We all know the cliche—you're not supposed to judge a book by its cover. Even so, a writer over at the Huffington Post named Caroline Bologna did exactly that to The Big Book of Girl Stuff and Boy Stuff. (If you follow either of the two links here, you can read her article.)
I wrote my response to Ms. Bologna in the comment thread at the bottom of her Huffington Post piece. I also sent a message to her on Facebook. At this time, I have not heard back from her.
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As the author of the books in question, I read your piece
It’s worth noting that the majority of authors (myself
included) do not design book covers. Nor do we have final say over their
appearance. These decisions are made inside the publisher’s marketing
department. (For both Girl and BoyStuff, a woman had the final say.)
However, it’s true that the questions posed on these covers
do not perfectly capture the tone, contents, and messages of their respective
I should mention that I am a longtime middle-school teacher
who loves working with kids. And what I want for ALL of my students and readers
is for them to be empowered, educated, and entertained. Regarding Girl Stuff, I asked 55 of my former female
students (most of whom were in high school and college at the time) to help
contribute to, edit and proofread every chapter in the book. The vast majority
of my ideas for Girl Stuff came from interviews and correspondence with that
brain trust—as well as from my five sisters.
As to the idea that science is somehow not addressed in Girl Stuff, if you had opened the book, you'd have seen it has a thirteen-page
bibliography reflecting the broad overview of science, anthropology,
psychology, etc., I researched to write it. Additionally, you may be interested
in what the first edition's cover looks like under its dust jacket:
While this design element was included for fun, it reflects
my deep and abiding sense of respect for the sciences...a respect that I made
sure to invest into the book.
You begin your piece with “You're not supposed to judge a
book by its cover…” Yet of course, that’s exactly what you have done here,
Caroline. Without real knowledge of my books, you’ve found some “neat little boxes”
for them of your own.
If you get a chance, check out a copy of these books from
the library. You’ll find that BOTH have chapters on practical jokes—as well as
gross stuff, humor, activities, sports, and other topics that have nothing to
do with gender.
ADDENDUM: Since your piece posted, a number of one-star "reviews" for Girl Stuff began appearing on Amazon. These parrot your statements about the book's cover,
and creatively expand upon them.
Of course, never having read the book, these writers have no
familiarity with its contents.
So now I have to amend the cliche: you shouldn't judge a
book by its cover—and you're certainly not supposed to REVIEW that book based on
an article about its cover! ADDENDUM II: On February 25th, Caroline Bologna responded to this letter. Her message reads:
Dear Mr. King,
Thank you for reaching out. I've cc'd my editor Jessica
Samakow. As we believe the text makes clear, the piece is a critique of the
book covers alone and an analysis of the effect these sorts of images have on
young children. We sincerely apologize that you felt the article implicated you
in the book cover design, which was certainly not our intention and does not
seem to have been the take-away for our readers. We stand by what we
published and hope we can continue the open discussion about gender normative
marketing to children it prompted.