Monday, April 21, 2014

Reminder: Dr. Kate Capshaw to speak on April 23

Don't forget that Professor Katharine Capshaw of UConn is joining us at SDSU to speak this Wednesday!

Her lecture, titled "Freedom (and Fury) Now: Civil Rights Photographic Picture Books for Children" will be held on April 23, 2014 at 5 pm in the Leon Williams room of Love Library.

Free and open to the public.

Check out all the details here!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Reminder: Register your Edible Book!

The exciting new event, Devouring Children's Literature, is nearly upon us! We are excited to display a number of Edible Books at the event next Thursday at Scripps Cottage from 1-3pm (prizes will be awarded for the best ones!). If you are creating an Edible Book please remember to register here by April 15th. 

Look forward to hearing talks from Professors Serrato and Allison and local children's book authors, Mara Price and James Matlack Raney!

See you there!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

ChildLit Cartography: The Hunting of the Snark

My professor shared the following "map" with me out of a bit of whimsy and amusement. Taken from The Hunting of the Snark, by Lewis Carroll, the map mirrors the crew's wit, intelligence, and imagination: it's completely blank. Thus "they found it to be / A map they could all understand."

Gut reaction tells us this is ridiculous! To respond to complete emptiness, with no "Mercator's North Poles and Equators,/ Tropics, Zones, and Meridian Lines," cannot logically lead to success (or lead to anything), because it lacks all the necessary markings, what they view them simply as "conventional signs." If you're familiar with this epic tale of adventure and mystery, then you know conventionality is no ingredient to the tale, so for the purposes of absurdity, it makes sense.

But, its blankness can also depict what every cartographer wants to achieve with a map: scientific fact as autonomous from social dimensions, with assumptions that reality and representation are linked. The map, blank as it is, depicts the entire sea as one sees it: vast, nearly limitless, a blank slate (what brews beneath or above is not articulated). So, ironically, yes, this map depicts the ocean at its cartographic best.

But that blankness of course leaves room for all of our assumptions, because, as JB Harley puts it, "there is a second text within the map" which carries social or political weight. This particular map allows every viewer to read their own hierarchy of markers and symbols. In fact, if you look carefully at the image, the map is blank but its margins carry symbols; those symbols, even on the strict scientific map, contain "a dimension of 'symbolic realism' which is no less a statement of political authority and control than a coat of arms." Basically, you can't escape social theory, no matter what blank slate you are given.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

London, Anyone?: London Rare Books School 2014: Seminar in Rare Children's Books

When: June 23rd-27th
Where: University of London
Qualifications: Priority seems to go to post-grads, but anyone can apply
Cost: £600

Children's Books, 1470-1980

Course tutor: Jill Shefrin

This course is designed to provide a holistic introduction to the study of early and modern children’s books, examining the book as physical object—both bibliographically and materially—as well as concepts of rarity and collectability, together with the history and practice of children’s book collecting, bookselling and scholarship. Case studies will focus on different historical contexts, printing technologies, book design and cross-cultural influences over 500 years.

Many children’s books are, by nature of their principal readers, scarce: children are hard on their books. Books from earlier periods, books produced for a cheap popular market and, in the twentieth century, books published under wartime conditions may be especially rare. Additionally, until the twentieth century, copyright deposit libraries did not particularly value the acquisition of books published for children.

The critical, historical and bibliographic literature on children’s books is complicated by having been written for varied audiences. Children’s books have traditionally been of interest to children’s librarians and primary schoolteachers on the one hand, and, on the other, to antiquarian collectors, booksellers and librarians of special collections primarily concerned with bibliography and in the history of publishing and illustration. In recent years, bibliographical, critical and historical research have all exploded, supported in part by academic interest in the history of the book and the study of children’s literature. Academics in a range of disciplines—particularly English literature—have entered the field. But collectors and scholars have been studying the history of children’s books since the nineteenth century.

Students will have the opportunity to see and handle early material in some of London’s rare book collections and to understand how bibliography serves as a tool of description and communication between the worlds of collectors, booksellers, curators and scholars. They should acquire a sufficient sense of the current state of bibliographical and historical research in the field to enable them to pursue their own professional or personal interests.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Transhumanism in KidLit, and The Giver Trailer, What Gives?

So I came across an unusual book a few days ago online. In opposition to my recent post on reflections on, acceptance of, and recovering from loss/death, a transhumanist author--Gennady Stolyarov--has penned a children's book titled Death is Wrong. I know this is a niche book, catering to a particular small audience, but it intrigued me nonetheless, and troubled me as well. While the transhumanist movement and goal for singularity can make sense of our increasingly science-fiction world with its rapidly growing technologies, I see problems with articulating the wrongness of death; in a recent Slate article, Joelle Renstrom writes that,
Representing death as wrong gives it greater power, especially when people do die. If death is wrong, are people who die bad, or are they victims of an obsolete paradigm? Either way, making peace with death would be particularly challenging. Kids could grow up not just afraid of death, but also afraid of failing to fix it. Stolyarov makes death a powerful nemesis that could rule their lives—just as it’s ruled his.
The notion of immortality becomes a fact rather than a concept; to present that to a young mind, a nascent consciousness, does not bode well for their development. Before I start spewing all of my thoughts and critiques on the subject, I need to read a little more on this philosophy. But I welcome any thoughts from those more familiar with this. What good can transhumanism offer people, adults, children? I'm constantly reminded of the immortal Peter Pan. *shudders* Has it made entrance into other children's books? Will it? 

