Wednesday, November 27, 2019


Hello scholars! We had such a fun time at our first ever Pacific Ancient and Modern Language Association (PAMLA) conference this past weekend. We met (and witnessed) so many talented scholars this weekend.

Graduate assistants Sofia and Ashley ready to check
scholars into the conference

One of the key takeaways Ashley got from working at the registration desk was seeing the diversity of people who attend academic conferences. Scholars from many states and countries came to present on a stunning variety of topics ranging from vampire studies to absurdist history. Several families came to America’s Finest City for the weekend, with many a child treated to a trip to the San Diego Zoo. Students and faculty came from all over, from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa to Vancouver Island University. A young girl in the audience of Joseph Thomas and Michael Heyman’s poetry reading delighted the crowd with her giggly additions to the performance. Ashley was also thrilled to meet another person studying Vietnamese American literature.

Thai Luong presenting on A Different Pond by Phi Bao

The Asian American Literary and Cultural Studies sessions on Thursday left Ashley dazzled. As a first-semester graduate student just entering that field, this conference was her first time meeting fellow Asian American literature scholars, and hearing their research left her inspired. She left with many topics of interest to research further: the effect of the model minority myth on lived experience, Vietnamese American history and literature, and the boundaries of what is defined as Asian American and literature. She is determined to search for an area of focus of her own (food is brilliant but taken) and to draw all the inspiration she can from the admirable work of those trailblazing in her field.

Katherine Sciurba presenting on White Flour by David LaMotte

Ashley also had the opportunity to attend the brilliant Children’s Literature I panel. Katherine Sciurba, Assistant Professor in the SDSU School of Teacher Education, opened with “March of the Coup Clutz Clowns: The Clown as Figure of Resistance to White Supremacy in David LaMotte’s White Flour.” She analyzed LaMotte’s humorization of ostensible KKK members who attempt to join a parade. It was fascinating to hear her perspective as an instructor who focuses on the affective response of her students to the books she reads, and the Q&A raised the question of empathizing with KKK members and where the limit is. Dr. Sciurba argues that children are capable of processing trauma in picture books because they might witness much worse on the news and maybe even personally.

Linda Salem presenting on Aruki Taro by Takei Takeo

Next, Linda Salem, the Children’s Literature Librarian at SDSU, spoke about “Takei Takeo’s Aruki Taro, Clara Breed, and Japanese Illustrated Children’s Literature in Context.” She described the wonder she felt finding this book and imagining the story, which she could only extrapolate from the images. After getting the story translated, she began extensively researching the history of children’s literature in Japan and shared those findings with us. Salem’s role as a librarian requires much communication with different organizations, such as the public library system from which she obtained this rare book. Thank you to Linda Salem and all librarians for making the study of rare literature possible!

Mary Galbraith presenting about animals in 20th century novels

Children’s Literature Lecturer Mary Galbraith presented “The Live Creature: Animal Presence and Inhabiting the World in 20th Century Children’s Novels.” The talk drew upon many well-known novels, such as The Black Stallion and The Call of the Wild, to explore how authors can typify emotion and express nonverbal communication. Dr. Galbraith marveled at how entire books can be written about animals that don’t communicate in words but with their bodies. She described how “yes” and “no” are very deep in physiology, spreading her arms and stepping forward to indicate “yes” and withdrawing while pulling her arms to her chest to express “no”. As always, Dr. Galbraith’s animated and yet casual style of speaking is engaging and simplifies her very complex research.


Dr. Joseph Thomas and Dr. Michael Heyman Reading
During “Children's Poetry Today: A Creative Writing Reading”

Dr. Joseph Thomas and Dr. Michael Heyman had a poetry reading together, entitled “Children's Poetry Today: A Creative Writing Reading: an event in four chapters,” on Saturday. Joseph Thomas read from “‘Advice for Children (NSFW)’ and Other Poems for Young People,” among other works. Joseph Thomas and Michael Heyman have worked on many projects together over the years, from collaborative poetry to being judges of The Lion and The Unicorn Poetry Award.

Adults and children alike joined together to listen to these brilliant poets and readers; at one point a child delightfully laughed at one (or maybe more than one) poem, emphasizing the wide reach poetry can have. The two did not write this show as a piece, but often worked through poems together on the phone, showing the true organic creativity of their poetry. For Joseph Thomas, although this reading is enjoyed by all, he states, “doing this for children makes the physical important,” referring to their vibrant movements and energy while performing.

