I sell a lot of children's books and am always depressed by how the design of book covers seems to promote gender division. The problem is less acute with babies and toddlers - there are many excellent illustrators who appeal equally to both sexes, such as Oliver Jeffers, Quentin Blake, Helen Oxenbury, John Burningham, Mini Grey - to name just a few of the outstanding ones. Perhaps toddlers are seen as unisex, a bit like teletubbies. Along with the unisex books, however, there are pirate covers - black, red, yellow predominate - and princessy covers, where pink rules and there is sometimes even glitter. By the 'young reader' stage, books for 4-8 year olds, most books can be neatly divided into 'boys' - bright colours, cartoony style often featuring monstrous fish or dinosaurs with vast teeth and lots of action, all by male authors - and various shades of lurid pink or pastel for girls, adorned with princesses, fairies or, my least favourite, small animals with very large eyes. The older range, for 7-12, are usually even more divisive. By then, anything aimed at boys is written by a man. Why 'JK' Rowling? 'L' Pichon? Because if they were Joanna and Liz it would affect sales.
What message does this give boys? That in order to preserve their masculinity they must avoid reading something by a woman? That women have nothing of interest to say to them? I am always saddened that the excellent Magyk series by Angie Sage doesn't sell more - and The Magic Thief, by Sarah Prineas - and I'm sure that if they were by 'A.L' Sage and 'S' Prineas there would be more sales. Unisex books for this age group are in fact plentiful - Michael Morpurgo, Liz Pichon, Jeff Kinney. Of those, only Liz uses initials to disguise her sex.
I have one boy and five girls, and as the third child he simply read whatever was lying around. I have a photo of him aged around ten, deeply and happily engrossed in a Jacqueline Wilson. I feel sad when I think of the many excellent books that will rarely be read by boys - and of the many girls who will leave Anthony Horowitz for their brothers. The publishing industry should catch up with the rest of us.
Welcome to The Woodstock Bookshop
The shop opened in May 2008 and is on the main road in Woodstock, just next to the bus stop. We can supply most books to order by the next day and have several thousand books in stock: to order books ring or email the shop. We have a large selection of children's books and are happy to advise and recommend. We can also supply second-hand and out-of-print titles. We offer discounts for school orders and for book clubs and have a free local delivery service.
We were on the regional shortlist for Independent Bookshop of the Year in 2009, 2013 and 2017, and listed in the recent Independent's Top 50 UK Bookshops.
Two monthly book groups take place at the bookshop - a poetry group, initially formed to read collections submitted for the annual T S Eliot Prize and now following a slightly wider brief; and a book group focusing more on fiction. Both are open to everyone but occasionally space is limited - please contact us for details.
We hold a series of informal talks and readings throughout the year. If you buy any book at the talk the cost of the ticket will be deducted. Please ring or email to book a place - early booking advisable.
The Woodstock Literature Society also holds an excellent series of monthly talks - do visit their website for further details.