On another note, the first movie trailer for The Giver was just released, and my initial reaction was, Color? Seriously? I had some other initial qualms, including the shift from pills to needles (are we afraid to see a reflection of how medicated our youth are? Does having them pop pills on screen as opposed to receiving shots allot them too much agency and make the viewer uncomfortable? Or are needles just scarier?) and the ... entire end shot. As trailers usually go, there is a lot in here meant to confuse us, meant to appear not as it will be in the film, but for a story that is dark, abstract, and searingly poignant, this adaptation looks to be going down the Hunger Games and Divergent track.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Lion and the Unicorn Award for Excellence in North American Poetry

Seeking submissions of collections of children's and young adult poetry, including anthologies, published in 2013 

This award, now in its 9th year, recognizes excellent poetry written for young people. The author of the winning collection receives a $500.00 check courtesy of Johns Hopkins UP as well as an extended appraisal in our yearly poetry award essay, published in the fall issue of The Lion and the Unicorn. Honor books are similarly recognized in the essay. The previous award essays can be downloaded from this web address, or viewed online: 

We hope you can help us survey the landscape of poetry for young people by making us aware of any 2013 collections of children's and young adult poetry, including anthologies, by or before April 14, 2014. Whether you are a press or just an individual who knows of children's poetry published in 2013, please contact Joseph Thomas at with any suggestion(s) or queries about submission guidelines.

If you need more time than the April 14th deadline allows, please consider submitting anyway. The judges would like the most amount of time possible to consider their choices and need to submit the essay to The Lion and the Unicorn for publication in late June, so you understand how pressing the time frame is... but a submission sent later would not rule them out!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Announcing a New and Exciting Event: Devouring Children's Literature 2014!

Brought to you by SDSU's ChildLit GSA:


What is it?: Devouring Children's Literature is an event that naturally focuses on children’s literature — from picture books to young adult novels — in order to highlight both the playfulness of literature for young people as well as the importance of examining it as literature itself. To that end, we also have a fabulous program planned, including the display and competition of children's lit themed Edible Books, readings from some of our esteemed professors of children’s literature and talks from local children’s book authors. Be prepared to experience childhood texts like never before, and get some insight into the place of children’s literature in San Diego and beyond.

What are Edible Books?: Edible Books are book-themed art pieces made out of food. For a some visuals (and you really do need to see them!) visit Staley Library's Edible Book Pinterest page, or see some of the albums at, website of the International Edible Books Festival. 

Can I make an Edible Book?: Please do! We are looking forward to many participants creating Edible Books to display at the event- and we'll be awarding prizes to crowd favorites! Visit our Registration page for detailed info on entering your Edible Book in the competition (and make sure to register by April 10th). Whether or not you decide to enter an Edible Book, everyone who attends the event will be able to vote on their favorites. 

More info coming: Check the website and return to this blog for detailed info about the program!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Ugo Fontana: Illustrating for Children

Dr. Giorgia Grilli, professor at the University of Bologna, has just written and compiled a 200 pg volume on an Italian illustrator for children that worked from the Forties to the Eighties: Ugo Fontana. She worked on this project with Fabian Negrin (an Italian-Argentinian illustrator and candidate for the H.C.Andersen and the ALMA Award). The book is in Italian and English and is companion to an important exhibition that will be hosted in two weeks at Bologna Children's Book Fair.

She shared these details with us:

Fabian Negrin and I have been researching for some years and put together a book in Italian and English on the work of a great Italian illustrator: Ugo Fontana (1921-1985). This book – a 200-page volume richly illustrated – is companion to the exhibition on Ugo Fontana that will be hosted by the Bologna International Children’s Book Fair. This exhibition inaugurates a new section of the fair, called ‘The Lost Treasure,’ which aims at rediscovering and presenting to the world the illustrative work of old masters of illustration that have been forgotten or have disappeared from bookstores, but deserve international attention. Ugo Fontana is the first one of the series and we, as curators, have been working hard to retrace his original artwork from national and private archives, old publishers, the family, friends, etc. We have collected more than 90 tables, which will be visible at the exhibition and which are all reproduced in the book. For our critical essay, we have studied the evolution of his style, the influences of other artists on his work, his own influences on other illustrators, the relationship of Fontana's way of illustrating for children with the children's publishing industry of his days and, more in general, the socio-cultural context in which he worked.

