and happy memories. It amazed me to see Maya tell her tale with such knowledge,m poise and grace.
It looks diverting and thought-provoking at the very least.
As reported in The Bookseller:
Penguin Random House’s Ladybird imprint will no longer publish books labelled “for boys” and “for girls”, in response to a campaign by Let Toys Be Toys.
Ladybird has previously published books such as Ladybird Favourite Fairy Tales for Girls and Ladybird Favourite Stories for Boys.
Alice Vincent, an avid reader, is dismayed by the growing trend for gender-specific books…
That demystifier of puberty, the school library book that had a waiting list for curious year 4s, Growing Up, has been renamed and rebranded to become What’s Happening To Me – pink, naturally, for girls, blue for boys. Why are we reducing the access of biological knowledge to pre-teens? Surely the more they know, the better.
Usborne is responsible for that shift change, but they are one of the publishers, along with Parragon Books, who have decided to call time on publishing further gender-specific titles after empowered parents rallied to the Let Books Be Books campaign.