Monday, October 29, 2007

The other g-word

I'm just writing up a notice for Artist to Artist: 23 Major Illustrators Talk to Children about Their Art (Philomel), which isn't really for kids but is an extremely handsome exhibition-in-pages of some great illustrators, including for each a gorgeously reproduced self-portrait as well as photos of their workspaces and preliminary studies and sketches. With sales benefiting the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, it's a great gift idea for the children's librarian in your life. Who may, in fact, be you.

But I couldn't help noticing that only five of the twenty-three artists included are women. Having no idea if this representation is proportional, I compared it to the last 23 years of Caldecott winners. Only four women there. What do we think is or is not going on?

57 comments:

LSPark said...

Ah. Hope you get some comments on this: I posted something along the same lines a while back (entry in my blog on June 14, 2007), but didn't get much of a discussion started.

It would be interesting to know the proportion of (eligible) books illustrated by each sex. In other words, are men disproportionately represented among the winners because there are proportionately more books illustrated by men?

And if not, does it then become a question of whether male artists see and represent the world differently from female artists--and how women (because the Caldecott committee every year is overwhelmingly female) respond to those differences, if indeed they exist?

I think I just confused myself. (A frequent state of affairs.) --Linda Sue

tiselfar said...

thank you (I think) for doing the math and pointing this out

what is the percentage of women newbery authors as compared to the total?

just wondering if perhaps women are able to write around the edges of their busy lives in a way that is not possible with illustration. just logistically, maybe writing is more do-able compared to painting and drawing in terms of time, materials, space, and scheduling.

betty in mpls

Michael in NYC said...

The overwhelming number of male winners of Caldecotts has been a contentious subject among a number of women artists for some time now. (I am not one of them.)

There are many variables here that make clear answers hard to pin down. One could argue about how cultural expectations of men and women differ, and how that results in markedly different styles and goals for their picture books. Would probably be a contentious suggest, as it sounds like poopadoodle to me even as I write it.

I wonder, too, if the sexism of the Caldecott Awards might not have to do with the make-up of the committees who vote on these awards. Do women jurors view work by other women by a different standard than they do male contemporaries?

A thorny subject all around.

Roger Sutton said...

I wouldn't argue that sexism is at work here without a lot more information--what percentage of picture books are illustrated by women, for starters. That statistic has surely been compiled but I don't know where or what it is. I just hadn't realized the disparity was so great.

Anonymous said...

The Caldecott count has been duly noted by every female illustrator I know.
All you have to do is work in this industry to know that sexism is alive and well.

Andy J Smith illustration said...

Certainly not evident form visiting the SCBWI conferences! At the first regional conference I attended, it was one guy (me) and about 40 women, all about my mother's age. I had a great time and learned a lot. But, while I love my mother, hanging out with 40 of her would never be a premeditated plan!

Emily Jenkins said...

Thanks for the eye-opener.
Out of curiosity, I flipped through the Spring FSG catalog on my desk -- for the picture books, 7 were illustrated by women and eight by men.

Lynn said...

This is a lovely book; the library copy arrived early this month, was shelf ready last week, and has been circulating steadily. Luckily I grabbed it before it left the tech services area!

I especially enjoyed Mordicai Gerstein's (it made me smile) and the pop-up illustration. What fun.

Lynn said...

... As to the other discussion, I bow to the experts but also wonder, could it be simply that more men agreed to participate in this venture?

Roger Sutton said...

We of course can't know the particulars of how the Carle book came together--I just thought it was a notable disparity.

I worried about gender balance when we were putting together our "boys and girls" issue. Although I asked approximately equal numbers of male and female authors to participate, the women were both more likely to say yes and to do so more unreservedly--the guys required more coaxing ;-)

Liz Bicknell said...

An editor friend of mine, female, now retired, used to keep a tally of the male-female divide for all the ALA winners each year (Newbery, Printz, etc.), and it always seemed strikingly weighted in favor of men.

In the 23 years of Caldecott winners you looked at, Roger, the author-illustrator model also outweighs the number of two-party collaborators by a fairly notable 15 to 8. (I.e. the David Wiesner model wins more often than the Eve Bunting/David Diaz model.) Perhaps a singularity of vision produces a more compelling picture book?

It is also notable to me, though, that only two of the 15 single author-illustrators are women--Emily Arnold McCully and Peggy Rathmann.