Their reading was broken into four chapters. In the first chapter, Joseph Thomas dedicated a poem he wrote in the intro to his late father, and dedicated another poem to his beloved cats. Next, Michael Heyman read his poem “Bish Boshed” a rhyme poem with arguably “nonsense” names which he brought sense to with the rhythm and passion of his reading. Joseph Thomas then read his own poem, “Nonsense Rhyme for Michael Heyman” following “A Pomsense Poem” by Michael Heyman.

 In the reading’s second chapter, Joseph Thomas read eight lines from “The Charge of the Light Brigade” by British poet Alfred Tennyson, otherwise known as “Lord Tennyson.” Michael Heyman followed with his own poem, “The Chard of the Blighted Souffle.” Michael Heyman then read an excerpt from “Warning to Children,” which Joseph Thomas argues is an improvement to the original poem.

Dr. Joseph Thomas and Michael Heyman Reading

Chapter three, entitled “Seasick Love Songs,” began with “The Hummerhead Brill” by Michael Heyman. Joseph Thomas read his lighthearted poem “The Fisherman,” a poem about a man in love with a creature neither a fish, nor a human.

In the fourth and final chapter, “Rinnzekete bee bee nnz krr müü?”, A.A. Mill’s “Now we are Six” was improved by Joseph Thomas’s poem “Six We are Now.” Michael Heyman concluded with a stunning, dynamic rendition of Kurt Schwitters’s “Ursonate”.

Dr. Joseph Thomas and Michael Heyman waiting for
“Children's Poetry Today: A Creative Writing Reading”

Watching these two perform was such a joy, but it truly felt like watching one, with how in tune they were with each other’s every word and movement. The audience, and the readers themselves, could be seen exchanging smiles throughout the event. We were so lucky to be reminded of the creativity and joy involved with writing and sharing poetry.

The full video of this event is linked here:
PAMLA 2019 was a blast, and we look forward to PAMLA 2020, which will be held in Las Vegas. Thank you for the generosity of all involved! 

-(AN) & (SS)

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

SDSU Children's and Young Adult Scholars at PAMLA

Hello scholars!

We have been looking forward to the PAMLA Conference this weekend! We would especially like to remind you of the panels featuring children’s literature scholars from San Diego State University. 

Thursday, Nov 14th:
In honor of its fifteenth anniversary, former and current judges/essayists for The Lion and the Unicorn Award for Excellence in North American Poetry, along with the award’s founder, its first editor, and its newly appointed second editor will discuss literary prizing, the difficulties of aesthetic judgement, and the award’s history and future. Dr. Thomas will also preside over this event and speak of his roles as Editor (2013-19) and Founding Judge (2005-12; 2017-18) of The Lion and the Unicorn Award for Excellence in North American Poetry. 

Act Four - Literature of the Oxford Inklings
10:15 AM - 11:45 AM  
Jordan Garza, a graduate student in the San Diego State University English Department, will be presenting “An Unexpected Spectacle; Or, the Situationist International Visits the Shire”. J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit is a children’s literature fantasy novel published in 1937 that, through its depiction of Bilbo and Hobbit society and their drive for remaining in a passive consumerist state, anticipates some of the cultural critiques leveled by the Situationist International a quarter century before its founding.

Friday, Nov 15th: 

Act Four - Gothic II
10:15 AM - 11:45 AM

Phillip Serrato, the new chair of the San Diego State University English Department and a longstanding Children’s Literature faculty member, will be presenting “‘My Dearest Friend’: The Post-Coital Appeal Mad Monster Party? and The Nightmare Before Christmas.This talk examines the ways that in Mad Monster Party? and The Nightmare Before Christmas a carnivalesque ethos of rule-breaking fun plays out in ideological dimensions such as gender and sexuality. Specifically, this talk proposes that part of the appeal of these films lies in what might be called a post-coital defiance of heteronormative resolution.

Act Four - Young Adult Literature
10:15 AM - 11:45 AM
Our director, Joseph Thomas, will be the presiding officer and chair for three fantastic sounding essays: “Constructing the Young Poet-Activist in Margarita Engle’s Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings” by Krystal Howard from California State University - Northridge; “‘Toto, We aren’t in Kansas Anymore’: Resistance and Counterstorytelling in Cynthia Leitich Smith’s Hearts Unbroken” by Michelle Pagni Stewart from Mt San Jacinto Community College District, and “Self Image and the Community in Young Adult Steampunk Novels The Black God’s Drums (2018)” by Melanie Marotta from Morgan State University. 
Act Six - The Lion and the Unicorn Award for Excellence in North American Poetry (Special Event)
3:20 PM - 4:50 PM

