So claims writer and illustrator Jonathan Emmet on his new blog exploring this systemic pattern, Cool Not Cute.
His argument, as I reflect on the boys picture books I read with great regularity, is pretty sound:
The culture surrounding picture books is predominately female. In the professions where picture books are produced and accessed, women outnumber men by a ratio of around 10:1. A similar demographic applies to picture book consumers — most picture books, including those bought for boys to read, are purchased by adult women. As a consequence, the picture book industry’s output reflects female content preferences far more than it does male content preferences. Even picture books that are specifically targeted at boys are produced to reflect the preferences of the women that, in most instances, will be selecting and purchasing them.
He’s written a manifesto of sorts, laying out his case. The outline version: there are 6 things that age-appropriate films contain but that picture book publishers tend to deem not age-appropriate. They aim, above all, he says, for cuteness and censor or edit combat and violence, technology, peril and threat, irredeemable Villainy, a male protagonist, and rude humour.