I intend to look at these books from a purely illustration perspective, including the typography used. In order to stick to my dissertation theme of what an illustrators role in gender representation is. I aim to remain objective and talk about the illustration in a manner that breaks it down into colour, use of imagery, style of imagery (quite ambiguous) and my own opinion on whether they are gender neutral, gender specific or in the middle ground.
“Princess Pigsty” Author Cornelia Funke, Illustrated by Kerstin Meyer . I have chosen this book as one of my first examples of a book that challenges gender stereotyping. It has been cited in articles recommending feminist children’s books such as:
Infact Cornelia Funke is well known for creating children’s stories with female protagonists, and the illustrations in these books look decidedly gender neutral due to the characters not having exaggerated features according to their gender. What i like about the cover of this book is that she has used a typography that starts off quite conventionally swirly for the word “princess” but then there’s this contrast where she uses bulky lettering I’d associate with mud for the word pigsty, its like shes showing how contrasting the ideas in the book will be with this title. I imagine that its swirly for the word princess to entice little girls, but then the second word throws in an element of fun that removes the prissy nature of it being a princess book. As for the illustrations she has used a style that i almost associate with Quentin Blake, because of its simple lines and shapes, and also because it makes the “princess” seem quite androgynous. She has no obvious sparkly dress or long hair or big eyelashes, she simply embodies what a child should be, not at all sexualized or primped but fun and messy and enjoying her childhood. The use of the colour pink allows the book to make an association with it being for girls, but the colours on the illustration itself are quite dull and unsaturated and i think this makes the use of feminine colors much more subtle.
“A Gold Star for Zog” Written by Julia Donaldson and Illustrated by Axel Sheffler. This story has also been cited as an excellent story for promoting feminism, although it has a male protagonist. The story goes that Zog wants to win a gold star in the lessons Madam Dragon teaches ( female with authoritative role) but he is very clumsy and gets hurt in all the activities. He is helped each time by a female character, the female character is a mystery until later on in the book when it becomes apparent that she is a princess. This is not going to take a turn for the traditional princess story where the boy saves the girl though, because each time she saves him and helps heal his injuries. It becomes apparent that she wants to be a Doctor, and turns down the prospect of traditional princess life and fulfills her ambitions ” I wont go back to being a princess and prancing around in a silly frilly dress”
Now that’s the story, i felt the need to explain it so that i can now make a judgement on whether the illustrations are as feminist as the story, because its a lovely story where male and female work together and both achieve their ambitions and defy stereotypes. The front cover itself does not feature the female character, but i think this is because she is meant to be a surprise element to the story. But the use of multi-colour and animals as characters gives a certain gender neutral feel to the story because it is neither drowned in pink or blue. And the characters themselves have no gender specific characteristics like eyelashes or hairstyles. Even the name “Zog” is not a clear gender specific name so the cover itself is quite ambiguous which makes it accessible for both girls and boys. I personally love the way in which the characters have been drawn, they are very similar in features and this gives a sense of equality to the image, and its just a beautiful image. I do wonder whether the effect would have been the same if they did include the female character on the front. below are some illustrations featuring the female character:
this one is from when its discovered she is a princess, i don’t like how she has been dressed here personally but the way she is stopping a fight looks more brave than a traditional princess. And the lines on this page claiming she wants to be a doctor not a princess enforces this bravery.
i like this one above, it shows her as a normal female character, although she is in a dress i think this is a historical reference to the time of dragons not a gender reference, and she is not sexualised in this image and looks like a child so i can’t fault the illustrator in the sense of her outfit. I like that she has been dressed in a colour so stereotypically associated with male characters and i think this adds a sense of fair representation to the illustration.