Having shown to some Italian publishers Fontana’s work (part of which they had in their archives or in their old catalogues, but no longer knew or thought about), many of them were so enthusiastic that they each decided to re-publish a book illustrated by him. So there will be three books illustrated by Fontana as ‘new’ releases at Bologna Children's Book Fair 2014.

The book can be bought, with a discount, directly through the publisher’s website ( -- it will be available in a couple of days). Or at the exhibition, in Bologna.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

CFP: Making the City Playable Conference

Making the City Playable Conference – Research Stream
Watershed, Bristol, UK.
September 10-11, 2014
Proposals due April 14, 2014

On September 10th and 11th 2014 the Watershed Media Centre in Bristol will host the first Making the City Playable Conference, convened by University of the West of England Visiting Professors Clare Reddington and Andrew Kelly. This two day international conference will bring together future city experts, urban planners, artists and technologists to explore the theme of the Playable City, and what it might mean in imagining and making the cities of the future.

The Playable City

The “Playable City” is a term that has been coined by Watershed in Bristol as a people-centred counterpoint to the idea of the data-driven “Smart City”. The Playable City is imagined as a city in which hospitality and openness are key, enabling residents and visitors to reconfigure and rewrite city services, places and stories. The Playable City fosters serendipity and gives permission to be playful in public.

The idea of the Playable City has been explored in a range of Watershed projects; a series of cultural exchange rapid project development labs with the British Council working with artists, producers and technologists from the UK and East Asia in 2012 and Brazil in 2014, the inaugural Playable City Award, a major commission for a future-facing artwork, which supported development of Hello Lamp Post in Summer 2013, Biketag Colour Keepers - a street game for Bristol Temple Quarter, and Open City: Guimarães - a series of artistic commissions that explored how openness in city governance might improve the social, cultural, and economic lives of inhabitants of the Portuguese 2012 European Capital of Culture. The Second Playable City Award is now open for submissions. 

The Call for Proposals

The Digital Cultures Research Centre is convening a research stream within the Making the City Playable Conference. We are inviting proposals from a cross-disciplinary gathering of scholars who wish to consider the intersection between play and the contemporary city, bringing diverse research knowledge and perspectives to the concept of the Playable City, considering its conceptual value, potential and limits.
Proposals are invited for 10-15 minute research-based presentations or academic papers. The following are indicative themes: 
  • Smart City vs Playable City – visions of the urban future
  • Playing and Reality – the city as stage for critical re-imaginings
  • The Child and the City – children’s play and independent mobility in urban settings
  • Play & Mobilisation – the social and political impact of playful interventions
  • Parkour and place hacking – playing around the edges of public space
  • Level Playing Fields? – creative interventions and social inequality   
  • Playing Publics – creative practices as citizenship practices

Please submit abstracts of up to 350 words accompanied by a biographical paragraph. These are due by April 14th. Email materials to

It is hoped that these discussions will provide the starting point for future exchanges and research collaborations. 

If you don’t plan to submit an abstract, but would like to attend the Making the City Playable Conference, tickets and further information are available here.

The research stream is convened by Dr Michael Buser (Planning & Architecture, University of the West of England), Dr Kirsten Cater (Computer Science, University of Bristol), Professor Jon Dovey (Screen Media, University of the West of England), Associate Professor Mandy Rose (Digital Cultures, University of the West of England) and Dr Angie Page (Policy Studies, University of Bristol).

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Reminder: Don't miss Prof. Thomas's Silverstein lecture tonight!

Prof. Thomas's lecture, "The Devils' Pet: Shel Silverstein, An American Iconoclast," will take place at Pomona College at 4:15pm today. See previous blog post for details

Monday, March 10, 2014

'Blackfish' and Environmental Activism in Children's Literature

Many have seen or at least heard about the film Blackfish, an emotional and shocking portrayal of the practice of keeping orcas in captivity. Although the film's director, Gabriela Cowperthwaite, claims to have begun the film with the intention of documenting what lead to the death of SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau, many are interpreting the film as anti-SeaWorld, animal rights extremist propaganda. The overwhelming response to this film has begun a fascinating phenomenon which the media has dubbed "the Blackfish Effect," in which animal rights activism is making an undocumented impact via the orcas-in-captivity controversy (even politically--California Assemblyman Richard Bloom is proposing legislation that will ban the use of orcas in shows, among other things). The onslaught of media coverage of the Blackfish Effect has spawned my interest in the relationship between children's literature and environmental activism, particularly after stumbling upon a children's book titled "Namu: Making Friends with a Killer Whale" by Ronald M. Fisher published by National Geographic Society Books for Young Explorers.