Saturday, Nov 16th
Act Nine - Children's Literature I
10:15 AM - 11:45 AM
This panel boasts an impressive lineup of San Diego State University scholars. Katherine Sciurba, Assistant Professor in the School of Teacher Education, will present “March of the Coup Clutz Clowns: The Clown as Figure of Resistance to White Supremacy in David LaMotte’s White Flour;” Linda Salem, Children’s Literature Librarian, will present “Takei Takeo’s Aruki Taro, Clara Breed, and Japanese Illustrated Children’s Literature in Context;” and Mary Galbraith, Children’s Literature Lecturer, will present “The Live Creature: Animal Presence and Inhabiting the World in 20th Century Children’s Novels.”
Act Eleven - Children's Poetry Today: A Creative Writing Reading Featuring Joseph Thomas and Michael Heyman (Special Event)
3:30 PM - 4:40 PM
Michael Heyman and Joseph Thomas will perform a number of children’s poems. Dr. Joseph Thomas will read from “‘Advice for Children (NSFW)’ and Other Poems for Young People” among other works. 
The NCSCL is a sponsor of this year’s PAMLA conference, but many other SDSU scholars will present their works in an array of fields! All SDSU students can attend for FREE; just make sure to bring your student ID card.  
We hope to see you all there!
- (AN) & (SS)

Monday, November 11, 2019

Juan Felipe Herrera's Talk 11/6

On Wednesday, November 6, 2019, San Diego State University's Chicana & Chicano Studies brought Juan Felipe Herrera as part of the Chicana & Chicano Studies' 50th Anniversary Commemoration: Celebration, Consciousness-Raising, Sowing the Future. Throughout the fall of 2019 and spring of 2020, they are recognizing the founding of the CCS program and fifty years of engagement with social justice-oriented scholarship and community service.

SDSU president Dr. Adela de la Torre introduced Herrera, the poet laureate of the United States 2015-2017 and the first Chicanx poet laureate in this country. She says Herrera "embodies the experience of many people in the community" and provides a voice for those around him: “the work he does speaks to a community rich in culture." He graduated from UCLA with a B.A. in anthropology and received his M.F.A from University of Iowa. He has published 21 books, written musicals, and is involved in arts leadership for children in migrant communities.

I couldn’t help but constantly notice how Herrera embodied an aura of kindness, standing in front of us in all white and flashing a bright smile. As he stood in front of us, one of the first things out of his mouth was "how beautiful it is to be together and united." It is easy to forget the need to be united, but that night, students and faculty alike were united in our captivation of Herrera. We were united by Herrera.

Herrera strives for a kinder world, saying "it is good to become larger than we think we are…it is good to cast our voices out." He practices what he teaches, as many of his poems reflect current politics.

His first reading was the poem "187 Reasons Why Mexicanos Can’t Cross the Border." Herrera actively engaged the audience, having us shout "because" before every line.

multiplication is our favorite sport…"

we’ll dig a tunnel to Seattle…"

it’s Indian land stolen from our mothers…"

our passport says we’re out of date…"

people are hanging Milagros on the 2000 miles or border wire…"

brown is the color of the future…"

Herrera is a voice for the voiceless, but in this poem, we all yelled for those oppressed by the current political climate. He’s not just a voice for others, in this moment he helped us find our own voices. He reminds the audience through his poems that every voice is important, as we yelled "because" 187 times that night.

Herrera also read a touching poem, "California Brown," which lists the names and ages of the victims of the 2017 Parkland shooting.

His voice is inspiring, and in the audience I saw this inspiration. During the reading I kept noticing a man in a brown jacket and a feather in his hat drawing a sketch of Herrera with his name in the background. 

At the end, someone asked Herrera "What’s the next step for Chicanos?" Herrera answers: “It’s our dedication to assist others." The cause for rights for Chicanx people is never over, and we must allow the movement to blossom, and "we have to generate in ourselves the freedom of thought."

Thank you to the SDSU Chicana & Chicano Studies for making this event possible, and we all thank Juan Felipe Herrera for such an amazing and inspiring event.


Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Dr. Mary Galbraith’s “The Deictic Imaginary: Literature as Creation”

On Wednesday, October 30th, The National Center for the Study of Children’s Literature at SDSU had the honor of hosting Dr. Mary Galbraith for her talk, “The Deictic Imaginary: Literature as Creation.”

