Friday, May 31, 2013

CFP: Ecology and Children's Literature Grad Student Conference

Sensing Wonder, Serious Play: Ecology and Children’s Literature  

A Graduate Student Conference
Harvard University
Friday, October 25 2013

Keynote Speaker: 
Sara St. Antoine
Student Moderators:
Steven Brown, Evander Price

Much has happened in the decade since Sidney Dobrin and Kenneth Kidd applied the lens of ecocriticism to the world of children’s media in their collection of essays Wild Things: Children’s Culture and Ecocriticism (2004).  This conference grows from their foundational work and endeavors to further the discussion.  We invite any essays that consider the role children’s media plays in building a sense of identity, wonder, imagination, environment, and relationship to the surrounding world.  Relevant questions range from (but are certainly not limited to):

How do certain works of children’s literature use nature to bridge the gap between adulthood and childhood?

What sort of eco-ethic does children’s media teach, and what do children learn from that media?

What is behind the phenomenal popularity of recent children’s stories?
Why have certain themes, such as dystopia and post-apocalpytic settings, become so popular?

What lessons can adults learn from depictions of nature in children’s stories?  What might be gained from accessing the heightened sense of wonder present in childhood?

We invite papers that explore children’s literature (Newbery Award Winners), imagery (Caldecott Medal Winners), movies, toys, and the like, from an ecocritical perspective.  This conference is meant as an opportunity to tap into childhood experience and explore that sacred period when we possessed, as Rachel Carson put it, an unparalleled sense of wonder, now forgotten.

For consideration, please submit your name, academic affiliation, and the most recent version of your paper to by August 15, 2013.


Monday, May 27, 2013

Children's Literature in English Language Education Journal Available in Open Access Format Online

The debut issue of the CLELEjournal (Children's Literature in English Language Education Journal) is available online.

CLELEjournal is a peer-reviewed, biannual, and open access journal dedicated to examining the use of children's literature in teaching English language. The first issue features the following articles:
  • "The World Turned Upside Down: Exploring Alternate History with Young Adults" by Justyna Deszcz-Tryhubczak & Mateusz Marecki
  • "From Reading Pictures to Understanding a Story in the Foreign Language" by Annett Kaminski
  • "Humanizing Teaching English to Young Learners with Children's Literature" by Irma Ghosn
  • "Playing with Nonsense: Toward Language Bridging in a Multilingual Classroom" by Urmishree Bedamatta
  • "Response to 'The Lost Thing': Notes from a Secondary Classroom" by Sandie Mourão
Visit to read these articles and learn more about CLELEjournal.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

CFP: NeMLA Conference April 3-6 2014

45th Annual Convention
Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA)
April 3-6, 2014
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

The 45th Annual Convention will feature approximately 350 sessions, as well as dynamic speakers and cultural events. Interested participants may submit abstracts to more than one NeMLA session; however, panelists can only present one paper (panel or seminar). All of the panel CFPs can be found on their website here, which includes the following CFP:
Young Adult Literature After A Wrinkle in Time 
The 50th Anniversary in 2013 of the still popular Madeline L’Engle’s ‘Wrinkle in Time’ gives this panel an opportunity to assess the progress of Young Adult literature in the 50 years since the novel appeared. What is the state of Young Adult literature? Did authors follow L’Engle’s lead or branch out to new horizons? Is young adult literature still appealing to young adults? Interested scholars should email 250-300 word abstracts to
Chairs: Carmen Burton, and Mary Willingham, 
Area: Cultural Studies and Film
Abstract Deadline: September 30, 2013

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Multicultural Perspectives: ChildLit Festivals in Pakistan

Last September I wrote about the Children's Literature festival in Pakistan--turns out it has blossomed into an insightful and inspiring series of events, inviting resident authors, scholars, and children to two to three day events aimed at broadening awareness for the existence, importance and influence of children's literature in Pakistan. When last I checked, they had held their fourth conference, but it looks like CLF 2013 is ready for its sixth conference this weekend, on May 24-25. It follows on the coattails of the first Literary Festival in Islamabad that was held last month, also successful on its own terms.

I'm really impressed by the tenacity and eagerness of the Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi (ITA), or the 'Center of Education and Consciousness,' who have been organizing these conferences since 2011 with the Oxford University Press. Amid all the mayhem that is painted across media about the state of things in Pakistan, movements like this are vital for the spirit of the local community and serve to develop the regard and support of the international community.

