The Case of the Invisible Girls

This is a very simple post addressed to fellow writers, illustrators and publishers especially for younger children.

Where are all the girls?

photo by katiek2


I looked in ‘Carousel’ – these are my stats for the Spring 2012 edition.

  • Babies Books: 9 books reviewed , 2 male central characters & 7 neutral.
  • Toddlers: 8 books reviewed, 5 male central characters, 1 female and 2 neutral
  • Picture Books: 15 reviewed, 8 male central characters, 5 female and 2 neutral
  • First Steps: 8 books reviewed, 6 male central characters, 1 female and 1 neutral
  • Reading Alone: 14 reviews, 5 male central characters, 4 female & 5 neutral
  • Reading with Confidence: 13 reviews, 5 male leads, 6 female & 2 neutral
Out of 67 books, 31 had male leads, 19 had either a neutral or an equal balance, and only 17 had female central characters. That gives 46% male (OK) 28% neither/both & 25% female. Take out the books that had an equal ratio or featured neither and this remains:

65% male to 35% female central characters

Now I have no wish to criticise ‘Carousel’ – it reports what there is – and it might be just a statistical blip. So I thought I’d better cross-check with Amazon.

I won’t bore you with the full breakdown but here’s a summary:

  • out of the top 30 best-sellers from 0-8, 14 featured male characters, 11 were neutral or balanced, and 5 had female leads.
  • 47% male, 37 % neutral & 16% female
  • 74% male to 26% female (if you take out the neutral books)
I did the same with ‘The Book People’:
  • out of the 60  Top Ten books promoted in ranges from Babies through to 9+, 32 featured male central characters, 14 were neutral & 14 female
  • 70% versus 30%
What on earth is going on?

Photograph by D Sharon Pruitt

To my shame, this is a rough transcript of a conversation betwen me and an agent for children’s writers.
‘I’m stuck – need to choose between a boy or a girl as my  central character in my 9+ fantasy adventure – which would you suggest?’
‘Well, if you really can’t choose any other way, then the boy commercially speaking.’
‘Oh. Why?’
‘Girls will read books with a boy central character- but boys won’t read it if it’s a girl.‘ ( my emphasis)

by youleah

So all my readers that have anything to do with books – what on earth do we do about this?