Entanglement and feminist agency in picture books


  • Hadar Netz Tel Aviv University
  • Ron Kuzar University of Haifa




entanglement, feminism, gender, stereotypes, picture books, non-sexist


How are gender ideologies encoded in children’s picture books recommended as non-sexist? Previous research indicates that fully reversing gender roles and creating a gender-egalitarian universe of discourse might be an unrealistic authorial endeavour. In the current study, we examine a different kind of enterprise. Having identified a group of picture books to investigate, which we define as anti-sexist (rather than non-sexist), we apply the vocabulary of critical thought elsewhere applied to class, literature, race and gender, thereby offering a critical outlook to the analysis of feminist ideologies in picture books. We show how these anti-sexist books, rather than attempting to reverse dominant gender ideologies, make their female protagonists struggle their way from within openly presented sexist realities to agentive gender subversion. This struggle involves interplay between gender stereotypical and anti-stereotypical elements in moments of entanglement, which are ultimately resolved with a victorious moment of gender-subversive agency.

Author Biographies

Hadar Netz, Tel Aviv University

Hadar Netz is faculty member at the Program for Multilingual Education, School of Education, Tel Aviv University. Her main research interests are language and gender and classroom discourse.

Ron Kuzar, University of Haifa

Ron Kuzar is Professor Emeritus at the Department of English, University of Haifa. His main interests are English and Hebrew syntax and language and ideology.


Picture books cited

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Cole, Babette (1986) Princess Smartypants (B. Cole, illus). London: Penguin.

Cole, Babette (1996[1986]) Princess Smartypants. (B. Cole, illus; D. Peleg, trans). Or Yehuda: Zmora Bitan.

Donaldson, Julia and Scheffler, Axel (illus) (2010) Zog. London: Alison Green.

Donaldson, Julia and Scheffler, Axel (illus) (2011[2010]) Zog. (R. Di-Nur, trans). Modi’in: Kinneret, Zmora-Bitan.

Falconer, Ian (2012) Olivia and the Fairy Princesses (I. Falconer, illus). New York: Atheneum.

Falconer, Ian (2013[2012]) Olivia and the Fairy Princesses. (I. Falconer, illus; Y. Molchadsky, trans). Modi’in: Kinneret, Zmora-Bitan, Dvir.

Fosberry, Jennifer and Litwin, Mike (illus) (2010) My Name Is Not Isabella: Just How Big Can A Little Girl Dream? Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks.

Fosberry, Jennifer and Litwin, Mike (illus) (2015[2010]) My Name Is Not Isabella. (Y. Atlas, trans). Tel Aviv: Sefer Lakol.

Funke, Cornelia and Meyer, Kerstin (illus) (2001) The Princess Knight. (Anthea Bell, trans). Frome Somerset: Scholastic/Chicken House.

Gelbart-Avni, Ofra and Kedem, David (illus) (1998) The King Who Knew Everything. Tel Aviv: Hakibbutz Hameuchad.

Keren, Nira and Katz, Avner (illus) (2004) Boy or Girl? Kiryat Gat: Korim.

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Primo, Rinat and Binjamini-Ariel, Liat (illus) (2001) The Princess. Merhavia: Sifriat Poalim.

Rot, Miriam and Tzach Garber, Liat (illus) (1997) King Doogy. Merhavia: Sifriat Poalim.

Sauer, Tammi and Berger, Joe (illus) (2012) Princess in Training. Boston MA: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

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Zarchi, Nurit and Teharlev, Roni (illus) (2005) A Well-Made Bed [Shingalonga: A Well-Made Bed]. Tel Aviv: Hakibbutz Hameuchad.

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How to Cite

Netz, H., & Kuzar, R. (2020). Entanglement and feminist agency in picture books. Gender and Language, 14(4), 386–408. https://doi.org/10.1558/genl.40038