I’ve set up this blog because I want to start a debate about gender bias in picture books.

I believe that the scarcity of male gatekeepers in the picture book industry is resulting in its output reflecting boys’ tastes less than girls’ and that this bias is exacerbating the gender gap in boys' and girls' reading abilities.

My argument, based on my experience as both an author and a parent, is set out in the three essays below.

scroll down further for blog posts


cool not cute: what boys really want from picture books

This two-part essay contains my main argument.

Part 1: The Uneven Playing Field argues that the lack of gender-balance among publishers, teachers, librarians and picture-book-buyers is making picture books more appealing to girls than boys.

Part 2: What Boys Really Want from Picture Books lists some of the boy-friendly ingredients missing from most picture books and suggests ways to gender-balance picture book appeal.

Click here to view/download a pdf of COOL not CUTE Click here to view/download an Executive Summary of the essay


nature and nurture: boys will be boys

This essay looks at some of the scientific evidence that suggests that BOTH nature and nurture are responsible for sex differences in children's preferences.

Click here to view/download a pdf of NATURE and NURTURE


fighters and fashionistas: the spectre of stereotyping

This essay addresses concerns about gender stereotyping which may arise from the assertion that some preferences are boy or girl-typical.

Click here to view/download a pdf of FIGHTERS and FASHIONISTAS


Errata: As well as correcting typographical errors, I've made some corrections to factual errors in the articles above since they were published, which are listed here.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Some words of support

I was heartened by Jon Scieszka's comments
on the Playing by the book blog.
It’s been a couple of months since I last posted on this blog. In my last post I wrote that I was “arguing for gender-balance and against gender domination by either sex.” With this in mind, I’m planning a future post about the pro-male bias in picture book protagonists which, as I’ve previously acknowledged, is an issue that needs addressing as much as the pro-female bias in other aspects of picture book content.

In the meantime, having focused on the critical responses to my call for gender balance in my last two posts, I wanted to highlight a few of the more supportive responses.

I’ve commented before that many people within the world of children’s literature are reluctant to speak publicly about a possible pro-female gender bias in picture book content. Some of the vitriolic responses my arguments have provoked in the last few months make this all the more understandable. In the week after The Times article was published, I received the following comment in an email from a picture book editor:
"This is such an interesting debate. I think you have raised so many good points, which makes it frustrating that so many people – the media, authors on twitter – seem to jump to such extreme or polarised positions on the matter. It would be great to be able to have a sensible, more nuanced discussion about it all without people ‘shouting’ so much! The points you have raised really deserve to be discussed properly."
And, as I mentioned in my last post, another of my editors, Liza Miller, voiced her support publicly on her blog, for which I’m extremely grateful.

The blog post that provoked the media interest focussed on the lack of gender-balance in children's book reviewing, so I was also grateful to Spectator reviewer Melanie McDonagh for beginning her summer round-up with some words of support. And – although he didn't take sides  – I’d also like to thank publishing journalist Porter Anderson for taking the time to understand my argument and outline it accurately and objectively in this article for Publishing Perspectives.

US novelist Elizabeth Spann Craig (who writes for adults) wrote a blog post acknowledging that my observations about gender bias in picture book content reflected her own experience of trying to find books that appealed to her son, commenting that it was "much, much easier" finding books that her daughter enjoyed. However, apart from a few comments on Twitter, the children’s authors and illustrators that expressed their support for my arguments have, until now, done so privately.

So I was heartened to read the comments of US author Jon Scieszka on Zoe Toft’s Playing by the book blog yesterday. As well as writing numerous children's books, Jon is a former National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature (the US equivalent to the UK’s Children’s Laureate) and the founder of the Guys Read literacy programme. Zoe asked Jon several questions relating to boys' literacy, including this one about the arguments I've made on this blog:
Zoe: Recently there was a lot of debate and even anger here in the UK about the gendered marketing of books, a debate sparked by the author Jonathan Emmett, who argues that the UK “picture book industry reflects girls’ tastes more than it does boys’ and that this bias is exacerbating the gender gap between boys’ and girls’ reading abilities.”

To what extent do you think the same could be said for the US market?
Jon Scieszka: I think Jonathan Emmett made a very thoughtful, considered, statistical, and careful presentation about the realities of children’s publishing. The statistics and challenges he mentions for the UK are very much the same in the US. Here elementary school teachers, librarians, children’s booksellers, and children’s book prize committee members are mostly women. It is not unreasonable to wonder if this gender inequality might influence what is produced and bought and awarded in children’s books.
And I think the anger this question provokes is more about gender inequality in the wider world at large than just about kids’ books.
It’s well worth reading the full interview over on Zoe’s blog.


Friday, 11 July 2014

Another commentator who seems to think they know my views better than I do

I wrote a post back in April in response to some of the articles and blog posts I’d seen rejecting my call for more gender-balance in the world of picture book publishing and in picture book reviewing in particular. I commented then that some of my critics devoted their time to attacking “straw men” misrepresentations of my arguments rather than attempting to address my actual views. I also noted that none of these critics attempted to answer the question posed by the post that prompted the media interest - why should gender-balance be important to adult book reviewing, but irrelevant to children’s book reviewing?

Lefa Singleton Norton wrote a comment piece along similar lines for the news section of Australian broadcaster SBS’s web site today. I don’t respond to every such piece, but this time I took the bait and wrote a response in the comment section which I’ve also posted below. The first four paragraphs will be familiar to those who’ve read my recent posts, but I’ve made some new points in the subsequent paragraphs, which I thought were worth sharing on this blog.



There are so many wrongful assumptions and misrepresentations of my argument in this piece that I hardly know where to start. I’m not at all “put out” by the failure of men “to dominate the modern publishing industry.” I’m arguing for gender-balance and against gender domination by either sex.

On page 12 of my COOL not CUTE essay I wrote this:
"I’d like to stress that I don’t believe that men are any more suited than women to these gatekeeper roles. If anything I think men are generally less suited, for reasons I’ve outlined in my separate article, NATURE and NURTURE. Individuals of both sexes inevitably bring some degree of subjectivity to their selection of reading material; it’s simply that male gatekeepers would generally bring a more boy-centred subjectivity."
I think we need more men in gatekeeper roles in UK picture book publishing, for exactly the same reason that I think we need more women in the UK Parliament and in the UK judiciary - because these groups ought to represent and serve both sexes equally!