Since this book was published in 1973 SeaWorld has become a massive company, creating and dominating the market on orcas. In a NYT article printed before the CNN debut of Blackfish, the film's director Gabriela Cowperthwaite is quoted noting that most of what we know about orcas comes from SeaWorld: “'For 40 years, they were the message,' she said, referring to SeaWorld. 'I think it’s O.K. to let an 80-minute movie have its moment." Indeed SeaWorld has had such a strong influence on the way children view the animal- is it even possible to see an orca and not think "Shamu!"? SeaWorld's branding of a species has been going on since way before we started seeing clownfish and exclaiming "It's Nemo!"

However, Namu predates SeaWorld's success and tells the story of the one of the first orcas to be captured and brought into captivity (although as the title indicates, the focus is more on the delightful discovery that orcas are interactive, incredibly intelligent, and trainable). Further, Namu reveals the general sentiment humans had towards the natural world around them.

For example, the book tells of how salmon fishermen caught Namu in their nets by accident:

The next page skips to the sale of Namu to the owner of an aquarium in Washington: the apparent assumption is that if you find something in nature--even a 10-ton sea mammal--you own it. Although the book does mention that even before SeaWorld was displaying orcas there were those protesting orcas in captivity, the book reveals that  most people wouldn't even question that the salmon fishermen who caught Namu automatically deserved ownership of him and had the right to sell him.

SeaWorld might be the biggest message on orcas, but there are others writing about and publishing children's books on orcas. There's even a press called Orca Book Publishers, who proudly declare on their "About" page that they are "long committed to publishing books with an environmental theme." Now that Blackfish has been so successful in presenting another side to the story, perhaps part of the Blackfish Effect will be even more awareness and availability of books like Siwiti: A Whale's Story

While some may protest political messages in texts for children (I remember talking to a parent who was upset that Happy Feet preached about global warming to her 3-year-old), I wonder if it's even possible, or desirable, to publish children's books about the natural world without taking a stance on what our relationship to the natural world should be like...aren't books about the natural world always political?

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Prof. Joseph Thomas to deliver lecture on Silverstein at Pomona College

"The Devil's Favorite Pet: Shel Silverstein, An American Iconoclast"

When: Wednesday, March 12th, 4:15 pm (reception at 3:45pm)
Where: Pomona College, Ena Thompson Room, Crookshank Hall Webpage:

Details: The talk will be about an hour, and features Shel's life and work (particularly his cartoons, poetry, and music). In essence, it will be a preview of some of the major themes addressed in Dr. Thomas's forthcoming book by the same name.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Harry Potter and the Struggle with Grief

We are finite beings, no matter how immune we might feel against the trials of the world, and one manner that awakens us to our own mortality is the loss of others. Their absence -- be it sudden, incomprehensible, or expected -- can shake us severely, demanding an acknowledgement of the inevitability of death and requiring us to struggle out of the hollowness by any means possible, or else reside in a gloomy haze indefinitely.

In the last three months I have lost a number of dear people in my life (most recently my talented cousin) in a torrent of aching shocks; I've yet to come to terms with the ways of the universe, but I find myself turning to my books numerous times in order to cope. In the process, I have found that the Harry Potter series supply me with more strength and comfort than I'd have first considered, and not simply because I enjoy the stories so. Within the books exist a collection of guidelines in the many forms, reasons, and stages of grief. I had actually ruminated on this last year (when my grandfather passed away) but in the wake of more tragedies, the depth of the novels' relatability has struck me fully.

So what follows is a brief list of the ways in which Harry Potter and his cohorts have helped me grieve:

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

2013 Lion & the Unicorn Poetry Award Essay Available!

Noteworthy news: "Outside the Inside of the Box: the 2013 Lion & the Unicorn Award for Excellence in North American Poetry" Essay is now available, with the award going to JonArno Lawson's Down in the Bottom of the Bottom of the Box (with illustrations by Alec Dempster). The award recognizes excellent poetry written for young people; this recognition not only honors remarkable poetry, but serves as a great jumping board for those less familiar with children's poetry as well.

The award essay was established in 2005; after nine years, this is the first essay published without any of the founding judges. Additionally, (former and current) NCSCL graduate assistants Jill Coste and Alya Hameed deserve special thanks for helping administrate this year's award. You can go directly to the 2013 essay here, and can of course find all the previous essays via Project Muse or by clicking here.

Looking forward to what 2014 will honor!

Friday, February 28, 2014

Booze, Tattoos, Casinos & Children's Lit

One of my passing hobbies is to take note of how widespread children's literature has become, especially when I come across children's literature where I wasn't expecting it. A general public fancies itself distanced from children's literature (once they begin calling themselves adults, that is) and it makes me giggle to note how wrong they are!

Perhaps this holier-than-children's lit attitude prompted a push-back in popular culture, evidenced in the trend of adult-sized clothing and accessories featuring children's literature characters (and in the recent upswing of movies and TV shows based on children' stories...but maybe that's a post for another day). For example, I've spotted several coffee-shop goers with the Mac laptop decal featuring The Giving Tree and noticed a younger, tattooed generation flaunting Where the Wild Things Are t-shirts. Actually, tattoos of Where the Wild Things Are are quite popular.