I had the opportunity to interview one of the festival coordinators from ITA, Sheba Sherin, following their November festival. At the time, the festival had incorporated events and activities in honor of Malala Yousafzai, the young Pakistani girl shot last October by the Taliban for her vociferous advocacy of education for girls. She is now one of the most recognizable young faces in the world, being named one of Time's 100 most influential people of 2013 and recently announcing an international grant for girls' education.  The CLF had honored her and Sherin described some of those efforts to me:
Malala was supposed to be the Young Ambassador of the CLF. However during the time we had approached her and were to have her officially on board with us, her unfortunate accident occurred. At the festival we had a special stall known as "Tribute to Malala--Letters, posters and cards dedicated to Malala Yousafzai". At the stall, children were given art materials through which they created beautiful letters and cards for her. Also a special short documentary created by Fauzia Minallah from Funkor Arts, was screened at the inauguration ceremony of the festival. The short animation was a tribute to Malala extending the support of millions for her.
Sherin also shared her insights on the role of children's literature in Pakistani culture. "Enhancing reading abilities and learning through promoting literature and the habit of reading books is something that automatically leads to excellence and brilliance, "she told me, articulating the need to instill in kids the value of books and reading.

At the time that I corresponded with her, the CLF was planning to coordinate events in smaller cities and less urban areas, including Swat and Bahawalpur for holding festivals at a smaller city level. They certainly hit the mark though in holding one in the capital of the country at such short notice. Hopefully this weekend will mark another momentous experience for kids and adults, and continue to spark a zest for learning and literacy, imagination and hope.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Links to Start Your Week Off

A bit of book news for you...

The Michigan School System was presented a proposal last week from a mother seeking to ban Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl from the curriculum due to one passage she found distasteful and overly sexual. The review committee has decided not to ban it however, citing that 'situational censorship' would be in play if they did. I wonder how the Chicago Board of Education justified supporting the classroom ban of Persepolis. It certainly helped book sales but was viewed as detrimental to kids as well.

independent publisher Pushkin Press has established a new imprint, Pushkin Children's Books,aimed at translating children's books from around the globe into English. This has been something of great import on my mind as well; consider the wealth of storytelling cultural awareness, and overall knowledge that children (and adults) are missing out on by not having access to stories everywhere. There is the Marsh Award for Children's Lit in Translation, which implies its importance, but still the movement has been relatively slow. Nevertheless, Pushkin is pushing the movement forward.

Pakistan will be holding their 6th Children's Literature Festival at the end of May, the first to be held in the capital city of Islamabad. I'll be writing some more on this really soon (let the final papers be done!), but in the mean time you can read up on the organization, making groundbreaking strides with each event.

And because it's Monday and we all deserve a tasty treat to set the week right (It's Children's Book Week by the way!), here are some delectable sights to behold: edible books and more edible books.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Children's Book Editor Discusses What Makes a "Good Book" on Saturday May 11

The San Diego Chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) will feature Kira Lynn from Kane Miller Books on Saturday, May 11 at 2 p.m.

Ms. Miller will share her definition of a “good book,” offer tips on what writers and illustrators can do to make sure that they’ve submitted their best work, and discuss the state of the children’s book market in general. The event will be held at the University of San Diego in the Hahn School of Nursing building. (See a map of campus here.)

* Contact: 619-713-5462 or
* Age limit: 18+
* When: Saturday, May 11, 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
* Where: USD: University of San Diego, 5998 Alcalá Park, San Diego, 92110 (Directions)
* Cost: $7 - $9 (Buy Tickets)

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Healthy Reading before Children's Book Week

One enticing diversion of mine is to scour the food blogosphere. Sadly I've been neglecting that lately, what with the end of the semester nipping at my toes and obligations that come with it. Still, when the chance avails I catch up on what I've missed and sometimes stumble on a delight. Yesterday was no different, as I came across the following post about some healthy pickin's for the young foodie from North Atlantic Books (located in Berkeley, CA, lest that name fools you). I had the opportunity to intern with them many, many moons ago, and am not surprised by this conscious collection of wholesome reads. I wonder what presence the "food revolution" has in youth culture, and if books like this are becoming more abundant.
As an aside: if I might suggest a delicious read myself, I'd recommend Hot, Hot Roti for Dada-Ji, by F. Zia--not so much for the healthiness than for the utterly mouthwatering visions of delicious Indian bread cooked fresh at home for many generations to enjoy.

Really, I don't even have the book and I still get excited by what lies within it.

But this first discovery led me to another--I was unaware that next week is Children's Book Week, the longest-running national literacy initiative (since 1919). As someone who hopes to get more involved in literacy movements locally and globally, I always get excited about these programs and checked out if any local events were happening. Apparently events will occur in La Jolla at Warwicks Books, including a reading/signing event with local author/illustrator Salina Yoon.

These initiatives make me reflect on the balance between being children's lit scholar and children's lit(eracy) advocate -- where they share ground and where they diverge. I'll have to hash that one out later. For now, I need some roti...

Friday, May 3, 2013

Brave New Girls: What it means to be a heroine in dystopian YA literature

If I were in New York City, I would definitely be going to this talk on May 10. The editors of the forthcoming book Contemporary Fiction for Young Adults: Brave New Teenagers will discuss the intersections between dystopias and pop culture, examining the hows and whys of the dystopian trend in contemporary young adult literature.

This relates to Alya's post from yesterday, where she mused over the popularity of certain kinds of young adult books. In fact, just the other day, Alya and I were chatting and marveling about how the dystopian trend hasn't yet hit a saturation point in the YA market. Why is this, do you think? Is it because audiences were so captivated by the thrilling Hunger Games that they just want more reading experiences like that? Is it because teenagers now live in a post-9/11 America, where a palpable awareness of terrorism gives rise to fear, and teens need to read comforting tales of heroes trumping totalitarian societies? Or is it simply because this is our culture's version of the mythic hero tale? Instead of knights questing to eradicate a monster and bring back some sort of treasure to the ruling party, we now have teenage protagonists (usually female) questing to overthrow a frightening dictatorship and return life to a semblance of "normal."

So the next question is why the teenage girl protagonist? Obviously there is science fiction and dystopian literature that features adult protagonists, but it is the work that follows the teenager's journey that has so populated the market. I might suggest that the fight against authority and the ultimate triumph of the teenage hero is a [wishful] metaphor for the move from adolescence to adulthood, a fantastical one where the adolescent successfully finds her place after the trials and tribulations of "figuring it all out."

Of course, we know that life is never that easy -- the time period between adolescence and adulthood is increasingly murky, and even if one "grows up" successfully (e.g. has a job they don't hate and enough money to live on their own), the story doesn't end there.

But frequently in dystopian literature, the story does end with the ultimate triumph of the female protagonist. She has suffered loss, yes, and she must cope with the drastic changes that her decisions have led to, but she is also wiser, and she has a place of relative power in this new society. Her journey has led her from being acted upon to being the actor.

So maybe what this boils down to (admittedly simplisticly) is that teenagers (and adults, too) are drawn to dystopian young adult literature for the hope they provide. Ultimately, don't we all want to believe that we would be actors and not acted-upon, come the revolution? Even if we know that the majority of people will let change happen TO them, we can read works that allow us to align with the people who CREATE that change.

We can pretend that we are brave new heroes.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Limitless YA Publishing and a Fix of Fantasy

When I was young--or specifically, a young adult (whatever that actually means)--I spent most of my time reading 19th and 20th century classics, some fantasy, the occasional mystery thriller and, when no one was looking, current children's books that my younger brother was assigned from school. Even in my teenage years, I had developed a sense of nostalgia for the books I had read five, six, eight years prior, so it was with that memory that I'd check out the brother's newest assigned reading, curious about the goings on of the children's literary world.

But I was certainly not reading anything printed for me and my age group. Not regularly at least. That is why the Young Adult category intrigues me, as it may most of you. It has catapulted in the past ten years, generating some of the most memorable, and loathed, books of our generation. Is it because they are "easier" to read, venture into more fantastical or currently dystopic areas, or people just can't get enough of the teenage psyche? It's certainly profitable, which is why so many publishers are adopting the genre and creating their own YA imprints. Even Penguin Books India is launching INKED, their own "hip new young adult imprint." A recent LA Times article points out why:
What's the reason? Readers, or more specifically, book-buying readers. It's been obvious since midway through the Harry Potter series that books for kids could sell big -- in part because adults are reading the books as well. The success of the "Twilight" and "The Hunger Games" series proved that what might have looked like a trend is more like a habit. There are young adult book buyers are to be had.
That's wonderful--the book buying industry is on the rise in the children's lit area--and yet there is room for worry, if they all aim to churn out what's "trending" instead of what is innovative, challenging, or just different. Sigh. I'm grumbling to myself, when I should be celebrating all the new and exciting things that have come to pass and do await. But can we just move past the dystopias and all the cavalcade of "mean-girl" high school dramas? Has our storytelling run dry? Not at all. I just hope that these imprints search out the best of the best.

On an entirely separate note, speaking of what awaits us, if you're a fantasy/sci-fi aficionado, this Ultimate Guide to Fantasy and SciFi in May should help you get your fix in May.