I’ve always acknowledged that men are to blame for this problem. Here’s the penultimate paragraph from the conclusion of my COOL not CUTE essay:
"Over the 17 years I’ve been working in the industry, I’ve met hundreds of wonderful people in schools, libraries and publishing houses who are doing their utmost to engage children of both sexes in reading picture books; many of them do so on a voluntary basis. The overwhelming majority of these “wonderful people” have been women. As I said earlier, outside of writing and illustrating, few men seem to want to be involved with picture books. So let me make this clear — if one demographic group is chiefly to blame for the state of affairs I’ve outlined, it is adult men, for failing to take sufficient interest in what young children are reading."
So, yes, men are to blame for the problem, but does most men’s lack of engagement with the problem justify turning a blind eye to it? As Mary Curnock Cook, the head of UK’s Universities and Colleges Admissions Service commented recently, if we want a gender-balanced society, we need to encourage men to get involved in areas traditionally dominated by women just as much as we need to encourage women to get involved in areas traditionally dominated by men.

VIDA's gender analysis of US
Children's Book Awards.
Female authors are shown in BLUE,
male authors in RED.
Singleton Norton’s article mentions my efforts to get the judging of the Carnegie and Greenaway Medals, the UK’s “oldest and most prestigious children's book awards”, judged by a gender-balanced panel. Although the awards are given to books for children of both sexes, for the last two years all 13 judges on the panel have been female. I suspect that Singleton Norton would be less dismissive of my argument if I was calling for more gender-balance in an all-male judging panel. She cites VIDA’s “comprehensive list of awards” as demonstrating that “men dominate the charts and the top prizes”. If you scroll down to the bottom of the page on the VIDA site you can see a set of pie charts showing the gender balance of US children’s book awards. Women are shown in BLUE and men in RED. I can’t help wondering if Singleton Norton has got these two colours confused as the dominant colour in these charts seems to be blue (female).

Yes, there is a gender-balance problem with picture book protagonists, with male protagonists outnumbering females. I confess that I was not aware of the scale of the problem when I wrote the COOL not CUTE essay and, with the benefit of hindsight, it’s probably the one “missing ingredient” listed in the essay that I would omit if I were writing it today. One of the people who brought the protagonists issue to my attention is Liza Miller who wrote a dissertation on the subject and has since become my editor at Walker Books. The under-representation of female characters is clearly an issue that needs addressing, however I don’t think a bias towards male protagonists can be taken to demonstrate a pro-male bias across picture book content as a whole. While I’m sure we might not agree on every detail, Liza and I don’t see our two arguments as being in conflict; we both believe the world of picture books would benefit from being more gender-balanced, both in protagonists AND in gatekeeper roles. Singleton Norton is not the only commentator to rubbish my call for gender-balance and I’m indebted to Liza for voicing her support for my argument in this post on her blog.

Singleton Norton concludes her piece with the claim that my “belief that profits and sales shouldn’t come before gender equality only applies to the one very narrow count where women are statistically overrepresented.” Singleton Norton knows nothing of my wider opinions, so on what evidence is this claim based? Her argument seems to be more rooted in ideology and assumption than evidence.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

UKLA Conference Seminar


I’m presenting a COOL not CUTE seminar at this year’s UKLA International Conference which is being held at the University of Sussex from Friday 4th to Sunday 6th July.

My seminar is on Saturday 5th July at 14:00 in room 135 (session I7) . The session is only 40 minutes long, so I’m setting gender issues aside and just focusing on the differences in content between picture books and other children’s media which I think are helping to drive many children away from books at an early age.

Here’s the outline for my session from the conference brochure:

COOL not CUTE: How picture books can compete more effectively with other children’s media 

The National Literacy Trust’s ‘Children's and Young People's Reading in 2012’ report (published October 2013) shows that a growing number of children see reading as an ‘uncool’ activity,“are increasingly embarrassed to be seen reading” and are spending less of their own time with books. Conversely, children are spending more time with electronic media such as television and video games.
For many children the perception that books are not as ‘cool’ as other media will have more to do with content than the media itself. First impressions are important – and the first books most children encounter are picture books.

This session will examine the way in which ‘cool’ content elements such as combat, technology, villainy and peril are represented in popular U certificate children’s media and contrast this with the relatively tame way in which these elements are usually represented in picture books.
The more liberal standards of age appropriateness evident in U certificate children’s media are based on demographically representative research. This session will argue that if picture books reflected similar standards of age appropriateness, they would appeal to a wider, more diverse readership and be able to compete more effectively with other children’s media.

I’ll be arguing that the standards of age appropriateness used in picture books are a lot more conservative
than those used in other age-appropriate children’s media including popular U certificate films.

It’s the first time I’ve been to the conference, so I’m not sure what to expect! If you’re attending yourself, please come along and say hello. There will be time for a 10 minute Q and A session after the seminar, but do get in touch if you’d like to get together for a longer chat.

Find out more about the conference on the UKLA web site



Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Four clarifications in light of last week’s media hoo-ha

I’m still catching up on some of the media coverage that came as a result of this blog post about the need for more gender balance in children’s book reviewing and the associated article in The Times

While some commentators took the time to look beyond The Times article's provocative headline to discover my actual views, a number of others wrote articles or blog posts attacking claims that they imagined I was making.

STRAW MEN: Some commentators wrote articles and blog posts attacking imaginary arguments.

So here are four clarifications concerning my actual views:

1: I'm NOT claiming that “women are to blame” for the literacy gender gap!


Here's the penultimate paragraph from the conclusion of my COOL not CUTE essay which contains my main argument and has been on this site since it went online.
"Over the 17 years I’ve been working in the industry, I’ve met hundreds of wonderful people in schools, libraries and publishing houses who are doing their utmost to engage children of both sexes in reading picture books; many of them do so on a voluntary basis. The overwhelming majority of these “wonderful people” have been women. As I said earlier, outside of writing and illustrating, few men seem to want to be involved with picture books. So let me make this clear — if one demographic group is chiefly to blame for the state of affairs I’ve outlined, it is adult men, for failing to take sufficient interest in what young children are reading."
I’ve stressed this point repeatedly since I began addressing this issue and it’s the very first point I made in this recent summary of my campaign to gender balance the judging of the Carnegie and Greenaway Medals.