Beyond these trends, sometimes children's lit shows up really unannounced. For example, if you live in the San Diego area you know that the micro-brewery business has taken off. Upon dining at Ocean Beach's Pizza Port, imagine my delight when I visited last fall to find that they were featuring a beer titled "Bangarang" with a hand-drawn illustration of Rufio from Spielberg's Hook!

I'm sure that many school bands have played "Hedwig's Theme" from the Harry Potter movies, but I doubt that any have done so quite as creatively as the Ohio State marching band. See what I mean at 3 minutes and 45 seconds into the following clip (although the whole show is pretty impressive):

And of course, who ever said gambling and children's literature don't mix? (You may remember this slot machine if you attended the ChLA conference last year!)
Leave us a comment about your Unexpected Children's Literature encounters!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Another CFP for MLA 2015!

Why Dystopia YA Literature? Why Now?

The Hunger Games. Ready Player One. After the Fear. Divergent. “Young Adult Dystopian” is a search category on Amazon. Why is this genre so popular? The books seem to be critiquing consumerism, repressive governments, technology, and science out of control—but is there something more? Something else that is being critiqued that particularly appeals to young adults? Why is YA literature the home for the surge of dystopian fiction? How does writing for a YA audience enhance or restrict the genre? If the literature is written is for teens, does it have to have hope? 

A panel to query the popularity of YA dystopia literature.
Please send 350-word abstracts to June Cummins by March 17:
This is a guaranteed panel sponsored by the ChLA.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Power of Memory in Children's Literature: A Follow-Up

Research on memory has become increasingly relevant in the childlitosphere, heightened by the MLA conference theme for 2015, Negotiating Sites of Memory. There will surely be fascinating panels at MLA, including the ChLA sponsored panel, Geography and Memory in Children's and YA Literature, and Sites of Memory in Children's Literature (check out the CFP's here).

In lieu of the upswing of attention to memory in children's literature, I thought I'd mention that the roundtable discussion The Art of Memory (which I blogged about in October) is now available to listen to online. Dr. Alison Waller (Constructing Adolescence in Fantastic Realism, 2011), the first speaker in this roundtable session, discusses her research on the ways that adults renegotiate their relationships with books they read as children. She notes that nostalgia and love are reoccurring concepts when people discuss the books that made impacts on them as children, and she stresses that this loving relationship to remembered books is anything but straightforward.

While Waller is exploring the complexities of memory, nostalgia, and love, there are other scholars who are interested in children's literature and trauma, or traumatic memory. I'm hoping that the MLA theme will contribute to or build upon some fascinating work along this vein, such as Kenneth Kidd's 2005 article in Children's Literature Association Quarterly titled "'A' is for Auschwitz: Psychoanalysis, Trauma Theory, and the 'Children's Literature of Atrocity.'" Kidd writes, "Many people believe that the Holocaust fundamentally changed the way we think about memory and narrative, a well as about human nature" and notes that exposure to trauma through children's literature is "now deemed appropriate and even necessary" (120).

To anyone invested in looking more deeply into the geographical element of the MLA theme, I recommend checking out some blog posts written by my colleague, Alya, who is interested in concepts of space and geography in children's literature. Alya has blogged more specifically about cartography, writing about the map in The Death of Yorik Mortwell by Stephen Messer that "without knowing the novel itself, you could examine this map and cultivate your own story. Maps have a history after all; the cemeteries would certainly indicate as much here." Alya's observation is that in having a "history" a map may prompt its reader to form a new memory- somewhat of an oxymoron, but perhaps this speaks to the complex reader/authorial relationship?

In any case, I'm looking forward to the MLA 2015 schedule; I'm sure it will announce some amazing work being done in children's literature!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Nerdy, Adventurous Childhood Artwork

Just a drop of nostalgia to jumpstart your week here:

I recently came across a blog post presenting the works of artist Craig Davidson, who has captured what it was like to be a child of the "Star Wars"-verse, all imaginative light sabers, jedi mind tricks, and laser blasters galore.

His art shows exactly how the child interacts and manipulates the environment in order to bring the world to life. This is what kids do. It's precisely what I did, so to see the shadowed backdrop of iconic characters given life by these young kids felt like a mirror into my own adventures. It reminds me of countless children's books where kids do create their own worlds and have to fight to defend it (my own favorite Bridge to Terabithia comes to mind).
I do wonder, of course, about the gender roles being blatantly spelled out here. Can we only be inspired by, excited about and act out characters of our own sex?  (No.)
I checked out Davidson's collection and was startled to see his artwork concretely categorized as "Boys" and "Girls." I haven't looked through everything yet, but admit I do love the ferocious energy and contemplative outlooks his depictions of kids have. On my quick exploration, one collection did stand out:

The "Chums" series (look under Sea). I think my Gothic in Children's Lit class would have a lot to say about the association of the feminine with sharks. What do you think of all his art?

