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Love is an open door

Does the title of this post sound familiar? If you’re a parent of young kids, I’m sure it does–your kids have probably been singing it ad nauseum for months now…

Yep, I’m talking about Frozen. Actually, we’ve been talking about Frozen quite a bit here at DGLM over the past couple of weeks, trying to wrap our head around why it’s such a cultural phenomenon and whether there’s a book in it. Of course, anything that involves The Mouse would be hard to get an insider’s POV, but I’d love to know more about how the story evolved and how they thought about their audience.

Because while Frozen is clearly, even transparently, targeted at girls, boys love it too–just ask the New York Times!  I can personally attest to it as well, with daily requests from my two sons (ages 5 and 3) to “play Frozen music” and an Elsa doll taking her place of honor next to the Star Wars figures and Matchbox cars. And as much as Dad keeps hoping they will “let it go” and start singing something else, I don’t see this obsession ending anytime soon…

Okay, what does this have to do with books? Well, it’s long been a truism in children’s book marketing that girls will read books with boy main characters, but boys will only read about boys. And so while books with boy main characters tend to be marketed with less regard for gender (Harry Potter pops to mind immediately), books with girl mains are often pitched much more directly to girl readers, especially “girly” ones like Fancy Nancy, Pinkalicious, Eloise, etc.

But with that, are the children’s marketeers giving our boys short shrift? My sons love Eloise, Ladybug Girl, and Olivia, who has gotten progressively “girlier” over the years. Granted, I already had these books on the shelf from my editor days, but we’ve also taken Fancy Nancy out of the library at their request. And when I talk to parents of boys in my oldest’s class or check out their bookshelves on play dates, I usually see some evidence of books that aren’t “meant” for their boys.

Now, of course my anecdotal evidence is flimsy at best, but I’m curious, dear readers: if you’re a parent of young boys, do they like books with girl main characters? Do they ever get Frozen-level obsessed? And if so, how do the books get into their hands? It’s a question for me as an agent, too, in terms of how I pitch certain projects–it’d be great to be able to say a girl main character will appeal to boys if there’s a way to back it up. So, please, lemme know!

 

2 Responses to Love is an open door

  1. Katie Newingham says:

    I thought about this in the car today. After talking to several moms with older boys, it’s Olaf that stole the show for their sons – it was the abominable snowman for mine. Also, I kind of hope it has to do with gender stereotypes fading. It shouldn’t be thought less manly if a dad stays home with his kids, likes Broadway or likes to decorate, and likewise, women should be able to play sports, drink beer, and like woodworking without being called tomboys.

    It seems like well rounded characters, both male and female, a plot with equal parts relationship and action, and some lovable side characters is enough to win over the masses. It doesn’t hurt to have an awesome soundtrack to sing to, great outfits, and a fresh new world.

  2. Marie says:

    The campaign group Let Toys Be Toys have talked a lot about this, as part of their Let books Be Books campaign they ran a #BoysReadGirls hashtag on twitter to show publishers that the ‘truism’ is wrong, lots of authors joined in too, there’s a blog post on it here: http://www.lettoysbetoys.org.uk/boys-love-books/

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