Bookings Open! IBBY/NCRCL Conference ‘Marvellous Imaginations’ 2016

23rd Annual NCRCL MA/IBBY UK Conference 

Saturday 5th November 2016, 9:00-17:00

Froebel College, University of Roehampton 

Marvellous Imaginations – Extending thinking through picture books

This year’s conference explores the ways in which picture books contribute to the development of the child (or / and indeed the adult) through critical, imaginative, empathetic, creative or other responses.  We will look at the international world of picture books; at trends and developments in creating picture books and publishing; at research on children’s interaction with picture books; and at some of the wide range of programmes and projects that use picture books as a starting point for their work.

We will hear from eminent illustrators, including Laura Carlin who will be presented with her medal for winning Biennale of Illustration, Bratislava, one of the oldest international honours for children’s book illustrators, and about the new Klaus Flugge Prize for the most exciting newcomer to picture book illustration.

Find out more details from the programme on the IBBY UK website

Book tickets online at the Roehampton e-store now! 


This is the home of the NCRCL blog, where you will find news, updates and posts from members of the staff, students and alumni at the National Centre for Research in Children’s Literature (NCRCL) at Roehampton University in west London.  You can read more about our popular MA in Children’s Literature which is run on-site and through distance learning, as well as undergraduate teaching in children’s literature in both our English and the Creative Writing departments. Please feel free to comment with questions or thoughts.

CFP: Didactics and the Modern Robinsonade for Young Adults

Call for Papers

Didactics and the Modern Robinsonade for Young Adults – Edited Collection

Edited by Dr. Ian Kinane, NCRCL, University of Roehampton

The literary and historical influence of Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe on the Western literary canon cannot be overstated. Its publication heralded the arrival of the novel form and engendered greater public interest in reading literature in the eighteenth century. It was Rousseau who said of Robinson Crusoe that it is “the one book that teaches all that books can teach”. Indeed, in his treatise Emilius and Sophia: or, A New System of Education, Rousseau advocated for the use of Defoe’s novel as an instructional tool for the education of young minds, wanting Emilius to read only Defoe during his formative years.

Encoded within Robinson Crusoe – and in other popular Robinsonade narratives that followed it – were specific ideological lessons concerning, among other things, masculinity, civility, and the roles young British men/adolescents were expected to fulfil as part of Britain’s imperial mandate. RM Ballantyne’s The Coral Island, for example, as a boys’ adventure novel, inculcates within the young adult reader a sense of national duty and homosocial pride: it also provides the reader with an idea of those specific, practical skills that would be needed in order to survive on a desert island. The Robinsonade genre, then, is largely an instructional one, and one that provides the reader with specific lessons (both implicit and explicit) about how to be – an adolescent, an adult, a dutiful patriot, et cetera.

Didactics and the Modern Robinsonade seeks to explore the inherent didacticism of the Robinsonade genre and to examine specifically the lessons that more modern and contemporary iterations of the Robinson Crusoe story have inculcated within young adult readers. Each chapter in the collection will focus on a different Robinsonade narrative, and, more specifically, on the instructional function of the island/islanded setting and the edification of the young adult protagonist(s) that occurs through his/her/their interactions with the topography/other inhabitants. While a great deal of work has already been carried out on Robinsonade narratives of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, this collection will examine those works of Robinsonade fiction that were written after 1900, and which have received much less critical attention as a whole.

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NCRCL Scholarships 2017-2018

We are delighted to announce that applications for our annual NCRCL Scholarships 2017-18 are now open.

Department of English and Creative Writing and the National Centre for Research in Children’s Literature (NCRCL)

logoa-colourTECHNE AHRC Doctoral Training Partnership 2017

We invite applications from outstanding candidates for our TECHNE AHRC doctoral studentships. Studentships are awarded in departments across the university, but the NCRCL will consider applications for projects related to children’s literature or creative writing for children. Projects drawing on our archival holdings—such as the Richmal Crompton archive—will be especially welcome. For more information and details of how to apply, please see our Graduate School pages:

There will be an Open Evening for interested applicants on Tuesday 8 Nov 2016 from 5.30pm at Grove House on our Froebel campus – please contact Prof. Ian Haywood for details:


Postgraduate research studentships – Jacqueline Wilson Scholarship 2017

In addition to TECHNE studentships, we will award our annual Jacqueline Wilson Scholarship to a candidate of the highest calibre. Applicants for TECHNE awards will be considered automatically for the Jacqueline Wilson Scholarship, so please apply for a TECHNE studentship in the first instance. Candidates who do not secure TECHNE funding will be eligible to compete for the Jacqueline Wilson Scholarship—you do not need to apply separately (please note that although TECHNE funding can be secured by students who have already started their doctoral studies, the Jacqueline Wilson Scholarship is only open to new applicants).

