Thursday, November 28, 2013

Part 3: Happy Native American Heritage Month

Today would be a great day to read "What Really Happened at the First Thanksgiving? The Wampanoag Side of the Tale" from Indian Country Today. I also recommend checking out the Thanksgiving page on, where you can read about common Thanksgiving myths. You can also buy the book Thanksgiving: A Native Perspective. The book is a collection of essays, stories, poetry, speeches and activities designed to help readers think critically about Thanksgiving.

One last thing that I'm thankful for: The use of humor in the decolonizing project.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Part 2: I'm Thankful for Indigenous and Decolonizing Children's Literature

...and Its Many Authors, Named and Unnamed 

I'm thankful for the small presses who have taken on the enormously significant task of publishing and promoting Indigenous children's literature. I'm thankful for Inhabit Media Inc., "an Inuit-owned publishing company that aims to promote and preserve the stories, knowledge and talent of northern Canada," who have published beautiful books like The Legend of Lightning & Thunder by Paula Ikuutaq Rumbolt. I'm thankful for Magabala Books, a publishing house in Australia working "to preserve, develop and promote Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures."

I'm thankful for Oyate, an organization which offers many services such as thoughtful children's book reviews, workshops on respectfully teaching about Native peoples through literature, and curriculum suggestions. I highly recommend taking a look at Oyate's Living Stories, a compilation of testimonies from Native peoples who want it understood that they are not relics of the past; they are "still here."

I'm thankful for Leanne Simpson, whose response as an activist to the fracking in Canada was to publish a children's book called The Gift is in the Making which re-tells traditional stories about Nishinaabeg cultural values and people. I'm thankful that Maori author Patricia Grace has written and published children's books Maraea and the Albatrosses, Areta & the Kahawa and others. I'm thankful that Samoan author Sia Figiel wrote The Girl in the Moon Circle. I'm thankful that Australian Aboriginal author Doris Pilkington wrote Home to Mother.

I'm thankful that children's literature is underestimated. It's an odd thing to be thankful for, but as Trinh T. Minh-Ha wrote in Woman, Native, Other, "associated with backwardness, ignorance, and illiteracy, storytelling in the more 'civilized' context is therefore relegated to the realm of children." Because children's literature is underestimated the decolonizing power of storytelling is thriving in the field. Keep an eye out for an upcoming article in the Unjournal of Children's Literature titled "Mythical and Missing Mothers," by Megan Parry for more about the subversive and decolonizing potential of children's literature.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Part 1: I'm Thankful for Debbie Reese

...and Others Engaging in Scholarship on American Indians in Children's Literature

I'm thankful for Debbie Reese and her amazing blog titled "American Indians in Children's Literature." I'm thankful that Reese doesn't mind walking into Barnes and Noble to do a critical assessment of Thanksgiving children's literature. I'm thankful that Reese published an article in Indian Country Today titled "Beyond the So-Called First Thanksgiving: 5 Children's Books that Set the Record Straight," effectively highlighting some beautiful children's lit and offering them up as an "antidote" to the stereotypical depictions of American Indians in all too many Thanksgiving books for children. I'm thankful that Reese published another article in School Library Journal titled "Resources and Kid Lit About American Indians."

I'm thankful that Indian Country Today is discussing many ways in which children's literature is important in fighting stereotypes and oppression of American Indians. I'm thankful that Indian Country Today published this article titled "Native American Heritage Month: Children’s Books for Your Black Friday Shopping List," which is a great reference for more children's book "antidotes." I'm thankful that Indian Country Today published the article "Montana's Institutional Racism Behind Calls to Ban Alexie's Book." I'm thankful that this article's author Adrian Jawort reports that Sherman Alexie's award-winning YA novel, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, was not banned. I'm thankful that Jawort asserts that students should have the opportunity to decide for themselves if Alexie's novel is relevant. I'm thankful that Jawort observes that much violence in literature taught to young adults in schools is not senseless, but educational, personal, and emotional; in the example he presents (Fools Crow by James Welch), the controversial literature is aptly educational about the history of violence against American Indians in the region.

I'm thankful that Sherman Alexie himself has spoken up about the availability of his books in schools, writing that the books banned in Arizona last year have now become "sacred documents."

I'm thankful that there are others compiling thoughtful lists of children's books about the American Indian experience, such as this group of parents from Red Lake Nation in Minnesota.

I'm thankful that the theme of the Children's Literature Association Conference in June next year is "Diverging Diversities," asking for papers that "consider the diversification of the genre--and its limits--both within the U.S. and internationally." I'm thankful that this theme creates an outstanding venue for scholars to talk about American Indians in children's literature. I'm thankful that the ChLA has created a sponsored panel titled "Authenticity, Artifacts, and Publishing Patterns in Multicultural Texts," which probes scholars to ask, "Are texts considered 'authentic' if they do not conform to common expectations regarding the representation of minority or foreign cultures? Do mainstream perceptions of 'authenticity' realistically represent 'other' cultural points of view? Does referencing quotidian cultural behaviors, which would not be noted by members of the culture itself, reflect a tendency to treat other cultures as anthropological subjects?"