Some of the pieces I’ve read give the impression that I think that men ought to be running the picture book industry instead of women. On page 12 of COOL not CUTE I wrote this:
"I’d like to stress that I don’t believe that men are any more suited than women to these gatekeeper roles. If anything I think men are generally less suited, for reasons I’ve outlined in my separate article, NATURE and NURTURE. Individuals of both sexes inevitably bring some degree of subjectivity to their selection of reading material; it’s simply that male gatekeepers would generally bring a more boy-centred subjectivity."
And on page 11 of my NATURE and NURTURE essay I wrote the following:
"If the tables were turned and the UK picture book industry was dominated by men instead of women, I suspect that girls would be getting a far rawer deal than boys currently are."

2: My argument is about gender bias in PICTURE BOOK content - I'm NOT claiming that it also applies to children’s fiction or YA fiction


I believe that the failure of picture books to match the content appeal of children’s films, TV and video games is helping to drive many children of both sexes away from books and towards these other media at a very early age, but the boy-typical appeal of this missing content means that the effect is particularly pronounced in boys.

I don’t have a great deal of experience working with fiction for older children, but what experience I have had suggests that attitudes to content are relatively liberal in comparison to picture books. If anything, I think that fiction for older children and young adults can often contain edgier content than can be found in films and TV shows targeted at children of the same age. This edgier content appeals to many (not all) children and helps to keep them engaged with books. However for many children the reading habit is being broken long before they get to fiction, which Is why we need to start matching the content appeal of children’s films, TV from picture book age.


3: I'm NOT claiming that “girls and boys don’t have overlapping interests”


Here’s what I wrote at the beginning of Part 2 of my COOL not CUTE essay.
"This second part of this article highlights several ingredients that typically appeal to boys, which in my experience are commonly diluted or excluded from picture books. 
The word “typically” is important. As I mentioned at the end of Part 1 of this article, I’m making a generalised argument. I recognise there will be girls who find all the ingredients I’ve listed very appealing and there will be boys who find none of them appealing. A more accurate subtitle for this article might have been ‘What MANY boys really want from picture books’. I hope you’ll forgive me for using the slightly snappier alternative."

4: I'm NOT citing a study that shows 95% of children's books are bought by women


This statement was made at the top of a Daily Mail article, with which I had no direct involvement, and was picked up and repeated elsewhere. The Mail article appears to have been based on the early editions version of the Times article. I was told about The Times article as it went to press and, having read the text (without the provocative headline), requested a number of changes, most of which were incorporated into the later London editions and the online version.

Here’s what I wrote on page 9 of COOL not CUTE
"A recent US survey revealed that 70% of all children’s books are bought by women. I haven’t been able to obtain a figure for the UK market, but I suspect it is similar. I also suspect that if you looked at picture book sales separately, the percentage would be significantly higher*. If my own experience of browsing the picture book section of book shops is anything to go by, I’d estimate that somewhere between 90 and 95% of picture books are bought by adult women: mums, grandmas, aunts or female friends of the family."
Based on the assumption that most of the remaining 30% of children’s books will be bought by older children of both sexes buying fiction rather than picture books. 
A publisher that read the essay told me that my 90-95% estimate was in line with their in-house market research and that most of these buyers were mothers or grandmothers. Nevertheless, one of the changes I requested for The Times article was that this figure be clearly presented as MY estimate.

This estimate applies to PICTURE BOOKS ONLY and NOT, as the Mail article suggests, ALL children’s books.


BALANCED COVERAGE?
In addition to an article dismissing my call for more gender balance in children’s publishing, last week’s
Bookseller Bulletin contained another article calling for more gender balance in adult publishing


The blog post that started all the fuss posed the question “Should gender balancing the books be for adults only?” None of the commentators attacking my views (or their imagined versions of my views) have attempted to answer this question. Many have argued that gender is entirely irrelevant to reading preferences. I suspect that few of these commentators would be happy to see the same "gender is irrelevant" argument used to justify the dominance of men in adult book reviewing. If gender is truly irrelevant to reading tastes, then surely it does not matter if men dominate the world of adult literature?

I think it does matter – and gender balance should matter for children’s literature too.

Friday, 18 April 2014

Should gender balancing the books be for adults only?

Last year VIDA, an American organisation for women in the literary arts, published an analysis that revealed a conspicuous lack of gender balance in book reviewing, prompting The Guardian to observe that “male authors and reviewers continue to take a disproportionate slice of the literary pie”. Most of the publications covered in the VIDA analysis were American periodicals, but The Guardian published its own gender balance analysis of UK publications including national newspapers, counting up the numbers of male and female reviewers and authors under review in March 2013. The analysis revealed a relatively small imbalance in fiction (50% of reviewers and 46% of authors were women) but a strong male bias in non-fiction, with only 29% of reviewers and 36% of authors being female. The conclusion was that “the UK book world still suffers from a sharp divide along gender lines” and the consensus seemed to be that newspapers and literary journals must try harder to gender balance their book reviewing.

The Guardian’s analysis focused on the reviewing of books for adults but, as a children’s author interested in gender bias, I was curious to know about the gender balance of UK children’s book reviewing. So I conducted my own analysis of the children’s books reviewed by five UK national newspapers in 2013. I only counted regular reviews of newly published books in the book sections of the print editions of each newspaper. So blog-only reviews (including reader reviews), author interviews, lists of 10 best genre books and reading advice in The Guardian’sBook Doctor” and The Telegraph’sAsk Lorna” were not included. Picture books were counted as being half-authored by both author and illustrator and the reviews from the Sunday editions were included in the overall count for each paper. A spreadsheet containing all the data can be found at the bottom of this post.
There’s a pronounced imbalance among reviewers, with less than a fifth of picture books and less than a third of children’s fiction being reviewed by men

The analysis is divided into children’s picture books and children’s and teen fiction and encompasses 462 book reviews. It reveals another strong gender bias — only in this instance in the opposite direction, with the majority of reviews and the majority of books being selected for review being written by women. The imbalance is less marked among authors; 47% of the picture books and 41% of the children’s fiction reviewed was by male authors. However there’s a pronounced imbalance among reviewers, with less than a fifth of picture books and less than a third of children’s fiction being reviewed by men.

Click to see a larger version

One of the justifications given for gender balancing adult book reviews is that reviewers tend to review books that are written by their own sex. This tendency is evident in the female reviewers in this sample. The bias is marginal for picture books — 49% of the picture books reviewed by female reviewers were by male authors and illustrators — but more pronounced for children’s fiction, with only 38% of fiction reviewed by female reviewers being written by male authors. This imbalance was quite conspicuous in some instances; in The Observer’s summer round-up of children’s books, only one of the twelve books recommended for older children and teens (by two female reviewers) was written by a man.
In The Observer’s summer round-up of children’s books, only one of the twelve books recommended for older children and teens (by two female reviewers) was written by a man.

