Girls will no longer be defined as “glamorous” and “gorgeous” while boys get to be “amazing” and “brilliant” at Buster Books, after the children’s publisher announced that all its future books will be gender neutral.
Part of the independent press Michael O’Mara, Buster publishes titles ranging from The Gorgeous Girls’ Colouring Book and The Brilliant Boys’ Colouring Book to The Girls’ Book of Glamour: A Guide to Being A Goddess and The Boys’ Book of Adventure: Are You Ready to Face the Challenge?
Related: Parents push to end gender division of boys’ and girls’ books
The publisher has long been a target of the campaigning group Let Books Be Books, a group of parents who have worked since 2014 to persuade publishers that gendered books “send out very limiting messages to children”, as “blue covers, with themes of action and adventure, robots, space, trucks and pirates contrast with a riot of pink sparkles, fairies, princesses, flowers and butterflies”.
With the campaign supported by authors including Joanne Harris and Neil Gaiman, nine publishers including Ladybird and Usborne had already agreed to drop gendered book titles. But Buster Books, whose owner Michael O’Mara told the Guardian in 2014 that “when you have a colouring book which is specifically for a boy or a girl, it sells three times as many copies as one without the sexual categorisation”, had held out.
On Wednesday, however, it announced on Twitter that “our publishing aim is to make sure that, going forward, all titles are gender neutral”. It declined to comment further.
Campaigner Tessa Trabue called the change of heart “really big news”. “Buster has one of the highest number of gendered books – we came up with over 70 gendered titles just this morning. So many of their titles just have stereotypes implicit in them,” she said, congratulating the publisher on “putting the interests of children before profit”.
Igloo Books, which Let Books Be Books says is one of the biggest publishers of gendered books for boys and girls in the UK, has yet to commit to neutral titles. Books listed on its website currently range from 2001 Pretty Stickers for Girls to 2001 Awesome Stickers for Boys. Trabue said Let Books Be Books had “no response at all from Igloo Books to our petition, emails or tweets” during two years of campaigning.
CEO of IglooBooks John Styring told the Guardian: “At IglooBooks we make our publishing decisions based on the requirements of our consumers and customers – I don’t believe it’s our call to make decisions on their behalf.”
Children’s authors also welcomed the news. Writer John Dougherty, chair of the Society of Authors’ children’s writers and illustrators group, said he was “absolutely delighted to hear that Buster Books has committed to taking a stand in favour of genuine choice for children”, because “the idea of ‘books for boys’ or ‘books for girls’ has become a pernicious way of reinforcing harmful gender stereotypes from an early age”.
Author SF Said tweeted : “Children’s books are books for everyone. They cross all categories & boundaries. That’s why I read them & why I write them! #LetBooksBeBooks.”
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