Why is that?? I hope someone is going to do a study and explain it for us all.

Liz Bicknell

Andy Laties said...

Virginia Woolf deals with this subject in "A Room Of One's Own" I believe. She imagines "Shakespeare's Sister" -- wondering what such a person would have written. She talks about Jane Austen in this context: a great author whose subjects are "confined" to the domestic sphere -- noting that although Austen lived during the era of the Napoleonic Wars and that there were certainly "Big Subjects" to be written of, yet these weren't the area of her interest or experience, evidently.

One would have to go back over all the books of the past 23 years to seek out the bases for the skewing in Caldecott Awards by gender. But I do have a specific memory. In 1985, I was at a lunch with David Macaulay. He asked what book I thought should win the Caldecott. I told him that my favorite fall title was "Paper Crane" by Molly Bang. He asked whether I didn't think that Van Allsburg's "Polar Express" should win the Caldecott? I said I didn't think so, because it's theme seemed cliche, with that bell in the boy's hand at the end of the story implying that the dream had been real after all. Too schmaltzy for my taste.

Whereas "Paper Crane" seemed so thoroughly perfect to me. (At the time I had not yet become a politically-oriented pro-small-business guy, even! "Paper Crane" is surely one of the best pro-small-business books out there!)

"Polar Express" versus "Paper Crane" seems like a very nice gender-matchup to me, especially since, as Liz Bicknell remarks as point of interest, these are both written by author/illustrators. Why did one win out over the other? I think there is a bias towards the Big Singular Vision, yes. "Paper Crane" is ultimately about the triumph of small over big. Whereas "Polar Express" affirms a pre-existent large-power apparatus, with a dominant Magi, "Paper Crane" has a "powerless" Magi who acts to disarm an invasive external hierarchy.

Singular Vision. I think "Polar Express" is a gorgeous book, but I oppose Santa Claus-istic Totalitarianism, and I think the committee voted in FAVOR of these politics. Go Molly!! (Maybe there should be a shadow awards program, which meets underground.)

(I wonder whether "Peter Rabbit" could ever have won a Caldecott. What with that teensy-weensy trim size.)

Anonymous said...

Maybe you all should go back one stage: what is the ratio of women EDITORS (classically deferential to creative types like artists & writers)to N-C winners? Without the ladylike gatekeepers, maybe the numbers would be different.

skyfbk said...

The proportion gets a little better if you figure in honor books (22 women/70 men since 1985). It still seems skewed.

On a related note, I've observed over the years that the work of male artists is much more frequently featured on the CBC's Children's Book Week posters. Women artists will be thrown an occasional streamer, frieze or bookmark, if they're lucky.

The 2007 poster was done New Yorker cartoonist Edward Koren. You all know him for his wonderful picture books, don't you? I guess Susan Guevara, Molly Bang, Peggy Rathmann, Lois Ehlert, Lynn Reiser, Yumi Heo, Laura Vaccaro Seeger, Denise Fleming, Yuyi Morales, Giselle Potter, Betsy Lewin, Faith Ringgold, Grace Lin, Margaret Chodos-Irvine, Amy Schwartz, Jeanette Winter, Marla Frazee and Barbara Lehman were all busy.

Megan said...

Roger,

Thanks so much for highlighting From Artist to Artist and for generating this thoughtful and thought-provoking discussion, and thanks to all who've contributed. We at The Carle have been talking among ourselves as we’ve lurked in the blogosphere, and we’d like to weigh in without any sense of defensiveness or bluster. We’d also like to hear back from any and all.

From the early stages of the production of this book we’ve been mindful of the imbalance between men and women artists represented in its pages, never mind the fact that only three artists reside outside of the United States (Anno, Blake and Ingpen), and only three are people of color (Pinkney, Anno, and Bryan). Part of this stems from who was willing and able to participate in the project, and part of this stems from The Carle’s impulse to draw upon relationships we’ve cultivated with individual artists over the past five years.

Each artist included in the pages of the book has had some connection to The Carle as donors of art to the permanent collection and/or as artists who have exhibited work here; lots of these artists are white, American men. Lots of them are older too, with about half over age 70. I think this is where any bias exists in The Carle’s operations: in an attempt to honor those whose careers have made an indelible mark on the picture book form, our exhibition and collections efforts tilt toward the senior members of the field, and the senior members of the field tilt toward the y chromosome. There are, of course, myriad reasons political, cultural, and historical for this, and by creating programs, multi-artist shows, and other events that highlight up-and-coming artists and artists whose contributions have been overlooked or devalued, we hope to in some small way help to further open the field.

