Bowing to pressure from an “anti-gendered” toy campaign, London children’s book publisher Ladybird has announced it will be removing all “gendered titles” from its range, bringing an end to books like Favourite Fairy Stories for Girls, but a popular author has hit back, calling the move “po-faced and stale”.
Let Toys be Toys targeted a number of publishing houses after expanding the remit of their campaign from children’s toys to books, objecting to the use of colours like pink and blue, and specifically targeting products at girls or boys. After Dorling Kindersley, Miles Kelly Books and Chad Valley agreed to accede to the campaign’s demands earlier in the month, Ladybird, which is a division of Penguin, has today followed suit.
In a statement published on the Let Toys be Toys website, Ladybird responded to the specific criticism levelled at them by the campaign: “Should any of the titles you mention be reprinted for the trade we will be removing this labelling. At Ladybird we certainly don’t want to be seen to be limiting children in any way.”
The Dangerous Book For Boys, the international number-one “smash best-seller” which sold half a million copies after it was published in 2006 is repeatedly referred to in press coverage about the campaign, which is today celebrating a victory after ending the sale of the Ladybird Favourite Stories for Boys. Describing itself as “The perfect book for every boy from eight to eighty”, the Dangerous Book includes instructions for hunting and cooking rabbit, how to talk to girls without being discourteous, and tying useful knots.
Speaking to Breitbart London, author of the Dangerous Book For Boys Hal Iggulden said the move was: “Regrettably on message with the politics of the day,” but ultimately flew in the face of what actual parents and children wanted from of their books and toys. Iggulden’s own best-selling title and others it inspired, such as the Daring Book For Girls may reinforce the point.
Iggulden said: “For Ladybird to give up these titles is unfortunate, and they are doing nothing more than pandering to a vocal pressure group. The vast majority of boys want to read boy things, and girls want to read girl things. Gender neutrality is a ridiculous theoretical concept; gendered books don’t hurt children or restrict their development.
“The dangerous book was a humorous throwback to past times, when children were more active and didn’t live indoors on games consoles. This campaign is a po-faced, stale reaction.”
With so many children’s book publishers now signed up to the campaign, dissenters against the march to de-gender children are becoming less common. At least one publisher has risked a publicity storm by rejecting the aims of Let Toys be Toys, though. The Guardian newspaper reports the comments of Michael O’Mara, owner of Buster Books who said: “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.
“These days an awful lot of books are sold on Amazon, and when people search for a present to buy, they’ll type in ‘present for boy’ and will get a whole bunch of books with the word boy in the title. That’s one of the main reasons publishers put boy or girl there.”