Monday, August 31, 2015

NCSCL Welcomes Everyone to the Fall 2015 Semester!

The NCSCL would like to welcome everyone to the Fall 2015 semester.

Back again, for another fantastic semester of blogging and fun NCSCL work, is Cristina Rivera. Cristina has officially begun her second year of the graduate program at San Diego State University, emphasizing in children’s literature, of course. After a year of graduate studies, she has once again found her love of folktales and psychoanalytic theory and spent the summer rereading some YA favorites. She hopes to graduate in May of 2016, after spending what she predicts to be a large number of sleepless nights writing her thesis. Although, the stone is still setting for the official thesis project, Cristina is considering the topic of repressed adult behaviors (more so, sexual tendencies) in children because of scary folktales and stories parents tell their children to make them behave. This idea came about from a paper written specifically on The Sandman and the effects of sexuality and a child’s instinctual behavior and conduct, and closely examined how the childhood story corrupted the main character of E. T. A. Hoffman’s version, ultimately creating sadomasochistic tendencies.

This semester our graduate students have the opportunity of taking two very interesting children’s literature courses: Dr. Phillip Serrato’s Children’s Gothic and Horror and Dr. Joseph T. Thomas’s Edward Gorey and Nonsense.

And here to introduce herself is our newest edition to the NCSCL team, Susan Shamoon. We are very excited to have her!


Hello everyone!

Welcome to the Fall 2015 semester — let me hear you cheer! (Or at least make a little noise to let me know you’re awake. Anyone?)

My name is Susan Shamoon, and I’m the newest addition to the NCSCL team here at San Diego State University, and I can’t explain how excited and honored I am to be given this opportunity. I accepted this position by literally responding with, “Yes. A thousand times yes.” No lie, I did. I am a first year graduate student here at SDSU, working for my M.A. in English Literature with a specialization in Children’s Literature.

I believe understanding our fellow human beings starts young and with good stories. And, really, who doesn’t love metafiction about the very last unicorn in the world, where the fantastic and the everyday blur together when they meet, and become virtually indistinguishable? Someone who hasn’t read The Last Unicorn that’s who, and that’s a sad, deprived child indeed. I will forever support the Oxford comma and buy more books than I could ever realistically read during the school year.

Looking forward to a great semester!

And as always, if you haven’t done so, please follow us on Twitter (@NCSChildLit) and on Instagram (NCSChildLit).

Thursday, July 2, 2015

A Look at NYC Indie Children's Bookstore, Books of Wonder!

A special greeting from New York to my fellow kiddie lit lovers!

Today, I had the good fortune of visiting one of New York City’s best independent children’s bookstores, Books of Wonder. This cultural gem opened its doors on September 2, 1980 thanks to founder Peter Glassman, and his partner James Carey. This wonderful store has moved around and expanded over the decades to become one of the nation’s finest children’s bookstores, hosting events with such celebrated authors as J.K. Rowling (twice!), Madeleine L’Engle, Lloyd Alexander, Maurice Sendak, Eric Carle, and many others. They were also the inspiration for the children’s bookstore in a little movie from 1997 called You’ve Got Mail!

The owner, Peter, was kind enough to sit down with our visiting group and chat for a bit. As if we hadn’t already turned back into children the moment we walked into this vibrant, colorful store, we sat around in a circle and listened to Peter speak about his side of the children’s book publishing industry as well as the importance of children’s books.

As we sat there in a circle, surrounded by the beautiful artwork and illustrations, Peter spoke about the crucial importance of reading to democracy by using the American Revolution as an example. He said the revolution was successful because unlike their ancestors, many Americans could read, and they were introduced to the ideas of independence and equality through the flyers and publications that were posted around towns. It wasn’t something that I’d thought of previously, but I have to admit it’s true! Reading changes minds (usually for the better!).

Peter further expanded on the importance of reading and especially of children’s books to the development of kids. He said that reading expands the imagination of children and makes them believe anything is possible. It gives them an understanding of the world they live in and how they can deal with the things that might come up in their lives. He pointed out that parents often choose to buy books that have characters that look like their kids, which is a shame because literature is meant to open our eyes and take us places we might never be able to go!
Some great recommendations of children’s classics by Peter include:
The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats

Peter pointed out that parents often tend to misinterpret children’s books, or their purpose. I love that he said Charlotte’s Web is essentially about tricking people! After all, there was nothing special about Wilbur, other than he was a very nice guy, or pig (Almost his exact words).