Maybe we’ll even do another Artist to Artist book. A second volume would undoubtedly have a more diverse representation of artists in terms of gender, race, and national origin as The Carle continues to cultivate new relationships with artists here and abroad and as the field continues to open up to new voices and visions. In the meantime, we’re excited about this first attempt to inspire boys and girls to develop their inner artists and to provide adult children’s book lovers with one fabulous gift book.

Megan Lambert
Instructor of Children’s Literature Programs
www.picturebookart.org

Nina said...

Someone asked about Newbery. Going back the same 23 years... 8 Men, 15 Women. Still skewed proportions, but a different problem perhaps. Makes me think of Jon Sciezka's comment about "Jacob Have I Loved" as the epitome of "our" idea of "real reading" in his interview with Roger (Sept/Oct magazine). Made me roll over laughing at myself because of course it was one of my favorite books as a child, and, I'm guessing, of a lot of children's librarians my age...

Melinda said...

Shoot, my comment didn't post. Let's try again.

LeGuin has an essay in The Wave in the Mind called "Awards and Gender" that shows that most awards are wildly skewed toward men. However, she made a correction for the Newbery, which you can find at http://ursulakleguin.com/Wave-Correction.html
Basically, she says that from 1941 to 1998, the score is men 16, women 40.

I did my own count on Printz and National Book Award finalists (for young readers only). 19 guys and 17 women won the Printz (and honors), while 16 guys and 21 women were NBA finalists/winners. So at least there is equity there -- though there seems to be some skewing since there seems to be more women writers then men.

There's still plenty that needs to be done. Are there any links to how the Caldecotts are chosen? It would be nice to shake things up a little. Okay, a lot.

Anonymous said...

May the most distinguished/best picture book win whether it is illustrated by a woman or man. (Usually, the most distinguished doesn't win.) There are too many wonderful artist/illustrators that have been skipped over for years and they have usually been women.

Interesting Subject for this blog and the Caldecott Committee members for which you Roger are a member.

AD

Anonymous said...

Women are concerned about feelings and relationships, which gives them the edge in the Newbery. Men are visual, which gives them the edge in the Caldecott.

Melinda said...

It ain't that cut and dried, is it? I'm a woman, but I can still spit eight feet.

fairrosa said...

This is the question which might be answered if we could answer the following: why is there a "hot men of children's lit." list but not a "gorgeous women of children's lit." list? (And the answer is NOT that Betsy Bird - aka Fuse#8 - is the only one bothering to compile such a list!)

I may or may not be facetious here:

Those who decide and judge who gets published and who gets lauded are overwhelmingly female -- thus, the factor of pheromones must be taken into consideration if we even attempt to answer your query.

(If you had been at a recent publisher's preview and heard the collective sigh from [mostly female] librarians young and old over certain hot male children's book creators, you might not think that I'm that off the mark!) Has anyone ever heard such intake of breath when a female author/illustrator's name is invoked? We admire them -- yes, the Susan Coopers, the Diana Wynn Joneses, the Linda Sue Parks, the Lynne Rae Parkinses, the Kate DiCamillos, the Lois Lowry's... for their talent and their work. (These are award winning creators.) But - there just isn't the same kind of drooling-and-swooning going on when their names are invoked.

fairrosa said...

Hmm.. It looks like I was not reading the question carefully -- is this only about Caldecott? Sorry if I was so off!

Lynn said...

Thanks Megan! It is always interesting to learn behind the scenes information.

Anonymous said...

I'm not a professional in the field, but I have heard many complaints over the years about the Newbery choices--no one's going to read it, it's all-girl-all-the-time, never genre, not boy stuff. I don't recall so much complaint about the Caldecott choices. Is there really more consensus, or do outsiders just not hear the complaints? Do people ask the same questions about audience and claim that this book or that one is never going to be appreciated by "real" kids? Is there secret behind-closed-doors-grumbling? This is the first time I have seen a discussion like this one. As I said, I am not in the profession.

skyfbk said...