Friday, February 21, 2014

New Material Published on the Unjournal of Children's Literature!

It's time to check out The Unjournal of Children's Literature to read its newly published works! This month's works -- articles, interview, and artwork -- continue and complete the first issue's theme of "transformations" and revolve around diversity and Chicano/a identity, focusing on such issues as the need for change in finding and assessing diverse children's lit, the reimagining of motherhood, and understanding the whole child. We are excited to have included an interview with author Pam Munoz Ryan, provocative artwork from two artists, and excellent written pieces from Dr. Phillip Serrato and Megan Parry. 

The compilation of these works further demonstrates the diverse array we want to develop in The Unjournal. Take some time to read these fascinating pieces and reacquaint yourself with the earlier works, and then feel free to leave comments on the journal itself, or via twitter (#childlitunjournal).

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Conference: Canon Constitution and Change in Children's Literature

Canon Constitution and Canon Change in Children's Literature
International Conference at the University of Tübingen, 11-13 September 2014

Whereas children's classics and their adaptations and transformations into other media have been widely discussed, the history of canonization processes in children's literature in general and the development of a canonical theory of children's literature in particular still need further exploration. Althouth several scholars have already investigated how national canons of children's literature have developed, such historical approaches have mostly focused on aesthetic matters or on changing concepts of childhood. The impact of cultural concepts that are constitutive for the construction of cultural identities (so-called social imaginaries) on canon formation has, on the other hand, been widely neglected. The same applies to a transnational perspective on canon constitution, which transcends national boundaries and instead locates children's literature in a more comprehensive communicative space.

Issues that might be investigated in this respect are the presentations of children's literature in literary histories, the historical contingency of the status of canonicity, the impact of social institutions and awards on the appreciation of certain types of children's literature, the possible reasons for excluding or including particular children's books from/into the canon, the conceptual shifts in the acknowledgement of children's literature in national canons, the influence of genre preferences for canon constitution and the perception of a canon of children's literature as a transnational phenomenon.

More Information

Monday, February 17, 2014

CFPs: Children's Literature at MLA 2015

The next MLA Annual Convention will take place in Vancouver from January 8th to 11th, 2015. How exciting that the presidential theme is Negotiating Sites of Memory- a theme to which children's literature is especially poignant! Check out the following Calls for Papers for Children's Lit panels at MLA 2015:

Geography and Memory in Children's and YA Literature

*Deadline: March 15, 2014*

Investigating the conference theme of "Negotiating Sites of Memory," this panel considers the ideological and spatial implications of physical places depicted in children's and young adult literature. The geographies of these texts demonstrate that constructions of places and people are related processes. In works for young people, the material and the social are mutually constitutive, shaping and reflecting environments that depend on the discursive and/or physical participation of child characters and child readers alike. Importantly, these geographies as produced through literature are imagined representations rather than tangible locations, a gap that explicitly invites the contributions of memory, nostalgia, and fantasy.

Topics prospective panelists might wish to address include, but are not limited to:
  • Place's role in the development of a children's literature canon
  • The role of nostalgia and/or memory in shaping depictions of place in writing for children
  • The relationship or interplay between material places and literary representations (for example, Prince Edward Island and Avonlea)
  • The function of maps and illustrations in children's texts
  • The sustained hold of specific places in children's and YA literature on cultural imaginations and memory, including the Hundred Acre Wood, Toad Hall, the Four-Story Mistake, Mr. Brown's antique shop, Hogwarts, Panem, the Island of the Blue Dolphins, and many others
  • Regionalism in children's and YA literature
  • Virtual places and spaces in digital literature and/or media for young people
  • The geographies of books themselves as physical artifacts of material culture
*Please send 500-word abstracts by March 15, 2014 to Kate Slater at and Gwen Athene Tarbox at Panelists will need to be members of the MLA by April 7, 2014. This guaranteed panel is sponsored by the Children's Literature Association. 


Sites of Memory in Children’s Literature

*Deadline: March 15th, 2014*

Remembering, remembrance, memory, and forgetting shapes children’s literature: authors’ personal memories of childhood that inform their texts or are preserved in cross-written texts or memoirs; larger cultural memories adults wish to pass down to future generations; and events, incidents, and topics elided or “forgotten” in the canon. Indeed, the genre of children’s literature relies on the remembrance, reinterpretation, or revision of past works. This panel invites papers considering all aspects of memory in children’s and young adult literature (historical, literary, nostalgic, patriotic, personal, repressed, traumatic, etc.) as well as papers that explore how literary memory shapes the canon of children’s and YA literature through intertextuality, another site of memory.

