Good on Waterstones. The book seller is supporting a campaign to ‘Let Books Be Books‘ and doesn’t group its children’s books by gender. I’m only amazed it’s taken this long.
Children's Laureate, Malorie Blackman, supports the Let Books Be Books campaign
Think of classic storybooks and they’re a great read, whether you’re a boy or a girl. Watership Down, Swallows & Amazons, Winnie the Witch, The Gruffalo (and anything else by Julia Donaldson), and, of course, Harry Potter; there’s no gender bar here. While one of my childhood favourites, the Mallory Towers series is arguably just for girlies, plenty of the other books I read most certainly weren’t – I’m thinking The Famous Five, the Narnia series (which I still like reading today), and all those amusing Mr Men (some of those Little Miss books became a bit iffy, I’ll admit). Had Michael Morpurgo been writing for children back then, I’d have loved all his work – and having seen my sons’ reactions to War Horse, both on the page and on the stage, can vouch that it’s just as exciting and emotionally moving for boys as well as girls.
It annoys me when my four sons are given books on snot and fighting. My youngest’s favourite colours are pink and yellow, and he adores diggers and cute baby animals. If he wants to pick up a copy of Angelina Ballerina in the library, I’m not going to stop him.
Cutesy but gender neutral, The Littlest Bear is a lovely tale of friendship and overcoming fears
Our favourite house reads the moment include The Littlest Bear (a cutesy tale about a polar bear’s friendship with a young wolf, in which both protaganists could be male or female, and who cares?), Room on the Broom, the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series and Michael Morpurgo’s I Believe in Unicorns.
Imagine if any of them had been sitting in the girls’ section in the library or bookshop. We wouldn’t have picked them up because, in a household of boys, we wouldn’t have gone near anything proclaiming it to be ‘girls only’.
Bet T S Elliot didn't write this one just for boys
In angels & urchins’ Children’s Book section, there are loads of fab ideas, none of them remotely fluffy and stereotypical. Take a rework of T S Elliot’s fabulous Macavity. Surely every child will applaud the mysterious cat who ‘wasn’t there’ every time a crime is committed.
Macavity’s a Mystery Cat: he’s called the Hidden Paw
For he’s the master criminal who can defy the Law.
He’s the bafflement of Scotland Yard, the Flying Squad’s despair:
For when they reach the scene of crime–Macavity’s not there!
Macavity, Macavity, there’s no on like Macavity,
He’s broken every human law, he breaks the law of gravity.
His powers of levitation would make a fakir stare,
And when you reach the scene of crime–Macavity’s not there!
You may seek him in the basement, you may look up in the air–
But I tell you once and once again, Macavity’s not there!
Macavity’s a ginger cat, he’s very tall and thin;
You would know him if you saw him, for his eyes are sunken in.
His brow is deeply lined with thought, his head is highly doomed;
His coat is dusty from neglect, his whiskers are uncombed.
He sways his head from side to side, with movements like a snake;
And when you think he’s half asleep, he’s always wide awake.
Macavity, Macavity, there’s no one like Macavity,
For he’s a fiend in feline shape, a monster of depravity.
You may meet him in a by-street, you may see him in the square–
But when a crime’s discovered, then Macavity’s not there!
He’s outwardly respectable. (They say he cheats at cards.)
And his footprints are not found in any file of Scotland Yard’s.
And when the larder’s looted, or the jewel-case is rifled,
Or when the milk is missing, or another Peke’s been stifled,
Or the greenhouse glass is broken, and the trellis past repair–
Ay, there’s the wonder of the thing! Macavity’s not there!
And when the Foreign Office finds a Treaty’s gone astray,
Or the Admiralty lose some plans and drawings by the way,
There may be a scap of paper in the hall or on the stair–
But it’s useless of investigate–Macavity’s not there!
And when the loss has been disclosed, the Secret Service say:
“It must have been Macavity!”–but he’s a mile away.
You’ll be sure to find him resting, or a-licking of his thumbs,
Or engaged in doing complicated long division sums.
Macavity, Macavity, there’s no one like Macacity,
There never was a Cat of such deceitfulness and suavity.
He always has an alibi, or one or two to spare:
And whatever time the deed took place–MACAVITY WASN’T THERE!
And they say that all the Cats whose wicked deeds are widely known
(I might mention Mungojerrie, I might mention Griddlebone)
Are nothing more than agents for the Cat who all the time
Just controls their operations: the Napoleon of Crime!