He also shared a humorous anecdote about his dear friend, Maurice Sendak (seriously, can we please be friends with you, Peter! You are awesome!), and an interesting encounter he had during a signing. According to Peter, a woman approached the beloved author and told him that she reads Where the Wild Things Are to her daughter every night before bed, and she gets scared and has nightmares every night! To this, Sendak responded, “Then why are you reading it to her?!” (Perhaps not in those exact words). The woman responded, “ Because it won a Caldecott medal! She should love it!”

Oh, if only we could always love all the books people told us we were supposed to love… I suppose the book industry would be a lot less diverse and interesting if that were the case!

As it is, the children’s book world is filled with so many wonderful choices that I got lost in those rows for hours. For people like us, the term “kid in a candy store” is not as accurate as something like “kid in a bookstore.” But seriously, how could you not want to stay forever in this beautiful place?!

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Busy Month for the Department of English and Comparative Literature

San Diego State University’s Department of English and Comparative Literature deserves a moment in the spotlight for the great work it has done in the past month. Not only did they host an inter-disciplinary LGBTQ conference that invited brilliant minds from all over the world to our humble campus, but they also organized the Humanities in Action event that consisted of current SDSU English Professors and Master’s students who shared their research projects and interests in the field. The Department’s efforts to give students an educational experience outside the classroom that includes opportunities for attendance and participation at these academic events have not gone unnoticed.

The Coming of Age of LGBTQ Studies:  Past, Present, and Future, which took place at San Diego State University April 17-18, brought in scholars from all over the world to share their work in this field with others. This conference brought in professors, master’s students, and independent scholars from the U.S., U.K., Australia, Netherlands, and Canada! It was a melding of minds interested in the advancement of the broad field of LGBTQ Studies through a closer examination of the sub-sections of interests that people investigated.

The conference also included two movie screening followed by a Q&A session with the directors. The movies were Suddenly, Last Winter (2009), with directors Gustav Hofer and Luca Ragazzi and Homeboy (2011), with director Dino Dinco. The keynote speaker, Dr. Karen Tongson from USC, gave a fascinating talk that reflects her work for her latest book project, Empty Orchestra: Karaoke. Critical. Apparatus. It offered a critique of prevailing paradigms of originality and imitation in aesthetics and critical theory, while exploring karaoke cultures, technologies, techniques and desires.

Not only was this two-day conference a huge success, but it also paved the way for The Humanities in Action program, which hosted a smaller, one day symposium for the English Department. This event allowed the faculty and Master’s students in the Department of English and Comparative Literature to get together and share their own research interests and current academic projects in 5-minute lightning talks. As a graduate student, my peers and I can say this was a wonderful experience because it allowed us to see what our professors’ areas of interests are and who would be a good person to work with for the thesis or portfolio project. Not only did everyone share their current projects and research interests, but it also lead to very stimulating conversations about the intersectionality of some of these works. 

In attendance was our very own NCSCL Director, Dr. Joseph Thomas. Dr. Thomas showed off his creative side by making his lightning talk an alphabetized list of every single word from the title of all of his publications. One can certainly make note of his interest for Shel Silverstein from this list, alongside the odd words from some of his quirkier publication titles such as ““a joint rolled in toilet paper”: Funkadelic’s Funky Soul.”

The event concluded with a keynote lecture by Dr. Oona Eisenstadt from Pomona College. Her lecture, entitled “Dress for the Revolution: “The Hunger Games” and Continental Philosophy,” discussed the appeal of dystopian novels for young adult readers. She stated “In some ways, imagining dystopia is a safer activity than imagining utopia. The latter involves projecting our hopes desires and fantasies rather than simply our fears.” She continues to explain how dystopias actually result from utopias, which explains why it is easier to project our fears than our hopes: because our hopes for utopia will often ask us to sacrifice some part of our humanity. She states that the books representation of “corruption and injustice as unavoidable” in this “politically dark and hopeless” world is what appeals to most young readers. This change in the literary appetite of young adults points to a shift in the expectations and desires of young readers. Dr. Eisenstadt applauded these novels’ lack of moral that suggests “a clear eye and a good heart can set things right” because life is a lot more complicated than that and today’s youth are learning that at an earlier age. These dystopian novels introduce young readers to complex scenarios and difficult decisions that can have severe costs, and perhaps our own capitalist world with its insistence on accelerated progress will call upon these future generations soon to make such decisions in reality. Dr. Eisenstadt’s lecture was fascinating and led to a fantastic discussion afterward. It certainly was an intellectually stimulating day at SDSU!