I'm thankful that November is Native American Heritage Month. I really am thankful for this! It's problematic: Like Debbie Reese has said, teaching about any group shouldn't be relegated to one specific time of year. In addition, a friend of mine, who feels strongly about the Thanksgiving holiday glossing over the painful history of American Indians, said he found it insulting that Native American Heritage Month was in the same month as this controversial holiday. These are both great points! However, for children's literature especially, when we reinscribe the month of November as a month to learn about American Indians we have an opportunity to overturn and overtake stereotypical and harmful representations of American Indians in much mainstream Thanksgiving literature.

Visit the blog tomorrow and Thursday for parts 2 and 3.

Monday, November 25, 2013

CFP: Barnboken - Journal of Children’s Literature Research

2014: The Year of the 100 Year Olds

2014 is the year for several 100 year old celebrations in the Nordic children’s literature. The father of Mrs. Pepperpot, Alf Prøysen, the verse-smith Britt G. Hallqvist and the internationally renowned Tove Hansson were all born in 1914. Barnboken – Journal of Children’s Literature Research honor the memory of the three writers with a special issue.

Britt G. Hallqvist 100 Years
Britt G. Hallqvist’s (1914–1997) contributions to Swedish children’s literature are many and profound. It was a sterling authorship that emerged already with her debut book Rappens på Blåsopp (1950), and then continued with many children’s and young adult books, several collections of poetry and verse, drama, religious devotional books and psalms for children.

As a translator and introducer she is equally important. We find her name in several classics, such as Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, E. B. White’s Charlotte’s Web, Laura Ingalls Wilder’s The Little House on the Prairie, J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and the works of Shakespeare. Worthy of mentioning is also her translations of nonsense poems by Edward Lear, Sylvia Plath, T. S. Eliot, and James Krüss.

Tove Jansson 100 Years
The world renowned writer and artist Tove Jansson (1914–2001) made her book debut in 1945 with a shorter story about how the Moomin trolls came to the Moomin valley, called The Moomins and the Great Flood. Her multimedial artistry has been the subject of research in Sweden as well as internationally, for instance Boel Westin’s extensive Tove Jansson Life, Art, Work: The Authorised Biography (2007), which will be published in several languages during 2014.

Tove Jansson’s oeuvre encompasses a range of aesthetical expressions during seventy years. The Moomin world is a universe of its own, mediated through illustrated books, picturebooks, comics, theatre, movies and TV-series. During the 1950’s Tove Jansson became an international megastar through the Moomin comics. She wrote novels, short stories, and drama for adults, and worked for many years as an illustrator and political cartoonist. She has also illustrated the works of many other authors.

Barnboken welcomes articles about Tove Jansson and her broad repertoire within the following themes: crossover and multimediality, ideology and philosophy, autobiography and autofiction, loneliness and isolation, childhood and adulthood.

Alf Prøysen 100 Years
The Norwegian author and songwriter Alf Prøysen (1914–1970) was an important culture personality in Norway. He wrote not only novels, short stories, and songs for children and adults, but was also engaged in drama, radio, television, audio recordings and as a collector of Norwegian folk songs. Among other things he worked for many years with children’s radio and television programs, and he also translated several children’s book classics to Norwegian.

Alf Prøysen made his debut in 1948 with a collection of songs for adults. His first children’s book, Lillebrors visor (Little brother’s songs), came the year after. What he is most known for is, however, the four books about Teskjekjerringa, or Mrs. Pepperpot as she is called in English, the little lady that can shrink to the size of a teaspoon at any time. Mrs. Pepperpot was introduced in the journal Kooperatøren where Prøysen had his own page for children during 1950–1960. In book format Mrs. Pepperpot first appeared in Swedish in 1955, two years prior to the first Norwegian publication. The stories of the little teapot lady has been translated into more than 20 languages.

Deadline for proposals: 20 January 2014
Deadline for articles: 21 April 2014

The articles will be published in late 2014. Please send a 300-word proposal and a short bio to See Author Guidelines for further information on submission details.

Articles submitted for consideration may not have been previously published or presented in any other context.

Barnboken – Journal of Children’s Literature Research is published by The Swedish Institute for Children’s Books. It is the only scholarly journal in its field published in Sweden. The main language of the journal is Swedish, but articles written in Danish, Norwegian and English are also welcome. All articles accepted for publication have been peer reviewed by at least two peers and will be published online under an Open Access.

The editorial committee consists of Björn Sundmark, Associate professor, Malmö University, Sweden, Åsa Warnqvist, PhD, Stockholm University, Sweden (Editor), and Mia Österlund, Associate professor, Åbo Akademy University, Finland (Scientific Editor 2013). Barnboken is published with financial support from the Swedish Research Council (Vetenskapsrådet).
A guide to our reference and note system can be found at the journal website.

For more information, please contact:
Svenska barnboksinstitutet/The Swedish Institute for Children’s Books
Åsa Warnqvist, editor
Odengatan 61
SE-113 22 Stockholm
Tel: + 46 8 54 54 20 51.

Friday, November 22, 2013

San Diego Theaters featuring Children's Lit: Pam Muñoz Ryan, Dr. Seuss, and Rudyard Kipling adapted for the stage!

