Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Children's Lit Panel at PAMLA still seeking Submissions

The children’s literature session is still in need of proposals. We invite proposals on any theme or topic of study involving children’s literature. We welcome engaging, provocative analysis of children’s text incorporating any theory or critical approaches to children’s literature. Proposals attending to the conference theme about the familiar are additionally welcome.

Proposals should be 250 words with an additional 50 word abstract. All proposals need to be submitted through the PAMLA organization’s submission system at http://www.pamla.org/2014/proposals

The 2014 PAMLA conference will be held Friday, October 31st through Sunday, November 2nd at the Riverside Convention Center in Riverside, California. More information is available at the PAMLA website, http://www.pamla.org/2014. Conference guidelines and procedures and the answers many frequently asked questions can be found at http://www.pamla.org/2014/guidelines-and-procedures.

For questions about the session, please contact Alixandria Lombardo at alixlom@gmail.com

Saturday, May 10, 2014

CFP: Children's Literature and others for PAMLA 2014

Oct 31 - November 2, 2014
Riverside Convention Center, Riverside, CA 

The PAMLA deadline is fast approaching! Last year it was in Sunny San Diego; this year, in nearby Riverside, so if you're local, this is an ideal opportunity to participate. There are a huge variety of topics to choose from, most of which can easily be addressed through a children's literature critique. Below are a few that are specifically geared toward childhood though.

Proposals should be 250 words with an additional 50 word abstract. All proposals need to be submitted through PAMLA’s submission system at http://www.pamla.org/2014/proposals
Conference guidelines and procedures and frequently asked questions can be found at http://www.pamla.org/2014/guidelines-and-procedures.

Children's Literature
contact: (soon-to-be SDSU M.A. graduate) Alixandria Lombardo, alixlom@gmail.com
This panel invites proposals on any topic of study involving children’s literature. Any theory or critical approaches to children’s literature are welcome. Proposals attending to the conference theme about the familiar are additionally welcome.

Disney and its Worlds
contact email: axelrod@oxy.edu
Looking for paper proposals for approved "Disney and its Worlds" session for the 2014 PAMLA Conference in Riverside, CA. From the Frankfurt School to contemporary cultural studies, the social ramifications of Disney movies and theme parks, and their cultural penumbra, have long provided rich terrain for critical scholarly analysis. This panel explores the discursive, literary, filmic, and historical dimensions of the Disney phenomenon in both the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Papers that draw upon the rich canon of scholarship on Disney and engage with its cultural effects through critical theory, spatial or historical analysis, Feminist methodologies, or close reading strategies are particularly encouraged. 

“That Old Black Magic”: Temporality of Magic
contact: Sören Fröhlich, sfrohlic@ucsd.edu
Recent scholarship in the ‘temporal turn’ has raised fundamental questions in the intersection of time and cultural representations (). However, this scholarship frequently side-steps cultural representations of time as malleable and non-rational, as well as supernatural temporalities. Thinking alongside the 2014 PAMLA Conference theme “Familiar Spirits,” this panel invites papers that consider the relation between magic and time.
What happens when we consider that at once relative and all-pervasive dimension of time through the lens of the imagination, the cultural, and the irrational? Whose time is it that counts, and how can it be manipulated? This panel invites discussions of time in representation of magic including, but not limited to literature, art, film, and history.
Topics might consider questions like:
Is there a connection between legacies of racism, sexism, or gender discrimination and time?
Does time differ in the conception of magic across disciplines?
How do religious and magical notions of time cooperate or clash?
Can temporal changes associated with trauma and anxieties be represented through magic?
How are nostalgia and magic related temporally?
What characterizes magic temporality or the temporality of magic?
Which questions about time does the historiography of magic offer?
How can narrative dimensions of time be manipulated to convey a sense of magic?
How do magical manipulations of time relate to retrospective or futuristic projections?
Can time be the different between good and bad magic?

Gothic Childhood
Contact: Kate Carnall Watt
“Gothic Childhood” welcomes submissions exploring either children’s gothic/horror literature/film or children in gothic/horror literature/film. From Casper to The Ring, from Harry Potter to Poltergeist, children are depicted in the supernatural and the supernatural is depicted for children. Papers may explore magic, conjuring, spirits, hauntings, Spiritualism, manifestations, the paranormal, the strange, and the uncanny in horror and gothic films or novels, examining how these supernatural, horror, or gothic tropes connect to the depictions of children or childhood within the examined work.

Check out all of the topic areas here!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Dr. Allison awarded President's Leadership Fund Award

I am thrilled to share that our own Dr. Alida Allison, former director of the NCSCL and beloved professor, has been awarded the President's Leadership Fund Faculty and Staff Excellence Award!

Nominated by interim English Dept Chair, Dr. Michael Borgstrom, Professor Allison has been recognized for her "hard work and endeavors that continuously better our university," particular for "the way [she is] impacting our campus and communities." She started the Center's book review service years ago which has resulted in an influx of children's books annually. Not only has Dr. Allison thus enabled the growth of the children's collection in SDSU's Love Library, but she has consistently donated books to budget-cut libraries and schools around San Diego.

