Encountering undecidability: Lower secondary students' negotiations with a picturebook

Activity: Talk or presentationConference presentation


Contemporary picturebooks contain complex themes and sophisticated literary qualities. Inspired by previous research on the complexity of picturebooks, this study aims to explore the interpretive work with a picturebook among a group of lower secondary students (age 13–14). Previous research on picturebooks in educational settings has mainly focused on young children. For analysis, we use video recordings of a group of eight-grade students and their work with the picturebook Hemma hos Harald Henriksson (Brandelius & Dackenberg, 2018). The findings show how the students encounter undecidable features, mainly concerning social and political issues, and how these undecidabilities invite the students to negotiate different interpretive possibilities with the picturebook and each other. They move back and forth between different positions, not necessarily settling in one, as illustrated by the image of a shuttle, la navette (Derrida, 2002). These negotiations resemble performative spaces, in which the students can combine, juxtapose, and emphasise different interpretations (see Höglund, 2017). Consequently, the study calls attention to the potentials of picturebooks in secondary literary education as well as the value of allowing space for undecidabilities and negotiations in the literature classroom.

Keywords: picturebooks, undecidability, negotiation, lower secondary education, literary education
Period27 Oct 2021
Event title25th Congress of the International Research Society for Children's Literature: Aesthetic and Pedagogical Entaglements
Event typeConference
Conference number25
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • picturebooks
  • literary education
  • literature in education
  • secondary education
  • undecidability
  • negotiation