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>Code Pink

>Scanning the multitudes of new books throughout the office, I am struck–again–by the endurance of pink covers on light teen girl fiction. I know this is nothing new; what interests me is the fact that I wrote about this four years ago, and I’m surprised it still works–not the chicklit formula, which is eternal, but that pink remains the go-to color. When does this kind of genre marker stop signaling “Here I am! The kind of book you like!” and start saying “I’ve got your number”? Do girls who like this sort of thing appreciate the code, or do they roll their eyes and read despite it? There was a story in PW some years ago about two African American women in a bookstore laughing about the omnipresence of the word “Sister” in the titles of books marketed to black women, suggesting that the ploy had run its course. Will pink? Ever?

Roger Sutton About Roger Sutton

Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.



  1. Anonymous says:

    >”Pink!” Please Not another Fancy Nancy and some other Groovy Girl Book.(Those books do have their place!) You just have to take one look at the cover and you know who they are marketing to! I guess that makes it easy. The boys won’t go near a pink cover or all that glitters.

  2. >I can tell you it absolutely still works on my kids. I think it successfully suggests “I am a Thing You Like, fitting into your universe of lip gloss, magazine covers, sparkly pens, etc.” where more sedate covers place themselves in the universe of books more so than the universe of girls.

  3. Anonymous says:

    >Watch for acid green – it’s going to be the next big thing. More IRONIC!

  4. Anonymous says:

    >One of the most disturbing elements of this trend is that because publishers are putting pink covers on books they want to market to girls, many people (even professionals like you, Roger) assume that the pink books must be “light” fiction. Many substantial books about/for teen girls are packaged like fluff and are then mistaken for fluff.

  5. ladydisdain says:

    >I’m less concerned about the pink than I am about the headless girls. I am SO TIRED of all the headless girl covers. AND the reluctance to put anyone of color on a cover at all. FOOTFREE AND FANCYLOOSE, just out from Little, Brown, is about four best friends – 3 white, 1 black. On the cover? 3 girls, all white.

    Because, you know, only WHITE teens read.

  6. fairrosa says:

    >Just a quick note on your question. I think quite a lot of younger girls (3rd – 5th graders?) are definitely responding to these color schemes without being conscious about them. They have not yet figured out why they are drawn to the designs or colors yet — they KNOW they like these books from past experiences, though. I believe by end of 6th grade and in 7th grade — many girl readers have gotten jaded and disgusted by the notion that these design elements are supposed to “work” on them and many of them stop responding positively and have more individual tastes. I do think that this is not as much a new trend in design but just that there are so many more books published and grouped under this chicklit banner. (Hey, I’d take pink over green any day than the relentless RED RED RED in Target any day! I felt personally assaulted today by the color schemee in that store in a mall in a non-descript suburb. GOSH!)

  7. >It’s not just children’s books, though. If you go into a toystore, you know right off what sections are for girls and what sections are for boys.

    The same goes if you’re trying to buy clothes for a kid. I wanted to buy stuff for my girl that had dinosaurs or bugs on it, but everything about the clothing design screams “This is for a boy!”

    Of course, my kid picks up the pink books. But I must add that she loves Babymouse, and those books are very pink. Does that count?

  8. >My daughter wouldn’t touch a book with a pink cover — even if I swear to her that it’s really interesting — so they are definitely cutting out some of their market while they appeal to the bulk of it. Too much pink-inundation has made some girls absolutely loathe the sight of it.

  9. Anonymous says:

    >What is surprising you here is that sales and marketing reflexively go back to what has worked before, which shouldn’t be surprising at all. Suspicion of the untried is their guiding light. Pink, now and forever!

  10. Chantele says:

    >Saw this on another site – it made me laugh and think of this entry of yours

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