Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Ladybird books

00805 Ladybird books
Originally uploaded by rooruu
Ladybird books were a much-read and much-loved part of my childhood. There were lots of them in the house, and they informed, and entertained us for many happy hours.

I noticed these sets in the bookshop this week. I'm perfectly happy for them to reissue vintage Ladybird books, but was ambivalent about the way they'd chosen to do it. One box is for boys, one for girls. (Won't take you long to guess which is which). And while this might accurately reflect the times of these books' original publication, I wonder about doing so now. Am I just being politically correct? But why do boys get to make a transistor radio, while girls shop and help at home (oh, and understand maps, which is the only one that doesn't have me bristling a tad)?

Was this the only way they could divide the books into sets? What about a set about making, another about careers, another about 'how things work'? I know that's more than a neat, gender-specific (complete with assumptions) pair like this. And I know that while these sets may suit children of the specified gender, the underlying sexism troubles me.

The shelf of Ladybird books with which I grew up wasn't divided into books for boys and girls. Even if the books did reflect their times - fifties, sixties, seventies (and they did and do), this marketing choice is a modern one that seems unfortunate or ill-thought-through, to me.

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