Fairrosa, are you suggesting -- whether facetiously or not -- that some men get published and win awards just because they're sexually attractive? I would hope that most women in the publishing industry and on award committees are not as shallow as fuse8!

"Hot Men of Children's Literature" is the best evidence I've seen that women can be just as sexist as men.

Andy Laties said...

Well, we're a talkative crew, and everyone complains about everything, sure. However there's simply tremendous work being done in this field, which is the overarching reality.

I wrote in yesterday complaining about Polar Express winning in 1985 for instance; however I was also delighted, at the time, because it was a fabulous sales opportunity. That is: Booksellers often complain that the Caldecott Winner isn't particularly saleable. (Saleability certainly isn't a selection criterion!) But: Polar Express was one of those Caldecott Winners that really was saleable (customers loved it on first sight).

So -- we in the industry all grumble for different reasons. I grumbled about Polar Express because it wasn't my favorite book that year, personally -- but I was also happy, as a children's bookseller, because it was a choice guaranteed to make me money.

(And it was obviously an excellent book...granted...)

Alex Flinn said...

Interesting subject, and one I've contemplated. It holds true in young-adult also, that male authors are more frequently lauded than female. If you look at the Printz and other YA lists, there are an equal or greater number of male-authored books, even though the vast majority of YA writers I see at SCBWI conferences are female. Last year, I did a little study:

On the reader-selected 2006 International Reading Association YA Choices list, 21 of the books were female-authored while only 9 were male-authored, 70% female, 30% male. To me, this seems fairly similar to the percentage of published male vs. female authors.

On a the 2005 BBYA list, selected from books published the same year as the 2006 YAC list, 44 of the books selected were male-authored while 37 were female authored or 54% male, 46% female (and 8 of the top 10, or 80%, were male-authored).

Haven't compared the latest YAC list.

I wondered if this was a result of female readers choosing chick lit for the YAC list, but actually, the books seemed to span a wide spectrum. Some of the female-authored books selected for YAC but not BBYA included a Cornelia Funke fantasy title and a nonfiction title about intelligent life in space. I think teen readers are less likely to notice or care about the author's gender, though they may care about the main character's gender.

I suspect this is less pheromones and more a good-hearted effort by librarians to choose books which boys will read or authors who might be a "good influence" on male students. Publishers also tend to push male-authored books more, for whatever reason. Publisher push affects perception among librarians and booksellers as to which books are considered more "important," garner starred reviews, etc. Because conference planners may try to balance the program with an equal number of male and female speakers (even though there are more female than male authors), new male authors are more likely to be invited to big conferences, which again, makes them seem more important. All this contributes to whose books even get read by opinion-makers.

I do think female authors like myself, who write for boys, possess an advantage in being invited to do school programs and conferences, over female authors who write for females, but not over male authors. I have been told many times that I was chosen because my books appeal to both genders. But where does that leave female authors who write about female characters?

I will say, in fairness, that a lot of male authors I know promote themselves more than female authors and are more likely to treat being a writer as a full-time job (e.g., write a book or two a year), so this might result in some well-deserved publicity. But plenty of female authors are willing to promote too.

I'm thinking about this at the moment because yesterday, I was told that I was not selected to speak at a particular conference about which I'd been queried. The organizers chose three similarly-situated male authors (and no females) instead. I really couldn't argue with any of the authors they selected, and I have plenty of other speaking engagements, but it did make me think.

Sorry this post is so long.

Roger Sutton said...

Here are some figures but please regard them with skepticism as I didn't do so well in my library school research methods class. Using the latest issue of the Horn Book Guide, which reviewed all hardcover trade books published from January through June of this year, I counted the books categorized as preschool or picture books (nb: folklore was not included) and then recounted those illustrated by women. Books whose illustrators I couldn't gender (a lot of the Kane/Miller illustrators are Chinese or Japanese or go by one daffy name, for example) were eliminated from the count, as were books by male-female teams, unless one was specifically named as the illustrator. Of 452 books, 220 were illustrated by women. 48 percent, right?

So the pool of published books, by this sample, seems evenly distributed, an equality that does not follow when it comes to prizes. Which go to books that are "distinguished," aka, the ones that Stick Out. But do we apply Dr. Freud's own big stick to the illustrators themselves, the publishers who allow them their canvases, or the committees that reward them?

Roger Sutton said...