Overall, the Department’s involvement in events such as these, and their encouragement of the students’ participation as well, has been a great example of the rewarding educational experience students in the English and Comparative Literature fields can get at SDSU. The small yet powerful community that we have here allows for a lot more personal interactions between faculty and students, which enhances the quality of the program for students and develops their own academic interests. Though we who pursue a career in the humanities are few, we are mighty in our spirit and valiant in our ideas! 

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Interview with Linda Salem- Children’s Literature Subject Specialist at the SDSU Love Library (Part 2 of 2)

This week is part two of the blog post from our amazing interview with Linda Salem. If you didn’t get a chance to read it yet, Linda is SDSU’s very own Children’s Literature Library Specialist at the San Diego State University’s Love Library

Storytelling is one of Linda’s key interests, and this lead to an interesting conversation regarding the history of children’s stories through oral tradition, into what they are becoming today: e-books. There is a curiosity to understand e-books and if they should be accepted into the education community. Will e-books for children have the same effect as their counterparts in print?

When asked about the motives of children selecting their own stories, Linda responded, "When they come to the library, children sometimes have a topic, a character, or just an idea in mind and they would like to see a book about it." There is a level of certainty that children project for a type of story they might be interested in reading.

Of course I had to ask Linda what her take was on modern day fairy tales that are consuming pop-culture. She suggested that these new fairy tales and the new methods that they are being told through are a continuum of the change that stories must go through. She explained how oral tales turned into printed books and those became fancier with color prints and popup art, then adapted into large motion pictures, and finally became stories that lay face-up on an LED screen device in brightly lit images and sounds captivating the child’s attention and perhaps even our own. Linda mentioned that the previous semester a composer had contacted her for a list of fairy tales that she thought would make good symphonic composition. There is really no end to where fairy tales and storytelling for children will go next.

So in the case of the e-books, Linda as the library specialist of Children’s Literature is faced with a tough question when it is time to select books for the collection. If the book is available in the e-reader format, does that overtake the need to purchase a physical copy? Linda says selecting the print or e-book format depends on many factors.

We spent some time looking through different and neat iPad apps of e-books that incorporated Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland with music, read-out-loud settings, or interactive animation (Atomic Antelope). "Ebooks editions are often media enhanced editions that may be seen as an expansion of the narrative form."

Ultimately, these examples for the evolution of storytelling perhaps make a statement about where children’s book culture is going. And really in a way, storytelling has come miles since its oral tradition. Now children are exposed to stories with graphics, activities, and music; consider not that this may be a distraction to the story itself, but that now stories incorporate so many other senses and create a new experience for the reader. The experience of the reader is changing in general with e-books, audiobooks, and movies, so why not allow children to adapt with                                                                        this shift at the same time?

The final question I had for Linda was regarding the overall study of children’s literature as a newer form of scholarship and the significance it creates in the academic field. Perhaps this question served a need for reaffirming that children’s literature is not invaluable or easy to glance over because it is merely for children. Linda says that in her work with the Children's Literature Society affiliated with the American Literature Association she sees topics of scholarship growing. She and co-editor Dr. Dorothy Clark have an edited book of essays in press now entitled Frontiers in Children's Literature; this book explores this expansion of scholarship through contributions from exciting scholars working in the field today. Also, The Children's Literature Association or ChLA at is a wonderful place to start to learn more about the direction of scholarship in this subject.

The importance of stories and books through any medium is the establishment of literacy, period. So while e-books do not have the comfort of musty pages that hold history with their own existence, they are part of our evolution. Current generations of children will grow into the adults that analyze these texts in ways we cannot comprehend yet. And sometimes it takes getting to know your local librarian to understand the bigger picture of what books of all kinds really mean. 