Our director, Dr. Joseph Thomas, began by thanking all who have made the event possible: the library (especially Linda Salem and Markel Tumlin), the graduate assistants (Sofia and Ashley), and Dr. Mary Galbraith herself. He then introduced our guest, saying she is a woman who works to “respect the child” in her research. The full text of his introduction is included below:

Dr. Mary Galbraith has always struck me as the prototypical SoCal woman. A salient exemplar, really. You see, Mary grew up in Los Angeles, shuttling between her Southern California home and a home across the sea, in London. After finishing high school, Mary headed a little south to UC Irvine, attending that legendary school during its first year. Afterwards, she left her SoCal home for Berkeley, where her worldly, cosmopolitan, SoCal grooviness was enriched and complicated by the student protests going on during 1969, the high-water mark of the 60’s youthful, utopian hopefulness. I’m put in mind of the famous passage from Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas:

There was madness in any direction, at any hour. If not across the Bay, then up the Golden Gate or down 101 to Los Altos or La Honda. . . . You could strike sparks anywhere. There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning. . . . And that, I think, was the handle—that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn’t need that. Our energy would simply prevail. There was no point in fighting—on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave. . .

But on that cresting wave came, as Mary explains in an interview, “tanks on campus; helicopters flying over dropping tear gas.” She got out, had a kid, lived her life, returning to school in the 80s, eventually settling at SUNY Buffalo, a spot that couldn’t be more different than SoCal.

But Mary flourished there, working as a graduate assistant for the Cognitive Science Graduate Group. She worked on her doctorate in English while taking courses in philosophy, psychology, computer science, child language acquisition. The searching intelligence that came of age traveling back and forth between London and Los Angeles, primed for difference, for unexpected confluences and concatenations began developing the interdisciplinary approach we’d come to call “Childhood Studies,” a theoretical and practical academic approach that puts into conversation the resonant insights of literature, psychology, history, anthropology, and neurobiology as a means of better understanding childhood, a time in which the child’s varied experiences of the world has yet to calcify into rigid categories. Although I wouldn’t call her a Romantic (not to her face), she does respect the child and its novel experience of the still-new world, Wordsworth’s “Mighty Prophet! Seer blest! […] “whose exterior semblance” (if you’ll forgive my shift into second person)

[…] doth belie
Thy Soul's immensity;
Thou best Philosopher, who yet
dost keep
Thy heritage, thou Eye among the
That, deaf and silent, read’st the
eternal deep,

Haunted for ever by the eternal

Mary’s ranging, complex, and groundbreaking scholarly work serves the interests of – as she puts it – “feeling from the other side,” of understanding as best we’re able, the child’s existential situation from the child’s perspective, a critical paradigm suggestive of what Peter Hunt would come to call “childist” criticism. Mary’s work is marked by a desire to articulate the child's experience as rigorously as possible using all the theoretical and scientific and literary critical tools available to us. Today, we’ll get a taste of that project.
But first, knowing how important students are to Mary’s work (she exemplifies the scholar/teacher model) I’d like to invite one of her students, Ashley, to the front of the room, to give Mary the kind of introduction I’m unable to give.

Graduate Assistant Ashley Nguyen then took the stage to describe her work under Dr. Mary Galbraith: 

It was my honor to be Dr. Galbraith’s student last fall in her English 501: Literature for Children course. Professor Galbraith’s class was my first encounter with the study of children’s literature. The theme was “fantasy and a touch of the real,” which highlighted the authorial background that underlies the fantastical aspects of familiar texts such as Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid” and Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book. She showed us how children’s literature provides a place for authors to work through childhood traumas, reimagine difficult relationships, and create alternative narratives in which the child character has unprecedented agency. This course was also my first scholarly encounter with Asian art and critique; we utilized Japanese aesthetics to analyze picture books and Hayao Miyazaki’s movies. 

Dr. Galbraith is stunningly dedicated to her scholarship. As a student just barely entering the children’s literature field, I was shocked at the complexity of her research and how much time and effort she gave it – on top of all of the courses she was teaching! Even so, she always gave her students her full attention, meeting us where we were and yet challenging us to push ourselves further, to think critically about even our most cherished childhood stories and movies. Furthermore, she taught that while academic critique is valuable, we can still appreciate texts for the affective responses they evoke. These insights affirmed my interest in studying children’s literature at the graduate level, and now I focus my research on Asian American children’s literature that reflects the lived experience of its authors and readers. I owe much of my growth as a scholar to my experience in her classroom, and it is a huge honor and privilege to introduce Dr. Mary Galbraith!  