P.S. I find Fuse's gallery to be harmless fun even if I'm not in it. (She seems to go for the weedy slacker type.) If we do start a female counterpart I'd like to nominate Mini Grey, Anita Lobel, and Petra Mathers, just to name three female illustrators who are completely brilliant and total lookers besides.

Leo Landry said...

and furthermore, Roger, 7 out of the last 17 Caldecott winners were named David...!

Anonymous said...

Let us all try to remember the moment when Weedy Slacker Type (WST) entered the kidlit blog vernacular. I'm glad I was here for it.

Fuse #8 said...

I didn't even know I HAD a type, but Roger has obviously pinpointed it. And WSTs are doing very well for themselves these days. By the way, Newbery Honor winner Kirby Larson DID do a regular Hot Women of Children's Literature posting for a while on her blog. Not sure if that's still up and running, but it's notable at least.

Ruth said...

She may be speaking partly in jest, and the apparent disparity may be a complicated issue with many facets, but I still think Fairrosa's observation has relevance. It's a dynamic my friends and I have discussed a great deal... The type of adulation and attention which male authors sometimes receive in the female-dominated environment of children's publishing can feel startling. At conferences, especially, I have heard questions and comments that would be unthinkable were the genders reversed. (For example, during the question and answer period for a respected male author, a woman raising her hand to ask, "Can I take you home with me?")

I encountered something similar when I took literature classes at Smith College as a visiting student. It was always surprising to me to witness the classroom dynamics when there was a male professor, and all female students. This was in the 90's, and I would never have anticipated it, but those classes demonstrated the most traditional gender behaviors of any I have attended. And I can't say that it was necessarily about sexual interest, as the adulation of the professor seemed to be equally true of gay/straight students... (I didn't witness anything like it when the professor was a woman.) Anyway, that's all anecdotal, but it is interesting...

i've also always wondered about another taboo subject, which is how the advances of female author compare, on average, to those of their male couterparts...

Ruth

Anonymous said...

When I got my first book illustration job at a major publisher, I noticed something that made me feel instantly uneasy. It was a male illustrator's headshot taped to the wall with hearts around it. I asked about it, and got giggles and swoons about his cuteness from the all female dept. My first thoughts when I saw this photo were: is this just a little office joke or is he actually be more likely to get offered a ms. then a similarly talented female or male? and: does he feel weird when he comes into the office and sees that?

I know that this whole discussion started with the artist book mentioned, and I happened to have that book and I'd like to say that it is a very wonderful book. They also state their case well for the disparity in male and female illustrators who are featured, especially as it is a focus on an older generation and reflects other times. That makes sense to me. But SLJ hosting a blog that regularly has a "hot men of children's literature" feature, here and now, in 2007? I have to say I don't get it. In a work environment, evidence of females being singled out and highlighted as 'hot' is lawsuit material. I mean, unless you are a stripper or something. But because it is females targeting males, and the targeted guys are not complaining, it goes under the radar of workplace sexism?

I personally have no answers about the disparity in Caldecott medals going to more males, and I think that there are many factors contributing on all levels from the illustrators themselves to the publishers and committees and so on. But I cannot rule out this type of fangirl mentality as not being part of the mess.

Anonymous said...

i am not the anonymous above. i wanted to say how much i appreciate the option of anonymous comment on the blog. i doubt that this discussion could be so frank without it.

Anonymous said...

Liz Bicknell mentioned a few comments back that the author/illustrator tends to win the Caldecott more than the two-party collaborator books. The man/woman discussion is zipping along, but what about Liz's question, one I've often had myself? Is it because publishers would rather work with one person? Is it because illustrators are encouraged to write but writers aren't encouraged to illustrate (I know this from personal experience...)? Is it because a singular vision is that much more effective?

leda, who doesn't believe that the Caldecott committee pays particular attention to the sex of the illustrator, but who's willing to entertain arguments.

Anonymous said...

As yet another (female) Anonymous, I very much appreciate this open discussion!

A hodgepodge of thoughts:

1. Ruth, we must go to the same gatherings, or else I witnessed a very similar situation myself. Swooning is alive and well!

2. I'd be interested to hear from editors and art directors (anonymous or not): are male illustrators breaking more new ground? Are they "edgier," less sentimental, and therefore, (evidently) more award-worthy? In other words, are we sort of the Mary Cassatts to their Jackson Pollacks?