Running from January 3-17th, Esperanza Rising adapted for the stage will appear at the Casa del Prado Theatre in Balboa Park. Esperanza Rising is an amazing novel by local author Pam Muñoz Ryan about a young girl living a privileged life in Mexico when tragedy strikes. Esperanza must relocate to California with her mother, and face the hardships of working on a farm camp during the Great Depression. Esperanza Rising won many awards, including the Pura Belpré Award which honors work that best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino/a cultural experience. 

Pam Muñoz Ryan is an alumna of SDSU, a friend to the National Center for the Study of Children's Literature, and an overall stunning figure in the world of art for children. Keep an eye out for an interview with Pam Muñoz Ryan titled "Writing the Whole Child" in the Unjournal of Children's Literature

Visit the Junior Theater website to purchase tickets ($10-$15) to Esperanza Rising. There will be a noon showing on January 14th for schools, and a post-show talk with Pam Muñoz Ryan herself following the January 10th showing. 

The Junior Theater will also showcasing another famous San Diego children's author: Dr. Seuss! On January 8th and 14th you can see a production of The Cat in the Hat. If you'd like to see some Seuss for the holidays, you can visit The Old Globe for their 16th annual production of How the Grinch Stole Christmas- it's running now through December 28th.  

In Spring 2014 a production of the Jungle Book will appear in the Don Powell Theater here at SDSU. Director Margaret Larlham will bring a local perspective to this classic by setting the story here in San Diego, "in a secret jungle in our own Balboa Park, a magic place between the leaves and vines bounded by park, zoo, and the freeways." 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Links for a Wednesday

A few links and the potential for discussion they inspire, to inspire your Wednesday and lead you into the rest of the week...
  1. The place and future of the children's book app for e-readers has been debated and questioned for a long time now. Recently, it has popped up in discussion at the Festival of Australian Children's Literature, touching such topics as extended play as a health concern and the "slush pile" that is the iTunes children's book store. This debate will only continue as scholars, authors, and doctors of all fields consider how to even define or categorize e-books and whether children "just to do visuals and play, rather than think about words and constructing meaning."

  2. At the Miami Book Fair International, Sherman Alexie shared his thoughts about the role of book fairs specifically in this age of e-readers. Alexie notes that books are individual experiences, but book fairs capture a much older tradition of storytelling in a group, something that can't yet be replicated by the "cruddy" experience of e-books. He also talks about the value he finds when a book is banned, understanding that, "I wrote the book that needs to be read. Percival Everett, the writer, always says that if you’re getting banned, then you’re offending the right monsters."

  3. Apparently Donald Sutherland wants the new Hunger Games film, Catching Fire, to stir a revolution. Whether this is just a marketing ploy or a sincere call to the youth, Sutherland has chosen to focus on one of the more valuable aspects of the series -- its political critique and the effects that may have on its readership and viewership. That the text can be read in numerous ways and applied to many larger and smaller political arenas (global conflicts to students' rights, for example) is what Sutherland harnesses in having this discussion. Unfortunately, I don't see this film franchise as the transformative experience he claims it to be, but I could be wrong.

  4. Eric Carle's newest book, Friends, has just been published, and the site Brain Pickings gives it and the acclaimed author-illustrator a very well-deserved and vivid spotlight.

  5. Lastly, an infographic travel guide to Middle Earth, since there's always room for a fantastical adventure in our very real lives.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

3rd Panel for Children's Literature Society at the ALA Conference

Last week we listed the CFPs for two panels that the Children's Literature Society is holding at the American Literature Association's 25th Annual Conference. They now have a third panel as well, and are accepting proposal submissions for it:

Who: Children’s Literature Society
When: May 22-25, 2014
Where: Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C.
Submission Deadline: January 15, 2014

Panel # 3:   Saving the World: Girlhood and Evangelicalism in the Nineteenth Century
Childhood studies had been steadily growing as an important field in US nineteenth-century literature and culture, complicating our understanding of the boundary between adult and child and asking what happens when we foreground the child. Taking this as our starting point, we are interested in exploring how texts that are written for girls, or represent girls, participate in the work of reform through an evangelical agenda. More specifically, what kind of cultural work does this evangelical literature perform, through its representations of childhood, kinship structures, discipline, authority, education, race, and class?

Possible Topics:
Children’s series books
Treatments of evangelicalism
Post-bellum representations of the South and the plantation novel
Children’s abolitionist literature
Treatment of animals
Missionary work
Treatments of discipline
Representations of kinship relations
Education, The Common School Movement or the Home School Movement
The American Sunday School Movement
The American Tract Society

Possible Writers: Lydia Sigourney, Lydia Maria Child, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Maria Cummins, Elizabeth Stuart Phelps, Susan Warner, Annie Fellows Johnson, Martha Finley, and Louisa May Alcott.