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Interview with Linda Salem- Children’s Literature Subject Specialist at the SDSU Love Library (Part 1 of 2)

In exciting recent news, the NCSCL was fortunate enough to speak with Linda Salem, the Children’s Literature subject specialist and Bibliographer at the San Diego State University’s Malcolm A. Love Library. She was extremely generous with her time, and it was vastly rewarding to pick her brain for information on just how multifaceted the children’s books collection really is. We also were able to converse about how this collection inspires a unique approach to the way kids are reading these days.

Because this interview provided us with some great and unique ideas, we will post it in two parts in order to give our children’s books the respect they deserve.

Apparently a lot more goes on in the arrangement of children’s books at the SDSU Love Library than one might assume. If you haven’t been up to the fourth floor’s children’s book section recently, the remodel of new   Dr. Seuss-like furniture is a must see, but the best part is the rows of children’s books, everything from picture books to young adult literature. There are also display cases featuring children’s books and artwork from the SDSU’s Children’s Center.

According to Linda Salem, this is a unique space that combines old books and new books through the thread of storytelling and is continuously growing as a collection. For scholarship, she tell us, it is important to look at several variations of stories, like Perrault’s and the Grimm’s fairytales, in order to bring together the contemporary collection with historical collections. This combination allows not just the NCSCL’s brilliant scholarship on the subject of children’s literature, but also plays a role in the School of Teacher Education and Children’s Center at SDSU.

Storytelling and read-aloud books develop and promote literacy in readers and also provide methods of exploration for how teachers can draw in new readers. So do these new children readers participate in this process at our library? Linda explains this is very much the case. Specifically kids from the SDSU Children's Center directed by Robin Judd visit the library to select and read books with their parent and student interns from the College of Education.

She says, “The power of story and storytelling is that it connects all these communities,” unlike any other subject area. This book collection connects research and story, activity with children and story, activity with adults and story, theater performance in story, art in story, visual images, [and] visual language.”  The redesign of the children's book section in Love Library is a project that has taken place over many years, intended to be a common meeting place for these communities. And we are very honored to say many of the children’s books that call the SDSU Library home, have been donated by the NCSCL and the amazing directors that run it now and in the past.

Another amazing new addition to the children’s book collection at the SDSU library, which should be arriving soon, is a variety of children’s texts intended to support Common Core lessons for current elementary school classrooms. These Common Core lessons are designed to assist teachers develop children’s text such as stories and even poetry. It is never too early to introduce children to poetry, and what a great way to have it be adapted into the classroom. 

Another amazing part of our children’s books collection, is found separately in Special Collections area on the fourth floor of the Library Addition, located above the dome (can be accessed by taking the elevator in the 24/7 study area). Many of the books that make up both collections of children’s books, have been donated from the Library of           Dr. Peter Neumeyer. Dr. Peter Neumeyer achieved a giant milestone by being one of the first to teach a literary course about children's books in the United States, and his irreplaceable contribution to SDSU’s English Department, was creating the largest Children’s Literature Program in North America.  But of course he did not stop there. Dr. Neumeyer has donated a large number of high quality books, which were able to refresh the SDSU Library’s main book collection.

In addition, signed copies of children’s books, rare copies of picture books, special editions, and even unique Young Adult books have been added to the Special Collections section now available to students and faculty. The Edward Gorey Collection, which is the personal library of Edward Gorey himself, is made up of over 5,000 titles of unique and important contributions to children’s literature. Field trip anyone?

So what does this sort of collection inspire? Well for starters, we asked Linda to define what high quality children’s and YA books would be and the influence of pop-culture. She said, “I think that the question you just asked makes this collection and this program in the university, in the country, a really great place to ask those questions. You know, these are the kinds of questions that are inspired by our collection, by the classes that are taught here, and the students who work for [and study in] this program.” She continues to point out, importantly, that quality is subjective to what the book is being looked and judged for: A book intended to teach literacy to a bilingual student will not be regarded in the same light as a book that is judged for its artwork and creativity alone.  She continues, “And in that way we do look at some of those popular culture issues, especially in terms of this concept of meme, which is just idea really.”

So since story and storytelling is also considered a cultural artifact, and these days transcends into our media and technology, this is an interesting topic that will be discussed in greater detail in the part-two blog post.

Special thanks to Linda Salem again for taking the time to talk to us about the San Diego State University’s Children Books Collections at the Malcolm A. Love Library and about children and books and the bigger picture of them in the future.