3. Are we just more comfortable, consciously or not, with linking brilliance to men? Is there more of a recognizable (and promotion-ready) idea/cliche of male brilliance vs. female brilliance? I suspect so, especially when female brilliance comes in a 50- or 60-year-old package.

I admit to not having read one of the National Book Award finalists but when I saw who was nominated, immediately thought, Oh, Sherman Alexie's going to win. He fits the mold. And, again, he might have the best book, but I found it interesting I had that immediate reaction.

4. All that said, when I look back at what my favorite picture books were as a child -- a time when the words "flap copy" were not in my lexicon -- I overwhelmingly preferred male author-illustrators. (And European ones at that! But that's a discussion for another day ...)

LL

jess said...

I just took a list at the Oregon Library Association's reading list for this year's mock Caldecott - evenly split with 5 male and 5 female illustrators. I have no idea what went into this list, but it is an example of a possible awards list matching the approximate 50/50 ratio that Roger pointed out in the Horn Book Guide.

Roger Sutton said...

For the record, the Boston Globe-Horn Book Picture Book Award, during the last 23 years has gone 8 and a half (Diane Dillon) times to female artists.

Andy Laties said...

As I understand it the public is more likely to buy a book written by a physically attractive author. Editors like to sign an author who likes like a model or a movie star because people will show up at events and they'll get onto the local tv shows. I thought this was a phenomenon confined to books for grown-ups -- diet books, exercises books and so on -- but I guess it could be happening in the world of children's literature too. This would be related to the growth in "celebrity" authorship of children's books, then. A favoring among editors of "beautiful people" as authors, and this working out as a successful strategy since it unconsciously influences awards committee members to favor such authors with awards.

This reminds me of the time Channel 2 TV in Chicago sent a guy to do a little feature segment on our bookstore. The interviewer was dressed in leather jacket and wore his sunglasses while prepping me for the interview right up until the instant his cameraman turned on the camera, when he whipped the shades into his pocket. What a stud! He asked me a couple of questions about children's books, and the interview was over. As the cameraman packed up, this interviewer said to me, "I never had books when I was a kid. I didn't read my first book until I was 20. But if I have a kid, from age 5 on he's gonna have to read one book a week."

I later asked my friend the Channel 2 news planner why this man was on their staff. She said that he had broken into TV as a weatherman in Detroit, and he'd come to Chicago as a weatherman. Weathermen are actually models, usually male models. They take a brief "course" in meteorology. They are the news team's eye candy segment. Channel 2's ratings had spiked when this numbskull had become their weatherman, so they had started giving him other assignments. Thus his appearance on the feature segment about The Children's Bookstore.

I wonder if a time is coming when clever editors are arranging for children's books to be ghost-written for male models....(could it already be happening?? Liz??)

Elaine Magliaro said...

This post and all the comments got me to thinking, again, about this subject. It made me take a specific "gender" look at a book published in 2005--
"The Art of Reading: Forty Illustrators Celebrate RIF's 40th Anniversary." I quote from the front flap of the book jacket: "...here is a celebration of the brightest stars in children's books..." Of the forty brightest stars can you guess how many are women? Ten!

Anonymous said...

From a female, anonymous editor:

First of all, I don't follow the logic in Andy's first paragraph (directly above).

I will say that I met with a small publisher this spring that was looking for a few "name" illustrators for a future project, the purpose being to increase the # of copies of the book stores would order. There was no discussion of who was good looking or particularly promotable, in fact I don't think the publisher was planning to use the artists in promoting the book at all. BUT, again, they wanted "big names." I just looked back at the list we talked about, and it was Robert Sabuda, Ian Falconer, Eric Carle, Peter Sis, Lane Smith, Mo Willems, Kevin Henkes,and Chris Raschka. Notice anything?

To one of the (female) anonymous' comment #2 above--actually, it does seem to me, looking at the names, that male illustrators might have a more heavily design oriented, breaking new ground look. When I attended the meeting above, I was thinking about illustrators who sold very well and/or garnered lots of attention, so I added the names Robin Preiss Glaser, Peter Reynolds, David Shannon and Tony diTerlizzi. There are plenty of others who could have come up, both men and women. But my God, there's no denying that from a trade sales perspective, the majority of the stars are men. (Look at mass market and it may be a different story. I know Karen Katz' Where's Baby's Bellybutton has been a bestseller for eons.)