Please send a 500-word abstract and brief CV to Robin Cadwallader ( or Allison Giffen (

Thursday, November 14, 2013

CFP: Options for Teaching Young Adult Literature

Options for Teaching Young Adult Literature 
(MLA Options for Teaching Series)
Edited by Mike Cadden, Karen Coats, and Roberta Seelinger Trites
Proposal due: February 15, 2014
With this collection of essays, we seek to explore how successful instructors are incorporating Young Adult Literature into their pedagogy, not only in courses wholly dedicated to YA lit, but also in courses that include one or two texts as part of the broader ideological focus. We are especially interested in essays that seek to theorize and problematize themes, issues, and conventions prevalent in the literature.  
Young Adult Literature has gained an unprecedented readership in recent years. While the literary quality of the literature is certainly variable, its range of social issues and aesthetic forms makes it not only pleasurable reading, but also culturally significant. Professors of literary and cultural studies are including young adult literature in their syllabi, and state legislatures, responding to accrediting agencies, are mandating courses in young adult literature for their education candidates. While the scholarship on Young Adult Literature has gained in gravitas and sophistication, there has been no extended exploration of its pedagogy at the college level.
For this volume, then, we seek short essays (10-15 ms pages) that address the pedagogy of young adult literature in the college classroom. Essays may focus on theory, including which theoretical perspectives seem most important for illuminating the concerns of young adult literature and culture and how they can be introduced and explored to best effect; particular approaches, applications, and assignments that you have found successful in your classroom practice at the undergraduate and graduate levels; and/or special issues that arise in the discussion and/or inclusion of young adult texts in the college curriculum, such as multimodality, interdisciplinary crossover, censorship and selection, relevance to the emerging adult, and publishing concerns. The volume is being proposed for the MLA Options for Teaching Series; TOCs of volumes similar in conception to ours can be found at (Teaching Life Writing Texts, ed. by Fuchs and Howes) and (Teaching Film, ed. by Fischer and Petro).
350-500 word chapter proposals are due by February 15, 2014. Proposals should be for original works not previously published (including in conference proceedings) and that are not currently under consideration for another edited collection or journal.

Proposals should be submitted to:
Mike Cadden,
Karen Coats,
Roberta Seelinger Trites,

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Comics-Children's Lit Alliance: Thoughts for Friday's Forum

SDSU's ChildLit Grad Student Association is hoping to see you at the Living Room Cafe this Friday at 7pm for a discussion about comics and graphic novels in children's lit. I'm looking forward to hearing about everyone's favorite graphic novels, and I have tons of questions about comics and graphic novels in this field. For starters, Phil Nel gave a manifesto at this year's ChLA conference calling for an academic alliance between comic and graphic novel studies, and the field of children's literature.While this alliance may seem obvious to some, those that are familiar with the "adult" content of some graphic novels may be alarmed with this manifesto- some graphic novels just aren't appropriate for children. However, the moment something is designated as "not for children," children are all the more determined to get their grubby hands on it! Add to that the way that both children's literature and comics and graphic novels are marginalized and under-appreciated, and perhaps Nel's manifesto isn't so far-fetched. On the other hand, if you're a die-hard advocate for the comic and graphic novel form, wouldn't you be more invested in creating a unique division for this art form in the academy- one that is separate from but related to children's lit?

What characterizes the comic form anyway? Most obviously- panels. But is this always so? Local author Brian Selznick created Caldecott-winning novel, The Adventures of Hugo Cabret. This book features full-page illustrations and contains not one panel, yet due to the heavy interaction between the visual and the written it is often categorized as a graphic novel. By that definition, then, aren't all picture books graphic novels?

Given the popularity of series like Captain Underpants, Bone, and Diary of a Wimpy Kid, educators are considering graphic novels only in the way that they hook reluctant readers, and what do we make of well-known titles being converted into graphic novel form? Madeleine L'Engle's  A Wrinkle In Time is now a graphic novel, Eoin Colfer helped create the graphic novel of Artemis Fowl... From a publisher's point of view, is this just another money-making way to hook reluctant readers, or is it an enthused indulgence in the possibilities of the form? Can it be seen as a sort of fan-fiction, since the artist can take liberties with the interpretation of the story? Or how about graphic novels for a YA crowd like American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang? Isn't the explosion in popularity of graphic novels adding to the discussion, in complex ways, about how ethnic minorities are viewed... literally?

Finally: how awesome is Calvin and Hobbes? Ok, that question may be a bit leading. But really, let's talk nostalgia and reverence for comics this Friday. How profound of an affect can a beloved comic have? I've heard friends cite The Far Side in passing conversation (either my friends are serious nerds, or The Far Side is the Seinfeld of the comic world), and I have no shame in admitting that I reach for a Get Fuzzy book after a bad day.

Want to look into more sources about comics and graphic novels in children's literature? Watch this TED Talk by Scott McCloud, or read How Graphic Novels Became the Hottest Section in the Library in Publisher's Weekly. You could also look at Charles Hatfield's "Graphic Novel" entry in Keywords for Children's Literature edited by Phil Nel and Lissa Paul. Or you could read some Peanuts

So much to talk about- see you Friday! (If you can't make it to the forum, feel free to leave a comment!)

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Prolonged Youth of "Once Upon A Time"

The theme of PAMLA this year was “Stages of Life: Age, Identity, and Culture," which, as you can imagine, brought out a wealth of discussion on the many variations, formations, and instances of children, childhood and youth in literature as a whole (children's or otherwise). One of the ideas that I saw emerge throughout the conference is the idea of rebirth -- a rediscovery of childhood, of innocence, of youth. Admittedly this popped up in my own paper, but the notion that childness manifests itself in a myriad of ways that can be seen across all stages of life bubbled forth from numerous panels. And directly from that idea came the image of the prolonged or eternal youth.

