Marketing Books To Girls

I say to my daughter, 6, trying to entice her toward literature and away from glitter in the book store, “How about A Wrinkle in Time?” No, she says. “The cover isn’t ‘glitzy.'” She actually knows the word glitzy. How did this happen? Note to self: OMG.

How about Wind in the Willows? Treasure Island? I’m getting desperate: the female pig who likes toast, how about her, Mercy Watson? “Mercy is cute,” she says. I’m fighting the razzamatazz glitter pink-spine-ed fingernail polish of book marketing to girls.

The gender-neutral book section for children is gone, baby, gone. Instead of Kids’ Books we have now have Books for Girls and Books for Boys. With all the stereotyping that pushes girls to like pink and stories about rescuing long-haired white kittens, princesses, and boutiques. Boys like blue, cars, knock-em-down stories about pirates and sports, and monsters (here I include dinosaurs).

Heavens! That a girl should pick up a book that doesn’t have a unicorn charm attached to it, or isn’t about a sprinkle-topped cupcake shop opened by two entrepreneurial 7th grade besties. I can’t be the only one who wants to barf.

I use the old adage with my daughter, “you can’t judge a book by its cover,” and I explain that it means a good book might be hiding behind a bland cover. I’m not sure she’s listening to me because she says, “This one is about candy! It even comes with a keychain of a lollipop! Please please please can I have it!?!” And I’m forced to show my hand, which as a parent I hate to do. I tell her I was raised by a first-wave feminist and that in our family we choose books by their stories not their covers which are like ads for high sugar cereal. She says angrily, “Mom, you are not cool like Pinkalicious.”

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