Cheryl said...

I love this discussion, and all the thoughtful comments. Thanks so much, Roger, for starting it. It's something that has stood out to me again and again, in children's book awards, in which YA and children's authors get more publicity, even just in who is picked to speak or get mention at a conference. There are so many women who write picture books, and so often that is not represented.... Which makes sense, given our culture's strong currents of sexism--but it never fails to make me angry. So discussions like this are good.

Andy Laties said...

Here's my favorite citation on this subject, which I unbelievably actually have to hand!

“Nan A. Talese, who publishes literary fiction as the president of her own imprint at Doubleday, says, ‘There are four thousand serious book buyers in this country that you can count on for literary fiction. That’s your basic number, including libraries, if there isn’t a bell or a whistle, like having a very beautiful author do a tour across the country without any clothes on.’”—James B. Stewart, “Moby Dick in Manhattan,” in The New Gilded Age: The New Yorker Looks at the Culture of Affluence ([The New Yorker, June 27, 1994] New York, Random House, 2000): 253-4.

Andy Laties said...

The idea of lining up male illustrators and assessing their good looks reminds me suddenly of the illustration in "The D'Aulaires' Book Of Norse Myths" in which Skade, the Ski-Goddess, is shown choosing a husband from among the gods: "The Aesir lined themselves up, but before Skade was called they made a dense fog descend on them like a curtain so that she could see only their legs. Skade wanted Balder to be her husband, so as she looked up and down the handsome display of godly legs, she searched for his. She was sure that Balder, the handsomest of the Aesir, would be the only one with legs as perfect as her own.... At last she made her choice. Poor Skade--when the fog lifted, she saw that the legs belong to Njord."

(Thanks to The New York Review of Books for reprinting one of my favorite childhood books, so that I can sell it...here at The Eric Carle Museum.)

Anonymous said...

When I was studying illustration, a teacher took me and some of the other female students aside for a talk at the end of the year. He said he had no idea what was going on, but he wanted to warn us of something. He said that in his experience, year after year, he not only had more female illustration majors then males numbers wise, but that in his opinion they were overall better illustrators, and that after graduation most of the women faded from the scene while more men made it. He was utterly perplexed, had no answers, but urged us to be aware of this and to please not quit and to press on despite the odds. He literally begged us not to get discouraged and quit the field.

In a difficult field like illustration, most people quit. Do people realize that? Out of a graduating class from a major school, only a tiny minority will actually end up making illustration a profession. Many things can come together to provide the tipping point to giving up, just as many things can invisibly support. If you think who quits and who doesn't is all about talent, think again. Many talented people fall by the wayside for lack of support or just for not getting enough good breaks close enough together. This is not a regular field with any kind of clear route to making enough money even just to live on. People with a better start for whatever combination of reasons may have an edge to make it to a place where they are able to truly explore developing their work even further and deeper, and later become the 'stars' of illustration. If the stars end up being more men, it does not mean the resting potential for that success didn't exist in women. It may, but I don't think so, because as an illustrator I know there are too many other variables going on in a field where it is considered normal to take 10 years to establish yourself. More encouragement, acceptance, family support, connections of some sort, publicity - while none of these will make an untalented person successful, the combination and balance of them can make a difference between a talented person making it and another talented person getting edged out or too discouraged to press on against the odds, or unable to have the opportunities to develop their craft more fully. I worry about who gets edged out and who doesn't, because this after all is media for children and who gets to be part of telling the stories and who doesn't has great implications.

I personally got through school living off monthly government checks. I did not then and do not now have family support. I took my teacher's words to heart and never quit, partly because I felt so grateful for the scholarships I got from generous folks who believed in me and my work. I support myself now as an illustrator. It is a precarious field. To tell you the truth, when I hear that working professionals in the book field think it is acceptable to publicly gush over and highlight certain illustrators because they are male and attractive to them, I can really almost cry.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing this! I am so happy to hear that you are making it and wish you every continued success!

I hope that you one day land on the cover of the Horn Book like ... star male illustrator Ian Falconer! Yeah, I had to laugh at the irony of that today! (Although I did a quick survey of past issues and saw that the gals were also nabbing this choice promotional spot, although I don't have enough issues around to draw any substantial quantitative conclusion.)

Andy Laties said...

Still, there are some extremely successful women illustrators (financially I mean).