Dr. Galbraith's lecture clearly communicated her stunning dedication to research as well as teaching. Her passionate discussion of the deictic imaginary eschewed the markers of a conventional academic lecture, more closely resembling her work in the classroom. As rigorous as she was clear and convivial, Dr. Galbraith began by explaining that deixis precedes language while language allows people to create transportable or translatable deixis.

In the deictic imaginary, Dr. Galbraith reminded, a storyteller invents and the listener (or reader) collaborates in that invention. She explains this concept further: “It is important to note, fiction is not untrue at all, since fictional narration is a creation, not a statement. Only statements can have truth or untruth.” Dr. Galbaith emphasizes that fictional language creates imaginary presence. When we read, we create these stories, and often children are much better at making an imaginary world than adults are. Dr. Galbraith feels that “imagination is, in my mind, the most precious thing the human race has made”. She praised readers for the ability to mentally envision entire worlds, following an author’s “very long conversational turn that ends whenever you decide to stop reading.” 

Come Away From the Water, Shirley by John Burningham

Dr. Galbraith used an image from Come Away From the Water, Shirley to emphasize the bifurcation between adults focused on settling on the beach and sipping their coffee, and the child who views the ocean with limitless possibility. She noted that the child is constantly forced to repress her curiosity. Dr. Galbraith went on to describe poetic narrative theory and quoted that “a fictive reality ‘is’ only by virtue of its being narrated” (Hamburger 136). 

Dr. Galbraith had prepared her 1989 dissertation abstract to share with us, but was unable to due to time constraints. She explained that much of what she had written about then was relevant to what she is doing now. She looks forward to meeting up with the “twenty other people in the world who are really focused on [deixis]” at an international conference in the coming year.

According to Dr. Galbraith, mimesis is the flip of deixis. She gestured to a chair, indicating that while an author captures presence in words, the reader imagines by turning words into presence. Deixis is the author’s performance of presence in words, and mimesis is the reader’s following of “the outstretched finger” through imagination. 

Dr. Galbraith explored The Little Match Girl by Hans Christian Andersen. Andersen creates a compelling and heart-wrenching story of this “Little Match Girl” who after suffering from abuse by her father is sent out into the cold world with nothing but the clothes on her back and a few matches. Set in the time of many children dying, the young girl’s experience outweighs the narrator’s comments on the text. Dr. Galbraith emphatically takes the side of children in stories such as this. She notes that the only other person with any real personality is the boy who steals the girl’s slippers. 

Illustration from Little Match Girl by Hans Christian Andersen

Andersen’s book is vital for background in a study of children’s literature, as he is considered the first author actually writing for children and representing the voices of children. Dr. Galbraith argues that “The Little Match Girl” is not didactically aimed towards children, but rather condemns adults, who in the tale do nothing to help the dying girl.

The event concluded with a Q&A session during which students asked about the pedagogical repercussions of this topic, about further resources, and how to better assist students with learning disabilities.

Dr. Phillip Serrato and Dr. Joseph Thomas pose with Dr. Galbraith.

The NCSCL is grateful to all who helped make this wonderful event possible. We especially thank Dr. Mary Galbraith! For an audio recording of the full talk with images and presentation slides, please see the link below:

-(SS) and (AN)

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Invitation to PAMLA Conference 11/14-11/17

Hello Children’s Literature Scholars!

We’re having a semester packed with such exciting events. We would like to invite all of you to the PAMLA conference (Pacific Ancient and Modern Language Association) NEXT WEEKEND NOVEMBER 14-17. We are so excited to see all of the talented scholars.

It is FREE to ALL SDSU students - graduate and undergraduate - can attend for free, so make sure to bring SDSU IDs.

The conference will be held at the Wyndham San Diego Bayside. Here
is the address & phone number:

1355 North Harbor Drive
San Diego, California 92101

The conference schedule can be found here:

We are especially excited to see Joseph Thomas, SDSU Professor of English and Comparative Literature and (The Amazing) Director of the National Center for the Study of Children's Literature. He will be in two events. 

The first is a discussion of the Lion and the Unicorn Children's Poetry Award that he co-founded back in 2005. Here are the details for the panel:

Friday, November 15.
3:20 PM - 4:50 PM
6.17: The Lion and the Unicorn Award for Excellence in North American
Poetry (Special Event)
Location: Pacific A

His second event is a poetry reading. He will be reading his own poetry alongside poet, musician, and scholar Michael Heyman:

Saturday, November 16
3:30 - 4:40 PM
Location: East Coast
11.07: Children's Poetry Today: A Creative Writing Reading Featuring
Joseph Thomas and Michael Heyman (Special Event)

We look forward to seeing you there!

-SS and AN