As her student (and as all her students can attest to), I am consistently in awe of the wit and wisdom Dr. Allison effortlessly demonstrates on a daily basis, as well as her unfailing kindness. She has been a huge supporter of the ChildLit GSA, most recently participating in our Edible Books Festival. And as my thesis advisor, she offers guidance with a smile no matter the circumstance. Her scholarly and giving nature comes with ease, and this makes her a stellar role model for faculty and students alike.

Many congratulations to Dr. Allison for this deserved recognition!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Links for a Thursday

We've entered that unbearably busy and hectic time of year, "the end of the semester" (*insert shudder of fear*). So here are a few lighthearted and stimulating links to liven up our energy for the rest of this week.
  1.  Cats, bears, pandas, so many animals get attention in children's books, that a kidlit collection becomes a veritable menagerie. But how many demand the kind of respect that all but requires you to look up to them than the giraffe? (Perhaps the elephant.) Nevertheless, here's a list of top ten Giraffe books in children's lit--to reminisce or explore for the first time. Whatever you do, don't dance with them.
  2. Are we finally running dry on our love for werewolves, vampires, and female-centric dystopias? This author seems to think so, identifying upcoming trends in YA Lit, from universal lovelessness to male-centered dystopias. Fair enough, but I'm not sure her argument that fairy tale reimaginings are a NEW trend is a valid one. Nor do I think the conflation of "YA" with "Dystopia" does either category justice. 
  3. A quick read from the LA Times in opposition to the rumor going around that books are dead. Because they aren't. Otherwise, such movements like the Children's Literature Festival would be unheard of, anyway. 
  4. Lastly, a video of Sandra Cisneros from the LA Times Festival of Books, talking about her newest picture book, border crossings, and more.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Performances Across San Diego

SDSU is currently putting on Jungle Book in the Don Powell theatre, but around San Diego there are a number of other productions coming up based on or inspired by children's literature.

Little Women: The Musical will play at Bailey Bees Theatre in Escondido. The musical is produced by 413 Project, a non-profit supporting students' explorations in theatre. Check out their blog detailing the making of this production. Playing from May 30-June 1.

Sleeping Beauty Ballet is coming up at the San Diego Civic Theatre, produced by the California Ballet Company. Performance dates are Saturday, May 17 - 2:30pm & 7:30pm, and Sunday, May 18 - 2:30pm. The afternoon performances include a thirty minute pre-performance lecture one hour prior to curtain and Post-performance meet the cast following the show.

The Disney adaptation of Tarzan is being staged by the J*Company Youth Theatre at in La Jolla. Based on the Edgar Rice Burroughs classic, Tarzan of the Apes, TARZAN tells the story of an infant boy orphaned on the shores of West Africa and taken in and raised by a tribe of gorillas. This performance will include the music from the Disney film, and runs from May 9-18.

And lastly -- based on the character most often adapted to theatre, film, and tv, and one whose stories have been read by young and old alike -- The Coronado Playhouse is currently staging Sherlock Holmes: the Final Adventure.  It plays Thursdays-Sundays between April 11-May 18.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Jungle Book Production and Pre-Show Discussion

Jungle Book is currently appearing on the stage until May 4 as part of the SDSU's Theatre, Television and Film season of plays. This Friday (May 2) at 6:30 pm, you can join the National Center for the Study of Children's Literature in "Conversations with Children's Literature," a pre-show discussion on Rudyard Kipling’s stories as well as the process of adapting them to the stage. Building on the tradition forged by a similar discussion held last year for Peter Pan & Wendy, this conversation will be led by Director Margaret Larlham, Dramaturg Megan Abell, and a panel from the NCSCL: Dr. Joseph T. Thomas, Jr., Dr. Mary Galbraith, and Graduate students Alya Hameed, Paloma Hoyos, and Alixandria Lombardo.

Discussion Info:
Friday May 2, 6:30 pm 
Dramatic Arts Building, Room 101
Open and Free to the Public
Plan to join our discussion and continue the experience by attending the play directly after!

 About Jungle Book:
Margaret Larlham has created an action-packed version of Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Books stories performed in the Don Powell Theatre. The story is set in a secret jungle in our own Balboa Park, a magic place between the leaves and vines bounded by park, zoo, and the freeways. Here Mowgli, a lost child, has many adventures and learns the “laws” of the jungle from a pack of wolves, Bagheera the panther, Baloo the bear, and the unscrupulous tiger, Shere Kahn. Larlham’s updated version sets the adventure in a modern jungle where the impact of global warming escalates the danger of drought and disaster for the animals. 