This studentship will be awarded to an emerging scholar working in the field of children’s literature or creative writing for children. The Jacqueline Wilson Scholar will be based in the award-winning NCRCL with access to the Children’s Literature Collection and archives, and will join a lively community of researchers, writers and students. This fully funded scholarship will cover home/EU fees of £4,121 for Home/EU students and maintenance of £16,296 p.a. for 3 years full-time subject to satisfactory progress. (NB – these figures are correct for 2016-17 and are yet to be confirmed for 2017-18).

The scholarship is open to new students only and preference may be given to proposals that build on the research interests of the NCRCL. These include, but are not limited to: young adult fiction; philosophy; historical fiction; landscape; memory; reading. Applicants are encouraged to identify potential supervisors as part of their application.


 The Department of English and Creative Writing with over 600 students and 33 academic staff, has a growing international reputation for its research and teaching excellence. In the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF), 80% of all our research publications were ranked as “world leading” or “internationally excellent” for their impact. The successful candidate will become part of an active and growing community of postgraduate scholars in a vibrant research culture, established external collaborations with London institutions and a very good track record of student success.

The Department is looking for candidates of the highest quality, capable of submitting a Ph.D. thesis within 3 years. Applicants should have completed an MA degree in a relevant subject, such as children’s literature, reading or memory, prior to the start of the studentship. Applicants should also be able to demonstrate strong research capabilities and fluency in spoken and written English that meets the university’s entrance criteria for doctoral study.

The University of Roehampton is set on a beautiful, traditional campus in south-west London. The University provides its students with exceptional facilities, high quality teaching and a close-knit, collegiate experience. It has a diverse student body and a cosmopolitan outlook, with students from over 130 countries.

Deadline for applications: see information via TECHNE link above

For further information or for informal discussion please contact Dr. Lisa Sainsbury:

Please visit to find out more about postgraduate research at Roehampton. For all non-academic queries relating to the studentships, please contact Graduate School Admissions on 020 8392 3848, email


Research Talk: Transitional Identities: Crossing the Threshold in Young Adult Genre Fiction

English and Creative Writing Research Talk

‘Transitional Identities: Crossing the Threshold in Young Adult Genre Fiction’

Human Sadri, University of Gothenburg

Wednesday 19th October, 1pm

Fincham 001, Digby Stuart, University of Roehampton

Do the protagonists of Young Adult genre narratives correspond to the status of monomythical hero, and if so to what extent? 

Maria Nikolajeva has noted that fiction written specifically for a younger audience tends to correspond to the monomyth, or Hero’s Journey, as defined by the mythologist Joseph Campbell. This pattern describes the trajectory of the protagonist of any given narrative from that which they are now towards the person they are ultimately meant to become. Nikolajeva argues that “[t]he hero in Campbell’s model is a young person going through a rite of passage. In this respect, the pattern of all children’s literature is similar to the monomyth, and all characters in children’s fiction are a further development of the mythic hero.”1 She suggests that this is doubly true of fantasy-based Young Adult (YA) and children’s literature, wherein the crossing of the threshold tends to be represented by the literal transportation of the protagonist to some kind of alternate world or reality.2 In contrast to the literalism of this approach, in which Campbell’s narrative model is taken in its entirety as the basis for YA narrative structure, this paper sets out to suggest that these fantastic realist narratives – while conforming to monomythical structures and tropes – actually represent only the fulfilment of the first chapter of Campbell’s pattern. By the conclusion of their narrative trajectory the protagonists have achieved only the crossing of the threshold into burgeoning maturity or adulthood, as opposed to enlightenment or a boon for mankind. Throughout their respective narratives, these nascent heroes develop transitional identities, and the boon they achieve is to cross the threshold towards eventually becoming their true selves. This analysis is supported through a dual methodology. Firstly, through close readings of three key YA genre texts – Coraline by Neil Gaiman, A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness and A Song for Ella Grey by David Almond. These have been chosen not only for the contrasting ways in which they approach folkloric and mythological tropes and storytelling patterns, but also because of the differing ages of the novels’ protagonists; in this way I also explore the different implications of the transitions in question on young people at different stages of their emotional development. Secondly, the stages of the Hero’s Journey itself, and the movement of the adult hero towards the boon of enlightenment are contrasted with that of the young hero towards the goal of beginning his or her journey anew, and in doing this the monomyth is shown to be open-ended in nature: enlightenment does not need to be a boon that is only granted once.

1 Nikolajeva, Maria. “The Changing Aesthetics of Character in Children’s Fiction.” Style Volume 35, No.3, 2001. (p431.) 2 Ibid.


Roehampton Readers: Once Upon an Alphabet by Oliver Jeffers


Once Upon an Alphabet by Oliver Jeffers

Review by Anne Malewski


Image via Kate Greenaway

Once upon an Oliver, we met a boy with a penguin friend, a curious girl who put her heart in a bottle, a moose that belongs to no one, a bear who was a paperplane enthusiast, and many more who, I daresay, live happily ever after in readers’ minds.