I caught myself thinking about this in particular when I listened to a panelist discuss the nature of kids stepping out of their structured lives into an adventure. This specific topic discussed the hobo culture for children, and brought up an interesting commentary from the 1930's that concluded that children -- boys and girls alike -- ought to go out for an adventure, to escape and live "like hobos" but only for a few months (six at most) otherwise they will become "spoiled." The child may go "rotten" by experiencing too much of the so-called real world. He or she needs to retain some amount of innocence and unworldliness it seems.

How about flipping that idea, inverting it to think about a person who remains in youth, who tries to prolong his childishness, youth or appearance of youth. Elements of cultures are built around this concept (the image of eternal youth that defines Hollywood, for example), and it plays at the forefront of many YA novels now. The idea of the immortalized teenager, whether by vampire's bite or dystopian technology, suddenly presents these issues in a new light. Prolonged youth eventually leads to a rotten soul, perhaps?

Or if we allow ourselves to go further -- does it turn them downright evil?
Is that the belief spurring what's been done to Peter Pan, particularly in the reenvisioning on the current television series "Once Upon a Time"? The show represents the movement to reclaim fairy tales for adults, evidently by pitting the heroic adults against someone more devious, dangerous, and cunning than the dark Rumpelstiltskin, that someone being the eternal child Peter Pan. Depicting him as a threat to adults and children alike also troubles the usual adult/child binary that his story usually enlists. But in its place, do we now have the opportunity to critique Pan through the deleterious effects of eternal youth? Just something to think about.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Childlit GSA Forum: Graphic Novels and the Comic-verse

Upcoming ChildLit GSA Forum

When: Friday, November 15 @ 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Where: Living Room Cafe @ 5900 El Cajon Blvd 
Topic of the Night: "Graphic Novels and the Comic-verse"

The next GSA Discussion Forum is set to explore the expansive universe of comics and graphic novels, from the classic superheroes to infamous stuffed tigers, and every single character in between.

The GSA Forums are a chance to engage with like-minded folks on all realms and levels of Children's Lit. Comics make up a huge repository of adventures for many a childhood, teenhood, and young (and old) adulthood, so it's about time we brushed up on our heroes and villains, anime and Peanuts, and all the fabulous graphic novels that don't get enough love (and the few that do). Bring some brilliant things to share about the ever-evolving stories of Batman, Spiderman, X-men, and such. Or think about the influence and presence of works like Persepolis and A Game for Swallows. One of the newest Marvel characters was just revealed, a Muslim-American teenage girl--what are your thoughts on that? Discuss the changing dynamics of San Diego's Comic-Con and the rise of Comic Cons internationally. It's quite amazing how pervasive comics and graphic novels are, especially when we stop to think one of the most beloved child characters is Calvin... and Hobbes.

In fact, bring some of your favorite or most interesting books/novels to share with others, and expose those of us a bit less than well-versed in the realm of comics. Or just come and hang out, play a pub(lication) quiz, win a silly prize, and feel like the sovereign of the evening. The forum is meant to be a welcoming and casual gathering.

Forums are open to all folks interested. That means faculty, grad students, undergrads, and you! So whether you have tons to discuss or you just feel like listening in, please drop by! It also provides an excellent opportunity to meet like-minded peers and scholars of the field.

We'll be holding the event at The Living Room Cafe from 7 pm to about 9 pm, so stop by any time and stay for as long as you like.

Looking forward to meeting up, hanging out, and diving into a comic book with you.

For more information about the ChildLit GSA, please visit us at:
On Twitter: @SDSUChildLitGSA

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Local Bookstore Highlight: Bluestocking Books

Bluestocking Books is an independent bookstore on 5th Ave in Hillcrest selling new, used, and rare books. They look like a tiny shop from the outside, but their bookshelves run deep!

They have a generous collection of children's and YA lit and highlight the collection front and center. Unlike many used bookstores, they keep careful track of their inventory and can help you locate specific titles. I was very pleased when I handed a staff member a list of books I was looking for and she was able to tell me what they carried right away. They're also able to order books for you that they don't have on the shelves, AND they have their inventory available for purchase online- chain store convenience in a local shop!

Another benefit to Bluestocking Books is their location. Certainly Hillcrest is lovely (minus the parking situation...grr), but more specifically they are across the street from 5th Ave Books. This gives you an opportunity to browse two excellent collections in the same trip!

Friday, November 8, 2013

A 'Marvel'ous Muslim Teenage Comic Superhero

Back in September I talked about the rise of a new cartoon series in Pakistan, the Burka Avenger. It now looks like the female empowerment movement has rubbed off on the world of US Comic-verse. Marvel Comics is introducing a new teenage superhero, who happens to be Muslim-American.

Kamala Khan, aka Ms. Marvel, emerged from amusing life-experience stories of Sana Amanat, an editor at Marvel. She and a peer approached acclaimed graphic-novel and recent novel writer G. Willow Wilson to pen the character. I've never read any of Wilson's works (I'm largely unfamiliar with comics in general, but I have been wanting to get my hands on her debut novel Alif the Unseen). Still, I always perk up at the revelation of a new multicultural text, particular a Muslim-American girl-centered one. While some cultures can attest to an enormous amount of literature including, addressing, or focusing on them (whether or not they get recognized by the mainstream public), the Muslim-American identity still exists on the fringe. It has only been in the last decade or so that children's/YA books have been coming up from Western countries dealing with kids of various Islamic backgrounds. And even of those, not too many from the US as yet.