Remaining Performance Dates:
Thursday May 1 - Friday May 2 at 7:30 pm
Saturday May 3 - Sunday May 4 at 2:00 pm

More details and ticket information can be found on the SDSU Theatre Website
You can also check out the production's blog: http://junglebooksdsu.com/

Friday, April 25, 2014

Catching Up....

You may have noticed a lack of activity in our virtual (re: blog) presence, which is due to the flurry of lived children's literature-related activity here on campus! If you follow our Twitter account, you know that Dr. Katharine Capshaw delivered an AMAZING talk Wednesday evening for us SDSU folk. Last week we hosted the first ever Devouring Children's Literature event, which you can see pictures of on our Facebook page. Finally, us grad students have recently emerged from a hostile cloud of anxiety about our culminating experiences (don't worry: we're a bit worn, but still alive). More about that later. For now, some "catching up" news...

  1. Dr. Capshaw delivered her talk "Freedom (and Fury) Now: Civil Rights Photographic Picture Books for Children." It is impossible to summarize the awesomeness that was Dr. Capshaw's presentation, but I can tell you that you should be very, very excited for her forthcoming book on the same subject. (It'll be out this fall; title is not yet confirmed.) One of the highlights of her talk included her analysis of the children's photographic picture book Today (1965), in which she asserted that the book was about process, not product. Created by and with and for the children of one of the nation's first "Head Start" programs, it embodies empowerment of African American children in Mississippi in the 1960's- mostly in the process of creation. Capshaw talked about other children's photographic books of the Black Arts Movement, including Poems by Kali (1970) and June Jordan's Dry Victories (1972), texts which imagine the child as an icon of black nationhood and express anger at civil rights failures. However, my absolute favorite aspect of Capshaw's talk was her enthusiastic reiterations of Civil Rights era schoolyard chants. 
  2. Devouring Children's Literature was a huge success! We're most thrilled with our superb speakers: local authors James Matlack Raney and Mara Price and Professors Phillip Serrato and Alida Allison. Dr. Serrato read and spoke about some food-related poems and passages, including Sandra Cisneros' Good Hot Dogs poem, poems by Francisco X. Alarcón, and passages from Mary F. Chin's short story Knuckles (published in American Eyes: New Asian-American Short Stories for Young Adults). James Matlack Raney talked about foods with "substance," arguing that while fast food is great, kids need food that nurtures, sustains, and fulfills them. Of course he was making an analogy about books and applauding the books for children that have depth and aesthetic value--the ones that merit multiple readings. He made sure to note that there is room in the world for all kinds of books. Because, hey, who doesn't love french fries?! Dr. Allison did a hilarious reading of a short story by Isaac Bashevis Singer. To correspond with the timing of Passover, Allison highlighted a tale regarding a foolish town’s trial and treatment of a fish (leading to gefilte fish), peppering it with her wit and enthusiasm. Mara Price discussed her journey to becoming a bilingual writer, and included a heartfelt reading of her picture book, Grandma’s Chocolate/El Chocolate de Abuelita, which she described as a meaningful way to connect with the food and history of her culture. (Also--huge thank you to our NCSCL Director, Joseph T. Thomas Jr. for being a badass emcee). 
  3. At SDSU creating (and defending) a portfolio consisting of two article-length and quality papers is one of the options for the culminating experience of the MA program-and Kelsey successfully defended her portfolio this week! After working with sexually abused children years ago, Kelsey has had it in her mind to write about Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson for some time now, but did not have the analytical know-how until entering this program. With the guidance of the top-notch professors at SDSU (thank you Professor Cummins and Professor Bailey!), she finally manged to put in writing her thoughts on how and why Speak upholds a false and misleading image of sexual violence against adolescents, mostly by privileging the physicality of the crime. Next step: submitting to journals!
  4. Alya doesn’t want to admit that she’s still working out her thesis chapters (she has it all ironed out, seriously!). Suffice it to say that the past few weeks have delivered considerable progress on her exploration of maps in contemporary children’s literature. Focusing on S.S. Taylor’s The Expeditioners and Reif Larsen’s The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet (with a bit of JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series), Alya is working on deconstructing how the map figures in and reconfigures the child’s world view, what the lived experience of mapping offers this world view, and if possible, a critique on the current (lack of) engagement or development of girls in these and other texts where geography matters. Spatial theory is uncharted terrain for Alya, but she has happily dived head first into the project, which started as a mere obsession with maps (cartography and more cartography for the win!) and has evolved into carved-out topographical edible creations.
    An edible representation of the key map from The Expeditioners

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
Website: http://www.ies.sas.ac.uk/study-training/research-training-summer-schools/london-rare-books-school/programme-2014
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 jtthomas@mail.sdsu.edu 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:

Website: http://sdchildlitgsa.wordpress.com/devouringchildlit/

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 Books2Eat.com, 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 (www.edizioniets.com -- 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 playablecities@gmail.com

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: http://www.pomona.edu/news/2014/03/06-shel-silverstein.aspx

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: jcummins@mail.sdsu.edu
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?