However the tendency is reversed for male reviewers. The 14 male fiction reviewers in the sample reviewed marginally more books (51%) by female authors. And 60% of the picture books reviewed by The Independent’s Nicolas Tucker (the only man among the 13 picture book reviewers in the sample) were by female authors and illustrators.

The Guardian’s analysis of adult book reviews showed a strong pro-male bias in the reviewing of non-fiction books. Arguably another sign of pro-female bias in children’s book reviews is the scarcity of non-fiction. In the All-Party Parliamentary Boys’ Reading Commission report published by the National Literacy Trust in 2012, Phil Jarrett, National Adviser for English at Ofsted states that: “We know that boys tend to read different kinds of texts from girls — non-fiction, autobiographies, newspapers and so on — yet the English curriculum largely values certain kinds of narrative fiction texts”. It seems that most children’s books reviewers share these same values. While adult review sections can be equally split between fiction and non-fiction, only 2% (10 out of 472) of the newly published children’s books reviewed in this analysis were non-fiction. This is such a small sample it would be unwise to read too much into it, but 9 of these 10 reviews were written by female reviewers and there was an even split in the sexes of the authors and illustrators. 5 of the 10 non-fiction reviews came from The Guardian’s book section and special mention should also be made of GrrlScientist, The Guardian’s science blogger who posted 21 reviews of children’s non-fiction science books in the science section of The Guardian web site in 2013.

This scarcity of children’s non-fiction reviewing is exacerbating a decline in children’s non-fiction publishing that has been happening for some years. In 2012, children’s non-fiction author Jenny Vaughn claimed that: “Publishers have cut back, partly because of people like Waterstones completely cutting back on non-fiction about six or seven years ago.” There is still a lot of brilliantly written and illustrated children’s non-fiction being published each year, but a parent of a child of either sex with a taste for non-fiction books is unlikely to find out about them by reading the children’s book reviews in the national newspapers.

Of course the dominance of women in children’s book reviewing reflects the fact that jobs that are associated with children, particularly very young children, have long been the preserve of women and many – if not most – men are currently quite happy to leave it that way. One justification that might be made for the lack of men among children’s book reviewers is that women are simply far more eager to review children’s books than men are. However a similar justification has long been given for the under-representation of women in adult book reviewing. Describing her time as a literary editor in the 1970s, Claire Tomalin recalled: "I tried very hard both at the New Statesman and the Sunday Times to find and use more women reviewers — but I also remember being attacked for not doing better. The truth is, there were many more men eager to review”. And in response to last year’s VIDA study The Guardian’s books editor Claire Armitstead commented that: "We always try to keep an even balance but many more men offer themselves to review books than women, so we have to go out and find them.” I think it’s reasonable to suggest that books editors might take a similarly proactive approach to gender balancing their children’s book reviews and go out and find a few men.

The lack of gender balance among children’s book reviewers isn’t difficult to recognise and anyone familiar with the world of children’s literature will be well aware of it. So why doesn’t it draw the same level of media coverage and righteous indignation as the lack of gender balance in adult book reviewing? I think there are three assumptions that explain this, all of which need challenging.
Surely we ought to be applying as much care and attention to the reviewing of books for children as we do to the reviewing of books for adults.

The first assumption is that children’s literature is less important than adult literature, so the manner in which it is reviewed warrants less care and attention. Is this really true? Children’s books, and picture books in particular, are where we take our first faltering steps into the world of literature. First impressions are important and unappealing children’s books can give children the impression that all books are unappealing. The books we read as children, when we’re still developing an understanding of the world, can be hugely instrumental in shaping that understanding. Surely we ought to be applying as much care and attention to the reviewing of books for children as we do to the reviewing of books for adults.

The second assumption is that gender is entirely irrelevant to reading tastes, so it does not matter if one sex is disproportionally represented among reviewers. I doubt that many people would take this same argument seriously if it were used to justify the disproportionate number of men in the world of adult book reviewing. All children are different and reading tastes can’t be neatly separated according to gender but, whether through nature and nurture or nurture alone, some tastes are clearly gender-typical.

The third assumption is that gender balance is less important when men are in the minority. It may seem inappropriate to be highlighting the under-representation of men in a society in which the under-representation of women is a far, far greater problem. However equality ought to work both ways and I believe that the lack of gender balance in the world of children’s books is a key factor underlying the growing gender gap in children’s literacy. Boys do not find books as appealing as girls currently do and this is reflected in the fact that boys’ average reading abilities are lagging behind that of girls by the equivalent of one year's schooling. The growing gender gap in literacy is linked to the growing gender gap in academic achievement as a whole; the number of girls applying for university in 2014 was more than a third larger than the number of boys.

I’m a picture book author and evidence shows that the literacy gender gap takes root at picture book age. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this is the same age at which female reviewers are most dominant. While the gender balance of picture book authors and illustrators matches that of the intended readership (roughly 50:50 male:female) the chain of gatekeepers that link these two groups is far from gender-balanced. In this 2013 sample, female picture book reviewers outnumbered males by a ratio of 12:1. Similarly overwhelming female to male ratios can be found among picture book publishers, infant teachers, children’s librarians and, perhaps most significantly, picture book buyers, the majority of whom are adult women. Whether a picture book is being accepted for publication, selected for use in a school or library, purchased in a bookshop or recommended in a newspaper, the people judging its appeal are overwhelmingly female.
Whether a picture book is being accepted for publication, selected for use in a school or library, purchased in a bookshop or recommended in a newspaper, the people judging its appeal are overwhelmingly female

For this reason the relatively even gender split of authors and illustrators in the analysis should not be taken as showing that the range of picture books reviewed will appeal equally to both sexes. As a male author, I’ve learnt to write for a market that is dominated by female gatekeepers. Even picture books about pirates, dinosaurs, aliens or vehicles that might be characterised as having boy-typical appeal, partially reflect the tastes of the mother or grandmother that will usually be purchasing them. As a consequence, elements such as combat, technology, peril and villainy are often toned down or omitted altogether. A lot of content that’s commonly found in children’s TV, films and video games watched or played by 4-6 year olds is often deemed unappealing or inappropriate for picture books. This rejected content appeals to children of both sexes but it’s particularly appealing to boys and I think this is one reason many boys reject books in favour of these other media. I still love writing picture books and feel privileged to be able to make a living doing it – I just wish that the stories I’m able to get published could respond to boy-typical tastes as uncompromisingly as they do to girl-typical tastes. And it’s not just boys that are missing out; there are plenty of girls with boy-typical tastes who would enjoy reading these stories too.

