1st Edition

Gender by the Book 21st-Century French Children's Literature

By Julie Fette Copyright 2025
    320 Pages 26 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Gender by the Book investigates the gender representations that French children's literature transmits to children today. Using an interdisciplinary, mixed methods approach, the book grounds its literary analysis in a sociohistorical examination of three key institutions – libraries, book clubs, and subscription magazines – that circulate reading material to children. French policies, cultural beliefs, and market forces influence the content of children’s literature, including tensions between State support for unprofitable artistic endeavors and a belief in children’s rights to high-quality products on the one hand, and suspicion of activism as anathema to creativity and fear of losing boy readers on the other. In addition, the notion of universalism, which asserts that equality is best achieved when society is blind to differences, thwarts a diverse and equitable array of literary representations. Yet conditions are favorable for 21st-century French children's publishers to offer a robust body of richly entertaining egalitarian literature for children.

    List of Figures

    List of Tables



    Introduction.   Gender and the French Children's Literature Market


     Part I.  Libraries


    Chapter 1.       The Library Landscape


    Chapter 2.       Gender in the Awty and Buffon Libraries (2011, 2015)


     Part II.  Book Clubs


    Chapter 3.       The Book Club Landscape


    Chapter 4.       Gender in L'Ecole des loisirs's Book Club "Max" (2019-2020)


     Part III.  Magazine Subscriptions


    Chapter 5.       The Magazine Landscape


    Chapter 6.       Gender in J'aime lire Max (2013-2014)


    Conclusion.     Feminist Children's Literature


    Appendix 1

    Appendix 2

    Appendix 3





    Julie Fette is an associate professor of French Studies at Rice University in Houston. She is the author of Exclusions: Practicing Prejudice in French Law and Medicine, 1920-1945 and co-author of the French civilization textbook, Les Français. Fette holds doctorates from New York University and the Ecole des hautes études en sciences sociales in Paris. She teaches on modern French society, history, and culture.

    Gender by the Book is a must-read for anyone interested in gender and equality in children's books and magazines in the third millennium. Alternating between historical accounts of institutions and close readings of literary corpora, carefully documented, audacious in its analyses and its spotlight on the limits of "French-style" universalism, Julie Fette's essay should encourage other research of this kind, and open the eyes of those with ideological or commercial interests in silencing feminism. This is an essential reflection of public and academic utility on both sides of the Atlantic.

     -Nelly Chabrol GagneAssociate Professor of Children's Literature, Université Clermont Auvergne


    We live in societies that proclaim equality between the sexes as a fundamental value. Then how come inequality persists?  Of course, gender norms reproduce sexual hierarchies. But what explains the reproduction of norms? Fette’s highly rigorous and readable analysis of French children’s literature provides answers thanks to her methodology: representations are studied in light of the social conditions of their circulation. Taking context into account raises a disturbing question: why is the French cultural exception, supported by the State, not helping undo gender? Gender by the Book is essential reading.

     -Éric Fassin, Professor of Sociology and Gender Studies at Université Paris 8 Vincennes - Saint-Denis, senior member of the Institut Universitaire de France


    This important and overdue book foregrounds a range of different forms of French reading materials and infrastructures, many of which are entirely unfamiliar to an Anglophone audience. It sheds fascinating light on the role of individuals in processes of selection and pruning, which have received little attention in any context to date. Gender by the Book effectively opens up important new research avenues for scholars working across French studies, children’s literature, childhood cultures, and beyond.

     -Kiera Vaclavik, Professor of Children's Literature & Childhood Culture, Queen Mary, University of London