2013's NLA Information Book Awards were a pleasant surprise. Not that I'd read any of the contenders, as I told the sweet lady who bothered talking to me, but I was surprised on what won, and on what principle.
Let me explain this: The UK's National Library Association held its awards for Information (aka Non-fiction) titles for Children, with 10 titles shortlisted in 3 categories, a children's choice and a judge's choice per category, and overall. Not a bad idea, especially since the choices diverged so much.
But before I wax eloquent about how dem kids have awesome tastes these days, let me get this little blip out of the way, the only thing that made me frown during the whole proceedings.
So the ceremony's opening and the good people are holding their speeches, and the industry representative goes and says how important it is to make good non-fiction (sorry, informational) books for children, but especially boys, because goodness knows, boys are feeling very isolated and so we must strive for gender-neutral books.
I get it, okay?
I really, really get it.
Boys aren't encouraged enough to read. I have a brother. I KNOW! But I also know they have tons and tons of media aimed at them, and I also know they're encouraged to do pretty much everything because it adds to their personality. Likes music? Guitar players are so cool! Likes sports? Even better! People have even managed to reclaim that oh-so-terrible word, "geek", and turn it into a fashion accessory.
Girls, though? Girls can have hobbies, but they're hardly praised for it. Pianist chicks? Meh. Athletic chicks? Meh (or dykes). Geek chicks? Let's not even go there.
An accomplished girl is taken as a given - why shouldn't she have hobbies, she clearly isn't under pressure or anything! Women are encouraged to downplay their achievements, and they sure as hell aren't allowed to have a genre they excel in because they're making the men feel excluded.
What about the times when girls are excluded? What about the fact that, even in supposedly girly genres, the biggest names are those of men, and women's stories must somehow take a backseat to those of their male counterparts?
That's why it was so refreshing, so rewarding, that "100 ways for a girl to look and feel fantastic" took away the children's choice awards both in its age group and as a whole, while the judge's choice award went to "Incredible Edibles", the book librarians described as being more gender-neutral.
I'm not complaining - it's great to have a cookbook that can be read by both genres without fear. But I'm glad that, at least where readers are concerned, the obviously girly title took away the applause.
It's just a little something that makes me happy to see.
Note: Images via BookLikes.