So this is exciting news! And since she is Pakistani American, I feel a second step closer to the experience meant to be exposed. People who exist in some capacity "on the outside" usually want to find a way to fit in, and to see that unfold via the nature of the superhero should be interesting, and an excellent opportunity to connect with teens searching for an identifiable subject in literature. Still, one hopes it does not stray too far into stereotyped territory. According to the New York Times article linked above:
Kamala will face struggles outside her own head, including conflicts close to home. “Her brother is extremely conservative,” Ms. Amanat said. “Her mom is paranoid that she’s going to touch a boy and get pregnant. Her father wants her to concentrate on her studies and become a doctor.” Next to those challenges, fighting supervillains may be a respite.
But Wilson is quick to point out:
"It was really important for me to portray Kamala as someone who is struggling with her faith.” The series, Ms. Wilson said, would deal with how familial and religious edicts mesh with super-heroics, which can require rules to be broken.
My concern lies in how authentic these struggles remain, if they can consistently ring true as the general isolation felt by teenagers all over, and if at some point the character's story becomes more than just a plot device. In other words, of course this girl's tale will unfold as a battle within her own heart and mind as much as with villains and her parents, but I'm most excited to see when a Muslim-American identity will eventually become a steady presence, such that it doesn't need constant defining and centrality to a text (can it ever be viewed as part of the 'norm'?). But I'm really getting ahead of myself here. For now, I think I'll just live vicariously through this young woman who gets to shape shift and startle evil doers with her amorphous identity.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

CFP: Children's Lit in Multicultural Worlds, "Literature. Children. Time."

5th International Symposium “Literature. Children. Time.”
5th Literary Festival for Children “Dyvokraj”

Children’s Literature in the Multicultural World International Conference
1 - 5 of June, 2014
Submission deadline: April 1, 2014

The conference is held by Petro Mohyla Black Sea State University (Mykolayiv, Ukraine) and Ukrainian Research Centre of Children’s and Youth Literature (Lviv, Ukraine).  The conference is a part of the program of the 5th international symposium “Literature. Children. Time.” Areas of interest for the conference include the following topics:
  • Children’s literature in the context of multiculturalism
  • Postcolonial perspective in Children’s literature Studies
  • Gender Studies and Children’s literature
  • Children’s literature and ideology
  • Canon and identity in literature for children and youth
  • Children’s literature and intermediality
  • Writing for kids in the situation of bilingualism and plurilingualism
  • Graphics and  illustrations: iconosphere of children’s books
  • Ethical dimension of children’s literature
  • Children’s book as a commodity
  • Use of children’s literature for commercial purposes
  • Kitsch and children’s books
  • Children’s Literature in cyberspace

Round-table meeting: reading national propaganda “All of Ukraine reads to kids” – “All of Europe reads to kids”

Working languages of the conference are Ukrainian, Russian, Polish, German and English.

Registration fee for participants is 250 hryvnas (for the former USSR citizens) and 50 Euros (for citizens of other countries), which includes coffee-breaks, lunches, sightseeing tour. The registration fee should be paid when the participants register. Travel expenses and accommodation costs are covered by the participants of the conference.
Submission Information
Oral presentations should not exceed 20 minutes. Papers of the conference will be published in two Ukrainian academic journals. The papers of the participants who will not give their oral presentations at the conference will not be accepted for publication.

Abstracts of presentations (up to 200 words) should be submitted by April 1, 2014. The participants of the conference should provide the following information:
  • title of the presentation;
  • last name, first name, middle name, academic degree;
  • name of the institution
  • field of research interests;
  • mailing address, telephone number, e-mail address 
The abstracts and personal information should be sent to Dr. Tetjana Kachak, the Head of Ivano-Frankivsk URCCYL-Branch: e-mail:; telephone numbers: 0038 067 8705724, 0038 099 0475972
Manuscript requirements
Prepare your manuscript before submission, using the following guidelines: all files should be submitted as a Word document, Times New Roman, size – 14, interline space – 1.5;  all margins – 2 cm; Microsoft Word count for all text including figures and tables but excluding references should not exceed 20 000 characters with spaces; abstract  is 4000 characters not including keywords; list of cited words is at the end of the paper in the alphabetical order starting with sources written in Cyrillic, then in Latin; references in the text are in square brackets, the first digit indicating number of the source in the bibliography list, the second digit is the number of page, for example, [12, с. 45-46], [9, с. 24].

Abstract submission deadline: April 1, 2014
Notification of acceptance: April 10, 2014

On behalf of the Organizing Committee

Prof. Dr. Oleksandr Pronkevich (
Dr. Ulyana Baran (Hnidets) (

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Children's Books That Aren't

A few recent encounters with interesting books has me thinking about books that come in forms typically reserved for children but feature themes many consider "adult." One such book, authored by Children's Poet Laureate J.Patrick Lewis and the accomplished Jane Yolen, is the darkly humorous Last Laughs: Animal Epitaphs. 