Studies have shown that male protagonists outnumber female protagonists in picture books by a ratio of 2:1 and this is clearly an issue that needs addressing. This imbalance could be taken as demonstrating a pro-male bias across the picture book industry as a whole, similar to the pro-male bias evident in the male-dominated Hollywood film industry. However anyone familiar with the demographics of the UK picture book industry ought to appreciate that the situation is more complex than that. It’s overwhelmingly female publishers that are choosing to publish more books with male protagonists and overwhelmingly female picture book buyers that are choosing to purchase them.

Gender balancing children’s book reviewing would not require existing women reviewers being replaced by men. The most appropriate way for books editors to even out the numbers is to supplement their existing children’s team with additional reviewers. On her final day as Children’s Laureate in 2013, Julia Donaldson highlighted the fact that while children’s books account for a quarter of all UK book sales, less than a fortieth of the review space in UK newspapers is dedicated to them and contrasted this situation with Germany and the US where children’s literature is given far more attention. We excel at writing and illustrating children’s books in this country, so let’s get a few more men in to bolster the ranks of children’s reviewers and help highlight what’s best in children’s literature. And let’s start giving the best of our children’s non-fiction books the attention they deserve as well.




The data from the analysis is available in both MS Excel and PDF format below. If you spot any errors in the data,  let me know and I will endeavour to correct them.

Friday, 31 January 2014

Another all-female Carnegie Greenaway judging panel – but I’ve decided to draw a line under my gender-balance campaign.

I noticed last week that the “Meet the Judges” page of the Carnegie Greenaway site had been updated to show this year’s judging panel. As was the case in 2013, there are no men among the 13 judges.

This wasn't a surprise as the organisers had told me this would be the case last November (the judges having already been selected). Nevertheless, having spent the last year trying to persuade the Youth Libraries Group to adopt a gender-balanced panel, I’m obviously disappointed with this outcome. I’d like to stress again that I don’t question the suitability of any of the individual judges – I am simply questioning the appropriateness of a single-sex judging panel for awards given to books for children of both sexes.

The gender balance of the Carnegie Greenaway and the Man Booker judging panels for the last decade.
Click the image to see a larger version.

I had said at the end of my last post that I intended to keep pressing the case, but having reflected on it for a couple of weeks, I’ve now decided not to.

I’m still convinced that, given the gender gap in children's literacy, the UK’s most prestigious children’s literature awards ought to have a gender-balanced judging panel. However, the only people that can bring about this change are the YLG members who select the judges. Over the last few months I’ve been able to put the case for gender-balanced judging to YLG members through their newsletter. Having been granted a fair hearing, I accept that it’s now down to the members themselves to decide if they want to make a change. So I’m going to use this post to recap a few key points before drawing a line under my campaign for the foreseeable future.

Here are three things I knew when I started the campaign (but have been told repeatedly) and three things I’ve learnt over the course of the last year.

Three things I knew when I started


1: MEN ARE TO BLAME!

At the end of my COOL not CUTE essay about the wider gender-bias in the world of picture books, I concluded that if one demographic group was to blame for this bias, “it is adult men, for failing to take sufficient interest in what young children are reading.” I recognise that the lack of men on the Carnegie Greenaway panel reflects the lack of men among the YLG membership. However I think there is little chance that this imbalance will change unless men that are willing to join the panel are actively encouraged to do so. My suggestion that the regions select judges on an alternating male/female basis is not that different from the approach that the Labour Party now uses to encourage its local parties to select female parliamentary candidates.

2: Even if there is a gender balance problem in children’s books, the makeup of the Carnegie Greenaway panel would only represent a tiny part of it.

I set up this blog to highlight what I believe to be a female bias in the world of picture books. All-female Carnegie Greenaway panels are only a tiny part of this, but they’re emblematic of a wider gender-imbalance among all the gatekeeper groups that judge what's appealing and appropriate for young children to read. By highlighting the lack of gender-balance in two such prestigious awards I hoped to raise awareness of the wider issue. I’ve argued elsewhere for gender balance in other, more influential, gatekeeper groups, such as consumers, and will continue to do so.

3: The awards are judged in accordance with fixed criteria.

It’s been argued that the judging criteria of the Carnegie and Greenaway ensure that the awards are judged objectively. The Greenaway’s criteria relate to a picture book’s artistic and aesthetic qualities, its typography and how the text relates to the illustrations, while the Carnegie’s criteria relate to a novel’s plotting, characterisation and the effectiveness of its writing style. I accept that these criteria provide a focus for the judges’ deliberations, but each individual judge’s opinion of how well a book meets these criteria is still subjective. Indeed if the judges don’t have differing subjective opinions, then why are there thirteen of them? If one reason for having such a large panel is to reflect a wide range of views when making a judgement, then, at a time when children’s books appeal less to boys than girls, shouldn’t that range incorporate male views as much as female ones?

Three things I’ve learnt in the last year


1: The individual judges are selected by the YLG regions they represent and the awards organisers have no influence over their selection.

I initially wrote to the awards organisers to try to persuade them to take a gender-balanced approach to panel selection. However it has since been explained to me that the judges are selected by the YLG members in each of the regions they represent. Once selected, each judge serves two years and there is a rolling programme of changes so that each judging panel includes a mix of year 1 and year 2 judges.

2: There is a gender balance issue with picture book protagonists.

In her response to my YLG newsletter article, awards organiser Joy Court refers to Liza Miller’s MA dissertation “Society and Commercialism: Core Factors in Picture Book Sex Stereotyping” which reveals that male protagonists outnumber female protagonists in Greenaway-winning picture books by a ratio of 2:1. This imbalance could be interpreted as demonstrating a bias towards male protagonists among Greenaway judges, however Miller’s dissertation suggests that it’s a reflection of a bias in the output of the picture book industry as a whole. While the under-representation of female characters is clearly an issue that needs addressing, I don’t think a bias towards male protagonists can be taken to demonstrate a pro-male bias across picture book content as a whole.

3: There are other, equally important, inclusivity issues that should be considered in the judging of children’s book awards.

Liza Miller’s dissertation touches briefly on racial representation, stating that “not a single Asian or African character has ever featured in a Kate Greenaway-winning picture book.” Again, it should be stressed that this under-representation reflects the output of the picture book industry as a whole. Having said which, there has only been one non-white judge on the Carnegie Greenaway panel in the last eight years*. I have tried to make the case for wider inclusivity in the judging of children’s book awards in this blog post.


The Greenaway and Carnegie have always made an invaluable contribution to raising the profile of children’s books and promoting children’s literacy for both sexes. If only one YLG region decides to take gender balance and wider inclusivity into account when selecting their judges, it will help make these two great awards even greater.


*Judging by the photographs of each year's judges on the Carnegie Greenaway web site. I was only able to obtain complete sets of photographs from 2007 onwards.

Read all the posts on gender-balancing the judging of the Carnegie Greenaway


Sunday, 12 January 2014

Gender-balanced Greenaway and Carnegie Update 6

Following on from my last post, here's my response to the points raised by Ferelith Hordon and Clive Barnes in the December edition of the YLG Newsletter.
Thank you to Ferelith and Clive for taking the time to address my comments. 
My main argument is that the content of picture books is generally less appealing to boys than the content of children’s TV, films and video games and that this difference is exacerbating the literacy gender gap. Ferelith agrees that we need to see a much wider range of content in picture books, but argues that the problem lies principally with publishers and not with book awards such as the Carnegie Greenaway. At the end of my “COOL not CUTE” essay I provide a long list of suggestions as to how this content problem might be addressed. Gender-balancing the judging of children’s book awards is literally the last suggestion on that list, which starts with suggestions as to how publishers might address the problem before going on to suggest ways in which other gate-keeper groups including booksellers, teachers and parents, can help.
While individuals in each of these gatekeeper groups might recognise the difference in content I’ve outlined, they’ll often claim that the problem lies elsewhere. For instance, some picture book publishers will acknowledge that “Star Wars” style combat is very appealing to many four-year-olds, but will tell you that this sort of content is not suitable for picture books, because parents won’t buy it or that it will stop schools buying the book or that it will prevent the book from being bought by a US publisher (which can make or break a picture book deal). Conversely, parents have told me that this is exactly the sort of picture book that would appeal to their child, if only publishers were to make them available. The Literacy Trust’s 2012 report on boys' literacy acknowledges that "some boys are not getting access to materials which interest them" and notes that "some teachers and librarians asserted that it is a supply issue and linked it to the female bias of the publishing industry”. The reality is everyone involved with picture books is in some small way responsible for this difference in content and everyone needs to take the initiative to address it. 
Supporters of children’s literature are always arguing that it should be regarded as a serious art form in the same way that adult literature is. However it’s difficult to think of another prestigious mainstream art award that pays so little regard to gender-balance in it's judging. The 2013 Carnegie Greenaway panel was judged by an all-female panel of 13 judges. Imagine the fuss if next year’s Turner prize for art or Booker Prize for adult literature were judged by an all-male panel of industry professionals instead of the gender-balanced panels that have become the accepted norm for these awards. I think that most people would accept that it was not “inappropriate, impractical” or “insulting” to suggest that a mixed sex panel was the best way to judge art forms that are intended to appeal to both sexes.
Clive is right to say that societal attitudes towards boys reading have a huge influence on the literacy gender gap. However I’d take issue with his claim that availability of appealing content has no influence; I think there’s an interplay between the two. I agree that men and women don’t have “entirely different” reading tastes; the same diverse range of tastes is evident in both sexes. However there are clear differences between the two, with certain content types being more popular with more individuals of one sex than the other. Whether these differences are caused by a combination of nature and nurture or by nurture alone is a contentious issue, but – whatever their causes – the differences are still evident. 
There are many books, such as “Zoom!”, published each year that are particularly appealing to boys. However there’s a big difference between the relatively safe and cosy sort of content that’s found in books like “Zoom!” and the dangerous and exciting content found in children's TV shows such as “Ben 10” which many children of picture book age are watching. Some children might prefer Zoom’s content to Ben 10’s and vice versa, but picture books need to accurately reflect both sets of tastes if they are to compete with the appeal of television and other media.
Newsletter editor Helen Thompson has decided to call time on the debate as far as the newsletter is concerned and I understand that the email above is the last response from me that the newsletter will publish on the issue. I'd like to thank Helen again for giving me the opportunity to put the case to the YLG membership.

While the both the emails the newsletter received have dismissed the case for a gender-balanced Carnegie Greenaway panel, the response I've had elsewhere has been more encouraging and I intend to keep pressing the case. So if you'd like to continue the debate, please get in touch or post a comment on this blog.

Read all posts on gender-balancing the judging of the Carnegie Greenaway

Friday, 27 December 2013

Gender-balanced Greenaway and Carnegie Update 5

In addition to my own email, included in my last post, the December edition of the YLG Newsletter included two other emails from YLG members responding to my call for the Carnegie and Greenaway to be judged by a gender-balanced panel. Both emails are shown below.

RESPONSE FROM FERELITH HORDON 
I understand why Jonathan Emmett makes his "complaint" and I agree that we need to see a much wider range of material in the picture book boxes. I had sons who would have loved a "Star Wars" content but they didn't get turned off other material. However, this is not a simple matter to unravel. In particular it partly stems from the British attitude to picture books which firmly places them at the youngest - and I mean youngest - end of the spectrum. By four, I suggest children are being consciously steered away from books with the type of pictorial content that is the norm in a picture book. And this happens both in school and the home. Does this mean that illustrators do not think to choose such content. I am sure there are plenty of young illustrators who would love to create stories of derring do - are they then firmly directed to the "graphic novel"? (There is a body of work devoted to Star Wars et al in this area which would attract young children - though not the parents) 
I suspect content in picture books is often a publishing decision - is Jonathan suggesting publishers monitor the gender of their commissioning editors? Surely that would be the first place to start. The publishing decision is then tied into the marketing decisions - and here we are into a "chicken and egg" situation. Is publishing responding to demand? Is demand shaped by the market? There are quite a number of areas that are not adequately represented in picture books which one is given to understand is because they would not sell. 
When we come to the Greenaway, I think Jonathan has not clearly taken on board what the Greenaway is. He certainly realises that there are criteria. But the nominations come from the grass roots, public librarians and school librarians, looking at picture books of all types; looking at the illustration - not the "story" as such. It may be that the library profession has an imbalance, though I do not think this is particularly relevant. I think the problem arises when we do not have enough qualified librarians in our Children's Libraries and Schools. I would suggest if the material was there to nominate it would be. The judging committee can only select from those nominations and whether it is a thrilling adventure or a reflective look at death, if the illustrations have the quality demanded it will get shortlisted. Of course, we want our committee to be representative of all views and a mix is very welcome and the ideal - but can girls not respond to adventure as much as boys? Jonathan's solution is interesting and radical, but I feel both inappropriate , impractical - and, dare I say, somewhat insulting to both sides. However, his comments are salutary, reminding us that judging must be done against the criteria and that personal views and taste must take a backseat. I would like to point out that the last three winners have all been male, each demonstrating very different approaches to illustrating. The Greenaway is one prize - a very important one - but the illustrations have to be there for the judging committee to judge. There is clearly a gap in the market - the Greenaway cannot fill it just like that. Authors and illustrators get writing; publishers, publish - then we will see.

RESPONSE FROM CLIVE BARNES, RETIRED CHILDREN’S LIBRARIAN AND CHAIR OF THE INTERNATIONAL BOARD ON BOOKS (IBBY) UK SECTION 
I think Joy has made the main point that needs to be made in regard to the make-up of the Carnegie/Greenaway panel: it’s a panel of practising children’s librarians and there is nothing to prevent men from serving on it, it’s just that, as in many professions dealing with children, particularly young children, children’s librarians are mostly female. And, if Jonathan believes that gender imbalance is playing a major role in retarding boy’s literacy, then it needs to be pointed out that it’s an imbalance right across the education sector in pre-schools and primary schools, an imbalance that’s related to gender roles throughout society rather than to one book award panel. 
Perhaps, to look at it slightly differently, the problem with boy’s literacy may actually be related to the very kind of sexual stereotyping that seems to form the basis of Jonathan’s argument: that boys prefer space, fighting and machines; and girls like, well, something else, which Jonathan leaves unspecified, but probably has to do with caring, sharing and, possibly, reading. 
A long time ago, when I was a boy, my father left me in no doubt, through many hints and wry comments, that my love of reading was rather peculiar. Surely I should be out kicking a ball with my mates or making something with Meccano (so long ago that it’s unrecognised by spell checker)? Would I not end up a friendless mother’s boy? And you know the implications there. 
Although I was happy to read anything, Little Women included, I was reading a lot of stuff about war and fighting that had hardly any girls in it at all. This was just the sort of book that Jonathan might assume I would be reading, and you can still find them today, although, granted, not for four year olds. But that didn’t make the slightest difference to my dad. It didn’t matter what I was reading, it was the fact that I was so keen on reading that didn’t seem natural to him. That, as I’ve said, was a long time ago, but I think that attitude is still out there and it’s tied up not only with the kind of expectations we have of boys and girls but also with class background and attitudes to education, all of which feed into publishing for children. That, I feel, is what is behind the lower literacy rates among boys. Not that we don’t provide enough of what they would like to read but that we imply in so many small but telling ways that reading is not something that boys do. I don’t think changing the make-up of the Carnegie/Greenaway judging panel would make much difference there. 
Nor do I think a gender balanced panel would necessarily choose different books. There’s no reason to think they would unless you are convinced that men and women have entirely different reading tastes or can’t put aside personal preferences in favour of more objective criteria. I’ve served on one or two judging panels (not the Carnegie) and on library book selection panels with a roomful of fellow professionals who were women and never felt I had to act as a spokesperson for male tastes. Finally, of course, the Carnegie and Greenaway awards don’t make that much difference to what gets published, especially since library book funds have shrunk, however happy the recipients and their publishers are to get them. 
Finally, just to remind Jonathan that he was twice the winner of an award that I was associated with: The Southampton Favourite Book to Share Award for a pre-school title. His winning picture/pop up books in 2003 and 2006 were Turtle in the Toilet and Zoom, both books which I’m pretty confident he would agree have boy appeal, and which were initially selected by female library staff and promoted and voted for mainly by female pre-school staff and mums, as well as the kids themselves. It goes to show that women can recognise a good book when they see it.
I've written a further email (which I'll include in a subsequent post) to the YLG Newsletter in which I attempt to address some of the points made by Ferelith and Clive in their emails above.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Gender-balanced Greenaway and Carnegie Update 4

Joy Court's reply to my YLG article, which I included in my last update, raised a few points that I wanted to address, so here's my response which can also be found in the December issue of the YLG newsletter.

I’d like to respond to some of the points Joy made in her reply to my article.

I’m afraid I don’t accept that the CKG judging criteria ensure objectivity as many individual criterion, such as “the overall impact of the book on the reader”, are open to subjective judgement. Children’s literature is an art not a science; is it really possible to judge objectively that the characters in one book are more “believable and convincing” than the characters in another? Indeed if the judges don’t have differing subjective opinions on which books best meet the criteria, then why are there so many judges? I imagine that one reason for having 13 judges is to reflect a wide range of views when making a judgement. If that is the case then, at a time when children’s books appeal more to one sex than the other, shouldn’t that range incorporate male views as much as female ones?

While I accept that some regions might reject the idea of selecting judges on an alternating male/female basis, I hope that others might recognise some merit in doing this. If only one region were to adopt such a system, it would be a step in the right direction.

In the last decade female CKG judges have outnumbered male CKG judges by a ratio of 10:1. A similar female to male ratio can be found across all the gatekeeper roles in the world of picture books, from commissioning editors through to the adults that purchase the books. Given the overwhelming number of female gatekeepers, it is odd that so few picture books feature female characters. Nevertheless, this is an issue that needs addressing.

Having a male protagonist is one of several ingredients that I think is likely to make a story more appealing to boys. The point I make about male protagonists in my COOL not CUTE essay is that picture books are more likely to cater to girls with boy-typical tastes than they are to cater to boys with girl-typical tastes. In the same essay I mention that Eileen Browne’s technology themed picture book No Problem was a big hit with my three-year-old son and cite it as an example of a book with strong technological appeal. Although books about technology typically appeal to boys, all five of the book’s characters are female. Similarly, although pirate stories typically appeal to boys, there are a growing number of picture books featuring female pirates, such as Peter Harris’s The Night Pirates in which all the pirate characters are girls. The situation is very different for picture books that have content that typically appeals to girls; can you think of any ballet or princess/prince themed picture books in which all the dancers or glamorous royals are male? As I’ve argued in another essay, FIGHTERS and FASHIONISTAS, it’s just as important to cater to boys with girl-typical tastes as it is to cater for girls with boy-typical tastes. Personally, I think a gender-balanced approach to casting is preferable to replacing a single-sex cast with a single-sex cast of the opposite sex. That way children of both sexes will be able to find characters that they can readily identify with, whether the book is about technology or ballet-dancing.

Having said which, the central argument of COOL not CUTE is about the sort of content that is generally deemed appropriate and appealing for picture books, regardless of the sex of the protagonist or the authors and illustrators that create them.

Despite our differences in opinion, I’m very grateful to Joy for giving me the opportunity to publicly debate this issue with her and would like to state once more that I recognise that the Greenaway and Carnegie both do a tremendous job of raising the profile of children’s books and promoting children’s literacy for both sexes.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Gender-balanced Greenaway and Carnegie Update 3

I mentioned in my last update that I’d written an article putting the case for a gender-balanced Carnegie Greenaway judging panel for the October 2013 issue of the YLG newsletter and that Joy Court, the chair of the awards working party, would give her response in the November issue.

Here is my article:

IS IT TIME FOR A GENDER BALANCED CARNEGIE GREENAWAY JUDGING PANEL?
Outside of writing and illustrating them, men don’t seem to be as interested in picture books as women are. There are relatively few men working in the picture book industry and most picture books are bought by women. And most teachers, reviewers and librarians that work with picture books are women too. 
I believe that the scarcity of men in these gatekeeper roles means that picture books tend to reflect female tastes more than male ones and that this bias is exacerbating the gender gap in children’s literacy. It’s an issue I’ve written about at length at coolnotcute.com. 
When my son was four years old, he and his friends were obsessed with Star Wars, a saga of good versus evil, packed with deadly combat, sophisticated technology, murderous villains and threatening predicaments. The four Star Wars films available at the time were all U certificates, showing that — in the BBFC’s judgment — their content was appropriate for four-year-olds. I struggled to find my son picture books with a similar appeal. There were books that featured aliens and spacecraft, but their content was far tamer and cuter than that of the films. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that as my son’s enthusiasm for Star Wars grew, his interest in books waned. 
In my experience, a lot of content that’s accepted as appealing and age-appropriate for four-year-olds in films, TV shows and video games is often rejected as unappealing and age-inappropriate for picture books. This rejected content appeals to children of both sexes, but it’s especially appealing to boys, and its exclusion from picture books is one reason that some young boys turn to other media that reflect their tastes more accurately. There are still plenty of picture books published each year that many boys find appealing, but all children are different and picture books don’t reflect the full range of boys’ tastes as effectively as they do girls’. I think the scarcity of male gatekeepers, judging the appropriateness and appeal of picture book content, is the chief reason for this. 
I’ve suggested a number of ways to get male tastes better represented in picture books. It’s generally accepted that more men ought to read to their children, but it’s equally important that more men start buying children’s books, so that the market is influenced by the tastes of dads and grandpas as much as mums and grandmas. I’ve also suggested that the judging of children’s book awards, the Carnegie Greenaway in particular, ought to reflect male perspectives as much as female ones. 
While gender-balanced judging panels are now the norm for prestigious adult book awards such as the Booker, CKG panels are predominantly female. At a time when children’s books appeal more to girls than boys, I think this imbalance is worth addressing. I understand that the CKG’s judging criteria brings consistency to the way the awards are judged and that a panel of professional librarians will be far more objective than an ordinary panel. However each judge will still have some subjectivity, with differing opinions as to which books are best. Shouldn’t that subjectivity represent male perspectives as much as female ones? 
One way to achieve a gender-balanced panel would be to use alternating single-sex shortlists, with each region selecting a male judge one year and a female judge the next. I realise that adopting such a system would mean over-representing the number of male YLG members, but surely it’s more important for “children’s” book awards to reflect the gender balance of children rather than the profession that serves them.

And here is Joy’s response:

I think the majority of the profession would agree that they dislike gender stereotypical publishing of any sort and indeed might contend that the problem is even more severe when children move out of picture books into chapter books and beyond. High Street bookstores can appear almost as colour coded as the clothing ranges available for babies! 
There would also be absolutely no excuse for having a non-gender balanced judging panel if the judges were indeed selected, but as we initially explained, the judges are elected democratically by their regional committee. This means that our panels are at least geographically diverse unlike, I would suggest, the Booker panels etc. They also stand for a two year period and around half of the panel changes each year so that each panel will have a mix of experienced and brand new judges. This would, I am afraid, negate the suggestion of alternating male and female judges from a region each year.

But even if we were to ask each region to alternate the gender of their judges every two years would this even be possible? While we might hope that Jonathan’s piece will make the male members of YLG feel that they should join their regional committee and get actively involved, we cannot force them to do so and therefore we cannot force our committees to do that. But for all that it has been unusual that for the last couple of years there have been all female judges.

However our main point is that, unlike so many of the major awards, we have a published set of criteria and both nominations and judging are conducted solely by reference to those and suitability or appeal to either gender is not one of them. I do not believe that anybody could find any gender bias in the criteria themselves. In the Greenaway we primarily look for outstanding artistic quality and where text exists particular attention should be paid to the synergy between the two. 
Jonathan, in our conversations, has maintained that nevertheless our judgement and taste is still subjective! But the fact remains that of the 57 Greenaway winners 34 have been men and as Eileen Browne quotes in her fascinating article: Two to One - Females Outnumbered by Males in Children's Picture Books, (Write4Children Vol IV Issue II. p 157. ) “Liza Miller, an MA student at City University, London, had analysed the seventy-five main characters in thirty-two Kate Greenaway Medal winners between 1956 and 2010. Her results were the same as mine: Females were outnumbered by males in picture books by about 2:1. Female animal characters were underrepresented by 4.5:1 — less than 20% had female characters.” 
So it would seem that the evidence suggests that female judges over the years have primarily chosen books which are about males. However I realise that Jonathan’s points are more about the plot and style than merely characters. The fact remains that our role is restricted to judging what is actually published. Perhaps his campaigning should be aimed at the editorial and marketing departments of children’s publishers? We would be delighted to publish a response from any of our publisher friends. 
It was disappointing to receive no member responses to this interesting post, but it is nevertheless good that the issue has been raised and hopefully we will see more men responding to the call to arms! Meanwhile it is my job to ensure that the judging will continue to be carried out with the highest possible standards, as objectively as possible and always with reference to the criteria.

Joy Court, Chair of the Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Awards Working Party

Joy has raised a number of new points which I’ll address in my next post, but in the meantime please feel free to post your own responses below.