Those picturebooks are excellent both in content and form, as are his paintings and music videos. Without losing his distinct style, Oliver Jeffers keeps exploring and experimenting enthusiastically and he has outdone himself with Once Upon an Alphabet: Short Stories for all the Letters (2014). Again.

Jeffers has reimagined the concept of alphabet books, shifting the emphasis from educational to inspirational (where Once Upon an Alphabet imparts information, on dark matter for example, it does so cheekily and sneakily). Lovingly dedicated to the letters without whom words and sentences and stories would be impossible, his book celebrates each letter with a short story of its own. Not to explain letters but for the letters.

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Roehampton Readers: Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley

Lies We Tell Ourselves

Image via Carnegie Medal

Review: Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley

By Kay Waddilove

Lies We Tell Ourselves is a historical YA novel which interweaves a story of friendship, teenage identity crisis and burgeoning love into a brutal account of horrifying racism and prejudice. Set in the fictional US town of Davisburg Virginia in 1959, the story is narrated by two female protagonists; Sarah, a black girl entering a previously all-white high school, and Linda, a white girl who is the daughter of the town’s newspaper editor, a fervent white supremacist. In 1954, a time when open segregation was common in the southern states (‘white’ cafes, ‘whites only’ toilets, etc), all US schools, by Supreme Court ruling, had been required to become racially integrated (the Brown v. Board of Education ruling); the Court ruled that states must integrate their schools “with all deliberate speed.” Nevertheless, many Southern politicians resisted the ruling, utilising technical delaying tactics (some schools were shut down by local politicians or school boards for months or years – a history alluded to in the book), economic reprisals and direct intimidation in order to maintain a segregated and two-tier education system. Robin Talley grew up in Virginia, and decided to write this novel after hearing her parents discuss their own teenage memories of high school desegregation in the 1950s. She investigated historical records, including diaries of black students, and speaks on the Carnegie website of her shock at what she discovered during her research and her determination that the facts of history should be better known.

In 1957, a federal court ordered integration of the Little Rock, Arkansas public schools and nine African-American teenagers were enrolled into the Central High School. Such young people had thus been placed in the frontline of the struggle for civil rights, and on arrival, the ‘Little Rock Nine’ encountered a vicious white mob. This scenario clearly inspired the powerful opening chapter of Talley’s book, when the ten new black students turn up for their first day at Jefferson High, to be greeted by “a sea of angry white faces” and calls to “keep the niggers out”. The author pulls no punches in depicting the intimidation that her fictional characters face; from the outset the shocking language and physical violence aimed at them is described in challenging terms. As the progress and experiences of these students are followed throughout the school year, Talley maintains and builds suspense through her realistic description of events. No-one, apparently, is safe; incidents such as the false arrest and subsequent vicious life-threatening beating of Chuck, Ennis’s decision to leave Jefferson, Sarah’s final assertive rejection of her parents plans for her future, all reinforce the realism of this text while also ensuring that reader engagement is rooted in the unexpected turns of the plot.

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NCRCL Research Talk: Kitchens and Edges: The Politics of Hair in African-American Children’s Picture Books

NCRCL Research Talk

‘Kitchens and Edges:

The Politics of Hair in African-American Children’s Picture Books’

Dr. Michelle Martin, Beverly Cleary Endowed Professor of Children and Youth Services                    iSchool, University of Washington

bell hooks, Neal Lester, Noliwe M. Rooks and others have written on the politics of African-American hair and the way that Black women and girls, subjected to “white supremacist capitalist patriarchy” (hooks, “Straightening”), feel enormous pressure to conform to the White beauty standard. Instead of accepting their naturally textured hair, these scholars assert, African-American women and girls collectively spend millions of dollars annually to have it straightened, extended and/or altered in other ways to make it straighter, longer, lighter and often more similar to Caucasian hair.  This essay builds on that work, taking as a starting point Martin’s and Washington’s autobiographical hair tales and making the primary focus of the argument a select subset of children’s picture books about Afro hair: Camille Yarbrough and Carol Byard’s Cornrows (1979), Alexis De Veaux’s An Enchanted Hair Tale (1987), Natasha Anastasia Tarpley and E.B. Lewis’s I Love My Hair (1998),  Carolivia Herron and Joe Cepeda’s Nappy Hair (1999), bell hooks and Chris Raschka’s Happy to be Nappy (1999), Sylviane A. Diouf’s and Shane Evans’ Bintou’s Braids (2001), and Dinah Johnson and Kelly Johnson’s Hair Dance! (2007).

Wednesday 21st September 2016, 6-7pm

Convent Parlour, Digby Stuart, Roehampton

Refreshments Provided