Books Are Just Books – Jacqueline Harvey on the KidLit Gender Debate

Hi all,

back in March, I shared a post from American author Shannon Hale, where she detailed her experience with gendered reading while on her book tour for her mega successful PRINCESS ACADEMY series. If you missed it, you can find it here.

Australian blogger, Megan Daley, recently interviewed Jacqueline Harvey, Australian author of the hugely successful Alice-Miranda and Clementine Rose series, and the new Kensy and Max series, about the gender debate in children’s books. You can find Megan’s interview here on her literary wonder of a website,

NSWWCKIDSYA4I first met Jacqueline two years ago at WritingNSW’s Kids and YA Festival in Sydney, where I fangirled her on behalf of my daughter – that’s me with Jacquie on the right 🙂 (and I hope to catch up with her again at the same festival later this month).

Since then, we have connected through social media (which pleases my daughter to no end), and I can honestly say that, not only is Jacquie a wonderful storyteller but she is also a passionate advocate for children’s literary – and a lovely individual!

Anyway, back to Megan’s post…I was struck by the similarities in Shannon and Jacquie’s experiences. Both had visited schools where assumptions had been made by staff that boys would not be interested in their books so were, therefore, denied the opportunity to hear them speak.

As Jacquie says in Megan’s post:

“When I’ve asked where the boys are, I’ve been met with, ‘Well you know we didn’t think they’d enjoy your talk because your books are for girls.’ At which point my head is about to explode.”

This raises the question, so eloquently asked by Jacquie:

“Why do parents (and some teachers and librarians too in my experience) maintain that there are books for boys and books for girls. I tell kids that’s not true – there are just books – lots of them are great, some of them are not so great, some have a female main character and others have males at the heart of the story – lots of them have boys and girls in the cast. So why is it still such an issue?”

Why is that?

And are girls also denied access to school visits by kidlit authors of books with male main characters? I think not to the same extent (the likes of Harry Potter and Percy Jackson come to mind), but maybe I am wrong.

Or does it come down to kidlit books being “gender judged”, to some degree, by the artwork on their covers?

What do you think? I’d love your thoughts,




4 thoughts on “Books Are Just Books – Jacqueline Harvey on the KidLit Gender Debate

  1. daniebothawriter

    Many factors are at play.
    Covers matter.
    Social conventions and narrow-minded assumptions also. For example, boys shouldn’t read “girly” books. Says who? I read everything I could lay my hands on in primary school.
    Educators, parents, children, and writers can probably all get on board.
    On the other side of this spectrum lurks the question, can (dare) male authors make their protagonist female or vice versa.
    And exactly why not? Many things can be done with proper research and mastering of the craft.
    It’s sad to see so many limitations placed on writers and authors by individuals and bodies and groups about what they can or cannot write. There’s far too much political correctness going on.
    Here’s the thing: everybody has a story.
    There’s a lot of hurt and brokenness. Let’s challenge the perpetrators but also add to the healing.
    There’s a lot of beauty & wonder. Let’s share and multiply it!
    My requirement: Let the writing be strong, powerful, and “unputdownable.” Let it touch the reader, transport, and transform them.
    If you can pull it off, go for it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree with you completely, Danie!

      And you only have to look at how publishing houses market particular books to see that they are imposing limitations on who (they believe) will read these books.

      I read books my teenage son enjoys, I read books my tween daughter enjoys, I read books my husband enjoys. That’s not to say we always read the same books as each other, but what draws each of us to a book is an intriguing premise, interesting characters (regardless of gender), and whether we believe it will be, as you say, a great story.

      Long live great stories!



  2. Pingback: On Food, Dinosaurs and Nuns – Best (and Quirkiest) Quotes from the 2018 WritingNSW Kids & YA Festival – Rebecca Chaney

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