Topics prospective panelists might wish to address include, but are not limited to:
  • Adult memories of childhood mined from archives, letters, diaries, memoirs, libraries, school classrooms, or childhood reading practices
  • Cultural and historical events remembered, forgotten, elided, or revised in works of children’s and young adult literature
  • The role of remembrance and nostalgia in canon formation: forgotten texts that are making a comeback (e.g., Henty’s novels in the homeschooling community) or texts that should be remembered
  • How intertextuality functions to challenge, negotiate, or reinterpret ideas of youth, children’s literature, and/or YA literature
  • Genre: historical, theoretical, or institutional practices of remembering and forgetting what constitutes children’s literature
  • Traumatic memories: how they’re represented in individual works as well as how they’re presented to younger readers
  • Iconic texts about remembrance: anything to do with war, but also “holiday” books and texts about important historical events
*Please send 500-word proposals by March 15th to Karin Westman at This is a guaranteed panel. 

Friday, February 14, 2014

Pop-Ups from Prague -- an Eye-Popping Exhibit

As a child I dabbled in designing pop-up creations with construction paper--primarily rudimentary books and curious city-scapes. A star architect was born! (And resided in my cosmically themed "Star City") But eventually that fizzled, though the fascination with the pop-up itself never left, and why should it? The tangible depth given to illustrations, rising from the very medium of the book itself--just minutely crafted paper!--can be mesmerizing. That's why I found this recent article in the New York Times on an exhibit of a Czech artist's pop-up books and artwork so captivating. It is (not so) simply a demonstration of art and engineering intermingled -- the architecture of artwork.

The animated, movable book had started for an adult audience, but shifted gears to appeal more to children during the 18th century (as is the history of much of "children's literature"). The featured artist, Vojtech Kubasta, was a Czech architect, artist, and children's book illustrator who revitalized the pop-up book movement in Europe in the mid twentieth century. I found it particularly interesting that:
Kubasta produced his complex, tightly integrated scenes with a minimalist’s touch. “What’s astounding about Kubasta, as opposed to many pop-up artists today working with multiple layers of paper, is that he achieved his effects using a single piece of paper,” Mr. Sabuda said. “That is the real magic of Kubasta. Look at one of his pop-ups from the side, and it looks like a staircase. The positive space is missing from the background, because it has been cut out, but you don’t notice it. The simplicity of it, from a paper engineer’s point of view, is simply amazing.”
 How that artwork integrates with the storytelling itself would be a worthy point of examination. If you are in New York any time until March 15th, you can see the gallery of his work at the Grolier Club:   JANUARY 23-MARCH 15, 2014: SECOND FLOOR GALLERY EXHIBITION, “Pop-Ups from Prague: A Centennial Celebration of the Graphic Artistry of Vojtech Kubašta (1914–1992) from the Collection of Ellen G. K. Rubin.” Open to the public free of charge Monday-Saturday, 10 am to 5 pm.

On a similar note, this The Little Prince Pop-up is also worth checking out. I'm sure it would even make a nifty Valentine's Day present if you're so inclined...

Thursday, February 6, 2014

2014 ACLAR conference, "Emotional Control: Affect, Ideology and Texts for Young People"

The eleventh biennial international conference 
of the Australasian Children’s Literature 
Association for Research (ACLAR)
Emotional Control: Affect, Ideology and Texts for Young People
Waterfront Campus, Deakin University, Geelong, Victoria, Australia
June 30 – July 2, 2014 
proposal deadline: February 28, 2014

Over the past two decades, studies of affect and emotion have expanded beyond the field of psychology and been embraced by disciplines in the humanities and social sciences. Theorists of affect are concerned with the ways embodied forms of knowing and feeling interconnect with the aesthetic, ethical and ideological, including their effect on texts. According to Grossberg (1992), ‘affect is the missing term in an adequate understanding of ideology.’ The 2014 ACLAR conference explores affect and emotion, with a particular emphasis on how theories of emotion and affect might extend research on the ideological agendas encoded in texts for children and young adults.

Abstracts that address the conference theme are welcome and the full range of children’s texts and media may be examined. Papers may engage with, but are not limited to, the following topics:

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Job Announcement: Professor/Reader in Children’s Literature, University of Roehampton, London

Closing Date: March 2nd, 2014
Person of Contact: Laura Peters, Head of Dept. 
NCRCL website
Outline of the Post

Applications are invited for a full-time, without-term Professor/Reader in Children’s Literature. We are particularly looking for applicants with research and teaching interests in reading, memory, oral history, and/or writing for children, complementary to those of staff in the National Centre for Children’s Literature (NCRCL) and in English literature more broadly. Roehampton has a growing international reputation for its work in both memory and reading.

The department is home of the AHRC-funded Memory Network, the AHRC-funded Memories of Fiction: An Oral History of Readers’ Life Stories, Prison Reading Groups and the award-winning NCRCL. We are seeking applications from highly motivated candidates who will be research leaders in their area with a track record of world class research, external research funding success, and collaborative external partnerships.

The post entails:
  • carrying out and publishing, or producing in alternative format world-class or internationally excellent research
  • contributing to undergraduate and postgraduate teaching, including the supervision of research students
  • actively engaging with external research-related organisations
  • carrying out research-related enterprise activities where appropriate
  • contributing to curriculum development
  • applying for substantial external research grants
  • providing research leadership (Professor) or contributing to research leadership (Reader)
  • actively engaging with external research-related organisations
  • representing and promoting the research of the Department or School in the University, national and international context
  • providing research mentoring for colleagues
  • contributing to administrative, managerial and committee work within the department and university, particularly in relation to research
  • contributing to quality assurance and enhancement of all activities
  • undertaking any other appropriate duties as requested by the Head of Department/School

Outline of the Person

The successful candidate will have:
  • a PhD or professional doctorate in an appropriate subject area
  • an extensive (Professor) or substantial (Reader) record of research and publication or other research outputs of world-class or internationally excellent quality;
  • experience of teaching at university level
  • a broad understanding of relevant fields and knowledge of current developments
  • a commitment to providing learning and teaching that is research-led or research-informed
  • research plans or other evidence of a vibrant and sustainable research trajectory at the forefront of the field
  • experience of applying successfully for external research funding
  • experience of (Professor) or potential for (Reader) research leadership
  • the ability to plan and deliver high quality and supportive teaching and to foster skills and confidence in a diverse range of students at undergraduate and postgraduate levels
  • commitment to providing high-quality academic and personal support to students
  • the experience and/or potential to contribute to developments in learning and teaching, including existing and new programmes
  • experience of supervision of doctoral students to successful completion
  • a willingness to undertake continuing professional development and training as appropriate
  • the ability to work both independently and as a collegial team member
  • excellent organisational, communication and interpersonal skills

In addition, the successful candidate may have:
  • the experience and/or potential to deliver or contribute to substantial impact of their research outside academia
  • the experience and/or potential for substantial research-related or other enterprise activity
  • experience of major external professional research engagement and networking
  • substantial professional experience in areas relevant to the work of the department
  • membership and experience of leadership of relevant professional bodies or organisations

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

ChildLit Cartography: The Glass Puzzle

With winter break firmly behind us, it's time to dive right into a new year and a new semester. I for on would like to recommence with my exploration of maps found in children's literature. Since I basically posted about it ONCE last semester, I think it deserves a bit more attention this time around, particularly because of the underscored prevalence of these images throughout children's books.

Many maps in literature, children's or otherwise, fall under a typical structure meant literally to map a terrain, to guide a reader visually, and to give concrete value to the intangible world emerging from words. For some, this is a burden of information, but for others, this is a necessary element to understanding the story. When we consider that reading includes much more than words on a page, but can address and appeal to all the senses, then the visual stimulation of a map unfolds numerous interpretations and significances.

And yet, admittedly, I do find that a number of texts seems to include maps solely because of the genre they fall under: fantasy. In fact, I came across a blog post by fantasy author J.S. Morin concerning Amateur Cartography, or how to conceive of mapmaking for a fantasy story. In it, he traces the two general mental processes engaged in the creation of a fantasy map: "writing to the map" or mapping as you write. This is all hunky and dory, but what struck me most was what he dubbed the "Reader's Bill of Rights": what a reader can and should expect of an included map.  Legibility, consistency with the text, physical sensibility, and relating to the story are perfectly understandable, but I wondered about one issue he raises, specifically in relation to a novel I read last year, The Glass Puzzle, By Christine Brodien-Jones.

The story itself suffers from an incessant need to explain every characteristic of the young heroine, Zoe Badger. It also takes on too much, leaving the author overwhelmed by the end to wrap up too many threads and details. In brief, the young girl and her cousin visit their grandfather in the town of Tenby, Wales, and unwittingly stumble upon a glass puzzle that opens a portal to a parallel universe (or rather, an alternate timeline). Blunder after blunder result in their homeland overrun by possessing spirits and a damaging force hellbent on domination. Much like the author's previous book, The Scorpions of Zahir, this story relies on the redemptive powers of the young girl; though the story struggled to engage me fully, I did appreciate the author's attempt to create a worthy girl role model. But I was honestly most engaged by the map. 

My first reaction to it: It looks like a claw! The map seems to grown out of the upper left corner in an attempt to unfurl and grab the far reaches of the scroll itself. Roads widen, shorelines tremble and dig into the sea. The perspective it offers is almost threatening, or at least ominous. A welcome change from the standard issue of maps.

And yet, it's so packed with information, only forty percent of which I think exists within the story itself. Trying to find a location while reading led me to scour the entire map over and over again, sometimes getting completely lost. So when Morin says that a map should include more information than is included in the story, does he imply that the map should overwhelm the reader's senses? Does this map fail in that regard? Or is this case of inundation intentional, much like the suffocation that the town suffers when overrun by threatening forces? Does the city therefore invite what it displays? And if I take this one step further, are we then complicit in our own near-destructions? Certainly I'm reading too much into this, but I can't help but wonder about the ethics and implications of the map.