Sandra Boynton for instance.

I wonder if there's an element of business training -- or -- something about the sports mentality in which boys are so energetically immersed by our culture -- that results in a more aggressive approach the field professionally??? This calls for research. I do know that many successful children's book illustrators transition from the advertising business, for instance. What's the representation of women among "creatives" in the ad business? If you come of age in advertising, isn't it more likely that you'll be commercially more hit-prone when you move into children's book biz??

Andy Laties said...

Actually this was a stupid comment. Sorry.

Roger Sutton said...

Andy, I don't think that's a stupid comment at all. (Or maybe I've just become too enamored of "Mad Men.") But Boynton (like Edward Koren, referenced above) is someone I think of as being on the sideline of children's books--they're not their main thing.

Andy Laties said...

Well it's true she made her first big money in the greeting card business with Recycled. But, she's done dozens of really marvelous children's books. And her book-and-CD combinations -- "Philadelphia Chickens" et al -- are simply wonderful. She came to the Carle museum two years ago and had a very full house. We sold oodles of her books. I thought of her because she represents that crossing-over from a different field. In her case it was greeting cards (her influence in the field of greeting cards was immense; she was a true pioneer of irreverent greeting cards, in the 1970s -- looking back, I think she had a big influence of children's books).

Anonymous said...

Somehow this all reminds me of these lines from Alison Lurie (which I may have first come across on this blog?):

"The fairy tales had been right all along. The world was full of hostile, stupid giants and perilous castles and people who abandoned their children in the nearest forest. To succeed in this world you needed some special skill or patronage, plus remarkable luck; and it didn't hurt to be very good-looking. The other qualities that counted were wit, boldness, stubborn persistence, and an eye for the main chance. Kindness to those in trouble was also advisable-you never knew who might be useful to you later on."

---Alison Lurie, Don't Tell the Grown-Ups: Subversive Children's Literature, p. 18.

Anonymous said...

I have a loosely related Caldecott question:

The award is given to "the best illustrated book." Does this mean-- the best book that is illustrated (best picture book), or the book with the best illustrations?

I actually think the latter is what was intended (for better or worse), but the former is more often what the awardees have in mind when selecting a winner.
R

Anonymous said...

I am late to this discussion, but I had to post...

We women illustrators and authors have been well aware of the sexist uncurrent in the world of children's book illustrators and authors for a long time. We don't joke around and call it the "Calde-cock" and Cal-dick-ott" for nothing.

I would agree with an above anonymous poster that those MOST guilty of perpetuating this are the female editors, art editors and librarians. They buy in to the myth hook, line and sinker.

I also disagree with an above poster that it is because men go boldly into design arenas that women don't. Poo! There are wonderfully exicting, females artists working and producing great, unique books. Mina Grey, Laurie Keller, Marjorie Priceman come to mind, just to name a few.

Thank you , Roger, for bringing it up.
Wish it would change things.

It won't.

sdn said...

see also the times book review this past weekend.

i'm glad this is being discussed, and i am doubly glad that someone's pointing out the reverse sexism.

Anonymous said...

Ah, yes, sdn, don't even get me going about that best illustrated list....let's just put it this way: "NOT A LIST." And if that books wins, "NOT AN AWARD."

And to an above poster who wrote this:

"To tell you the truth, when I hear that working professionals in the book field think it is acceptable to publicly gush over and highlight certain illustrators because they are male and attractive to them, I can really almost cry."

Not me. I get pissed off. REALLY pissed off. And then I move on to Vodka.

annabella said...

I am a reader...and book buyer, and came across artist to artist and bought it for my granddaughter as she loves art (7 years old). Loved the book but was also annoyed by the paucity of women artists represented. Wrote an e mail to the publisher and was given this link. I'm old enough to remember the good old days --the 60's. Not too long ago I helped my daughter do some newspaper research and was looking at want ads from that period of time. Had completly forgotten that there were "jobs for men" "jobs for women".....wow -- still going on. Sort of like putting a dress on a pig. Still a pig at the end of the day --
I often wonder about my own prejudices as I work in a large welfare office and often do more mentoring with the young men working their way through the agency than the young women. I hate that I do that, but am not really sure why it happens and really hope some more sorting out goes on before I kick the bucket and leave behind daughters and granddaughter who still have to deal with 'jobs for men''jobs for women' however it might be disguised.