The Princess Academy was on my reading list for some time before I read it in February. Classmates of mine read it for a project in grad school, but it re-entered my thoughts when I read a blog post of Hale’s last year.
In the article, Hale talks about how her school visits are geared towards girls, whereas popular male authors are for boys and girls. She writes
“Let’s be clear: I do not talk about ‘girl’ stuff. I do not talk about body parts. I do not do a ‘Your Menstrual Cycle and You!’ presentation. I talk about books and writing, reading, rejections and moving through them, how to come up with story ideas. But because I’m a woman, because some of my books have pictures of girls on the cover, because some of my books have ‘princess’ in the title, I’m stamped as ‘for girls only.’ However, the male writers who have boys on their covers speak to the entire school.”
This is something that really sticks out to me, especially when working with children. I saw it much more in schools when I worked more closely with students. I heard a lot of peer judgement about books or toys being girl books or boy books. I even heard teachers separate between “girl” and “boy” books.
As a public librarian, I do still hear siblings say things like “she got a Barbie book because she’s a girl” or “I got my little brother truck books. He’s a boy, he likes trucks.”
As a professional in the public sphere how we talk about our resources and programming is important. Especially as libraries are supposed to be welcoming to everyone and patrons should be comfortable enough to ask questions of their librarians. Even if those questions are about stereotypical female interests and come from a man. Or vice versa.
We should be inclusive with resources, programming and general interactions with our patrons. And I hope one day the division between “boy” and “girl” books disappears.