Set in a graveyard, it's a book of poetry riddled with morbid puns as each poem humorously accounts for the death of an animal. For example, Goodbye to a Rowdy Rooster on the second page reads "Too cocky by far/ he head butted a car." This poem is accompanied by the corresponding illustration of a rooster embedded in the front bumper of a truck. Illustrations by Jeffery Stewart Timmons are sick and hilarious, and add considerably to the narrative of the collection. They're characterized by dark, textured blacks, browns, and grays, with a spatter of bright red here and there.

Especially because of Timmons' about-the-illustrator blurb at the end of the book ("He has illustrated several books for children and has had numerous pets, all of which died.") I was reminded of my reaction to the loss of one of my family pets in my adolescence. My little sister, age 11 at the time, was devastated when the beloved goldfish 'Freckles' was discovered dead on the tile floor. We found no other explanation other than he must have jumped out, which lead to my choking back laughter as my sister's eyes filled with tears. Was my family so severely dysfunctional that our pets are driven to suicide? Or perhaps this particular fish was cursed with a memory that lasted more than 5 seconds and was therefore painfully aware of his lifetime swimming in circles? In any case, as my little sister cried, I let a giggle slip and fled the room to spare her feelings.

After reminiscing I'm left wondering what is behind this thrust of children's books that aren't (or are they?). Maybe Animal Epitaphs was so enjoyable for me because more often then not I deal with loss through humor, and I grow weary of saccharine accounts of dying pets in children's literature.

Children's books that aren't are popping up more frequently and do pretty well- Go the F*ck to Sleep (Akashic Books, 2011) topped the Amazon bestseller list and attracted much attention when Samuel L. Jackson read the book on The Late Show with David Letterman. There's also FU Penguin: Telling Cute Animals What's What by Matthew Gasteier (Villard, 2009), All My Friends Are Dead by Avery Monsen (Chronicle, 2010), and That's Not Your Mommy Anymore: A Zombie Tale by Matt Mogk (Ulysses, 2011). My suspicion is that these are more than hipster collectibles.

Take a look at a celebrity children's book that isn't- Stephen Colbert's I Am A Pole (And So Can You!). While the book itself is seeped in irony, I don't think the book's success is ironic at all, despite what The Boston Globe reported. A tale of a pole in the midst of an identity crisis (Should he be a fishing pole? A pole-dancing stripper's pole? The North Pole?), the book pokes fun at an overly-simplistic narrative about identity. It pokes fun at lots of things, actually, even celebrity children's book authors themselves. (By the way, if you haven't yet, you need to watch the Maurice Sendak on The Colbert Report.)

For example, take into account I Am A Pole's metallic medallion on the front cover, proudly announcing that the book is "Caldecott Eligible." Sure, it's a funny fake endorsement, but I've noticed that a lot of new picture books are incorporating a single, metallic circle in their cover art. A bit too convenient, it must be a clever marketing technique to get buyers to either consciously or subconsciously think that they're looking at a prize-winning book.While Colbert's cover mocks this trend (or maybe started it?), it also points out that if awards in children's literature such as the Caldecott are important enough to mimic, then they certainly have a huge impact on sales...something to keep in mind while we look forward to Joseph Thomas and Kenneth Kidd's Prizing Children's Literature.

In any case, my question is: In paying attention to what is highlighted in children's books that aren't, are we getting insight into the pushbacks generating from frustrations with children's literature at large? To use examples from the texts discussed here, in Animal Epitaphs the frustration addressed is the saturation of the sappy pet-loss narrative, in I Am A Pole it's the overemphasis on awards (among other things!), and in Go the F*ch To Sleep it's the parental frustration with the romanticized bedtime story ritual.

Now what is the pushback addressed in Aye Jaye's Gangsta Rap Coloring Book? Thoughts?

Finally, I'll leave you with a mind-bending fun fact: when I Googled "Children's books that aren't for children," the first thing that popped up was an ad to buy Amazing You!: Getting Smart About Your Private Parts by Gail Saltz. Second was The Little Red Hen.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

PAMLA wrap up, MAPACA, and the Dystopian (white) Child

Just some notes to start off the week...

1. PAMLA just flew by this weekend! Held at the Bahia Resort in San Diego, the conference offered a plethora of insightful, fascinating, and fun panels. Because the theme of the conference dealt with Stages of Identity, there were plenty of presentations that focused on children and childhood, making this a particularly fruitful conference for those of us studying children's literature and childhood studies. I'll talk a bit more about the experience and what I ruminated on in a later post. For now, kudos to everyone who participated and many thanks to Dr. Kenneth Kidd on his PAMLA Forum presentation on "beginner" culture. Did you all have a great experience?

2. The Mid-Atlantic Popular and American Pop Culture Association Conference is being held this week in Atlantic City, New Jersey, from November 7-9.  The conference consists of a huge number of subject areas, one of which is the Children and Childhood Studies Area. You can check out the conference schedule here to see all the topics, including "Food in Children's Literature, "Pediatrics and Popular Culture" and "Toys, Clay, and Satan: Animation and Children's Literature." If you happen to attend, share with us your experience!

3. In a recent Salon article, Dr. Anna Mae Duane talks about an emerging truth about childhood that we see from "The Walking Dead"and the rise of dystopias. She largely addresses the American need for "children to remain innocent, no matter what the cost. A quick glance at the stories we’ve told ourselves for centuries reveals a persistent tendency to categorize children as one of two things: innocent victims or bad seeds." Duane then turns that toward the reasons why all these dystopian child heroes and heroines are white -- because reality already consists of a violent world for minorities in America. Her argument pushes us to the starting point, raising important and necessary racial discussions but leaving it there for us to run with. What else can we make of dystopian heroes being white? What would happen with ethnic diversification? And when will we stop thinking of children as innocent vessels, but as human beings?

Monday, November 4, 2013

CFP: Two Panels at the American Literature Association's 25th Annual Conference

Who: Children’s Literature Society and the Association for the Study of American Indian Literature
When: May 22-25, 2014
Where: Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C.

Panel #1:  Native American Children’s and Young Adult Literature 
The Children’s Literature Society and the Association for the Study of American Indian Literature invite abstracts (of about 250 words) for a panel on Native American children's and young adult literature. We welcome critical analysis and surveys about historical fiction, cultural stories of family and community, school stories, stories of fine arts and artists and performers, stories of important political figures, and transcriptions of oral histories. Papers may address representations of Native communities in text and image, Native-authored texts, and broader trends in American children’s and young adult literature. This panel will contribute to the critical review and analysis of works of Native American children's and young adult literature and will be an important contribution to the study of American children's literature.

Please include academic rank and affiliation and AV requests

Please send abstracts or proposals by Wednesday, January 15, 2014 to Dorothy Clark (, Linda  Salem (, and Kathleen Washburn (

Panel #2:  The Wild Things. Where Are They Now?
Fifty years after the publication of the iconic picture book Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak, the public imagination is still captivated by Max's story of adventure, mischief, power, journey, fantasy, repression, surrealism, and illusion in place and time. The expansion of Sendak's imagination for this title has led to a feature length film and to a popular culture phenomenon based on the impact of his work on readers. Likewise literary criticism in children's literature has continued to explore the importance of this work and its reverberations through the genre of children's literature. In this panel, we invite scholars to broadly explore Where the Wild Things Are expanding their approaches to this text or related texts (e.g., Jon Klassen's This is Not My Hat) considering the fifty years of research, literary, art and philosophical thought since its publication.

Please include academic rank and affiliation and AV requests

Please send abstracts or proposals by Wednesday, January 15, 2014 to Dorothy Clark ( and Linda  Salem (

Saturday, November 2, 2013

CFP: I Will Be Myself: Identity in Children's and Young Adult Literature, Media and Culture

Featuring Keynote Speaker: Our very own Dr. Phillip Serrato!

Where: University of British Columbia

When: Saturday, May 3rd, 2014

Proposal Deadline: January 15th, 2014


"I Will Be Myself": Identity in Children's and Young Adult Literature, Media and Culture is a one-day conference showcasing graduate student research that explores, questions, and analyzes the issues surrounding identity in various elements of children's and young adult literature. You are invited to submit an academic paper proposal or a creative writing submission that contributes to the existing body of literature and research in the area of children's and young adult literature studies, which includes novels, films, apps, and picturebooks, as well as other culturally produced modes of children's literature. We are particularly interested in research and creative pieces that draw upon broadly interpreted themes of identity, which can include liminality, hybridity, Otherness or Othering, gender, and transformation.

Topics may include, but are not limited to:

  • Identity as a critical lens for reading children's and young adult
  • literature
  • The child or young adult choosing or combining identities
  • Issues of hybridity: hybridity of genre, multimodality, cultural
  • identity, racial identity, sexual identity
  • How 'otherness' shapes identity in materials for children and youth
  • Negotiation of self and Other as represented in cultural texts
  • Liminality and other states of 'being in between'
  • Indigenous identities
  • National identities
  • Boundaries, their creation and transgression
  • Multiple, cross-cultural, and/or transnational identities
  • The role of identity in constructing literature and literacies
  • Reconstructive identity and multiple selves
  • Imagined identities: dreams, fantasy and desire
  • The cultural markers of childhood and adolescence
  • Identity and performativity: a gendered discourse
  • Fluid subjectivities; multiplicity of selves
  • The pedagogical implications of identity in various stages of
  • literacy
  • Virtual selves in virtual worlds
  • The 'coming of age' trope in 21st century literature
  • Neoliberal capitalism and the individualistic 'I'
  • Identity embodied: mixed abilities represented in YA and children's
  • literature
  • Marginalised identities represented in works of fiction for youth
  • Eco-critical understandings of subjectivity
  • Interwoven subjectivities and the individualistic 'I'

Papers on any children's or young adult genres are welcome, as are papers that discuss other children's texts such as film, virtual texts, or graphic novels. The topics above are a guideline for the proposals we would like to see, but we are eager to receive and review paper proposals on any topic related to children's and young adult texts.

Please send a 250 word abstract that includes the title of your paper, a list of references in MLA format, a 50-word biography, your name, your university affiliation, email address, and phone number to the review committee at Please include "Conference
Proposal" in the subject line of your email.

The conference fee of $18 CAD for students and presenters, and $35 CAD for faculty and professionals, includes morning and afternoon refreshments and a catered lunch. Please visit our website for more information: