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.


Musings on the 2018 NCRCL Open Morning

Emily Wilde, current MA student, writes…

The sun shone for the annual NCRCL Open Morning on Saturday 2nd June 2018 as delegates were welcomed on the registration desk by current PhD student Emily Corbett. The ground floor of the Duchesne building on the Digby Stuart Campus at Roehampton was home for the morning to a pop-up book shop, an exhibition of ‘Research Methods’ posters by MA students, displays of Carnegie books, animal stories from the Children’s Literature Collection and an inviting refreshment area. Amidst a friendly and relaxed atmosphere, new and current students met and chatted to staff and alumni over drinks and cakes (baked by the teaching staff!) before gathering for introductions from members of the NCRCL.

NCRCL events always involve cakes or biscuits

Beyond the MA: in conversation with alumni

To start the morning’s events, Dr. Alison Waller introduced and chaired ‘Beyond the MA’ with alumni Daisy Johnson and Mat Tobin to discover where life can lead after studying Children’s Literature at Roehampton University. Daisy spoke about the ways in which her MA had given “legitimacy” to her interests and provided a framework of resources and support within which to find her voice and gain the confidence to pursue a career which encompasses “a bit of everything”. Daisy described her various roles from blogging, writing articles, teaching and lecturing to working as a librarian and being ‘Writer in Residence’ for a Cambridge University creative writing project about the notoriously busy A14 road! She talked about her research into ‘landscapes’ for her MPhil and her fascination with mapping, explaining the exciting possibilities offered by being able to journey around the UK visiting significant sites encountered in children’s literature through a “filter of fictionality”.

Daisy Johnson

Mat echoed Daisy’s endorsement of Roehampton’s MA in Children’s Literature as “interesting challenging and engaging”, describing how it had provoked a “thirst for reading” and provided the opportunity to move in new directions from his career as an Assistant Head in a Primary School to Lecturing at Oxford Brookes University and now pursuing a PhD. He described how his first MA module had taught him to read books in a completely different way, taking account of theoretical perspectives such as structuralism, feminism and semiotics which subsequently led to the writing of an original Marxist fairy tale for his dissertation. Mat spoke of his current research into the presentation of landscape in children’s fiction, following his discovery of the work of author Alan Garner. Speaking of his interest in history and mythology, Mat described how this has shaped his research into the potential for children to connect with their local environments through the books that they encounter. He talked passionately about his determination to champion the power of children’s literature in the classroom and the importance of bringing together teachers, children, authors and illustrators to enable positive engagement with ‘reading for pleasure’.

Mat Tobin

Zoe Jaques: on animals in children’s literature

Following a break for more delicious refreshments and the chance to view the MA poster presentations, we were fortunate to be able to listen to an entertaining and compelling talk by Zoe Jaques, Fellow in Education and Children’s Literature at Homerton College, Cambridge and author of the fascinating Children’s Literature and the Posthuman: animal, environment, cyborg. Zoe talked about her work in the complex field of human/animal relations. She emphasized that, “animals and children are repeatedly and continually brought into dialogue with one another” and the irony which exists in the fact that humanity appears to consider itself to be hierarchically superior to animals but nevertheless, repeatedly adopts an “animal spokesperson” as the dominant mode of teaching children how to be human! Discussing anthropomorphism and using examples from Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit and Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, Zoe discussed the potential that exists within children’s literature for exploring and blurring the boundaries between animals and humans.

Zoe Jacques

The end of this enjoyable and enlightening NCRCL Open Day was marked by a celebration of current student’s achievements: Emily Wilde and Irit Collins won prizes for their Research Methods posters, Jessica Taylor won the Lathey dissertation prize, Jill Osborne won the Hancock prize for distance learning achievement and Nicola Oakes-Monger won the Pinsent Prize for on-site achievement.

Call for Papers: Crafts and Hobbies

++++New Deadline for proposals – Friday 13 July++++

25th Annual NCRCL MA/IBBY UK Conference 

Saturday 10th November 2018
Digby Stuart College, University of Roehampton

Crafts and Hobbies in Children’s Books

This year’s conference explores the significance of crafts and hobbies as theme, practice, motif, educational tool and generational bridge.  We will be thinking about the historical shifts in the role and significance of these activities in childhood experience as depicted in a wide range of texts.  We will examine the role of crafting and hobbies in children’s fiction and in picture books; think about the role of books in craft and hobby activities (including the handbooks of the Brownies, Scouts and Woodcraft Folk and the annuals of children’s TV shows such as Blue Peter); and consider the craft dimensions of books as material objects, looking at the use of collage and textile as illustrative components, at paper-cutting and pop-up books, and at books that are themselves craft or hobby objects (model-making books, sticker books).  Discussion will cover the gendering of crafts and hobbies, the definition of a hobby (as distinct from a game or a toy), the vexed boundaries between arts and crafts, and craft as domestic or artisanal. Materials from the archives of the constituent colleges of the University of Roehampton will be on show, including weaving samples and patterns used in early Froebelian education and embroidery samplers from the Whitelands archive.  The conference will include keynote presentations by well-known illustrators and craft practitioners, academics, and key figures in the children’s literature world.  We will hear from Dr Jane Carroll of Trinity College, Dublin, an international specialist in the relationship between craft and children’s literature.  As this year’s conference marks 25 years of the partnership between IBBY UK and the NCRCL and we are delighted that Professor Kim Reynolds, a long-time friend of both organisations, will be joining us for the celebration.


Faith Ringgold “Tar Beach (Part I from the Woman on a Bridge series)” (1988) via Guggenheim

Proposals are welcomed for individual papers (20 minutes) on different aspects of craft and hobbies in relation to children’s books and reading, such as, but not only:

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NCRCL PhD Day 2018

Emily Corbett, PhD student with the NCRCL, reports on the 2018 PhD Day, which she organised this year.

On Thursday 17th May 2018, the NCRCL hosted its annual PhD Day at the University of Roehampton. The day was rich with stimulating doctoral research and great baking (as expected per our high NCRCL Bake-Off competition standard)!

The following papers were given by the NCRCL’s PhD candidates, enjoyed by a room full of eminent scholars, PhD peers, MA students and friends of the department:

‘Reflecting the visual world of the Victorians in a neo-Victorian young adult novel’ by Harriet Salisbury.


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NCRCL Open Morning

Saturday 2 June 2018 | 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Duchesne Building, Ground Floor, Digby Stuart Campus

use cupcakes teapot books

You’re invited to the National Centre for Research in Children’s Literature’s summer event! The Open Morning is an opportunity to learn more about our children’s literature programmes, meet the NCRCL team over tea and cakes, celebrate current research, and hear fantastic speakers. Current students and alumni are all warmly invited as is anyone curious about the work of the NCRCL, and anyone interested in applying to the MA/PG Dip in Children’s Literature, or undertaking doctoral research at the NCRCL.

Zoe Jacques

Zoe Jacques

We are delighted that Zoe Jacques, lecturer at Cambridge University and author of Children’s Literature and the Posthuman will be joining us this year to talk about her work on animals in children’s literature

Two MA alumni, Daisy Johnson and Mat Tobin, will also be in conversation with Alison Waller, discussing the exciting projects they have developed following their time at Roehampton.

There will be a chance to visit the Children’s Literature Archives and Collection, and plenty of time to talk to new and old friends. You can also buy second-hand books from a pop-up bookshop!


10.00 | Registration & refreshments

10.20 | Introduction from the NCRCL team

10.30 | Beyond the MA: in conversation with alumni from Children’s Literature

11.15 | MA Poster Presentations (a chance to talk to current students about their work), refreshments, book displays, and meeting the NCRCL team

12.00 | Zoe Jacques: on animals in children’s literature

12.45 | News from the NCRCL and Student Prizes

Refreshments and cakes will be available to everyone. If you would like something a little more substantial, the library café will be open for sandwiches and small snacks.

At the end of the morning you will be able to visit the Children’s Literature Collection in the library with Archives tutor, Dustin Frazier Wood.

There will also be a pop-up bookshop selling second-hand books.

There is no charge for the open day, but you will need to book a place for catering purposes. In order to book please email Madalina Miron at  before 25 May.

Roehampton Readers: Shadowing Carnegie and Greenaway 2018

Images via CILIP

The MA Children’s Literature programme at the University of Roehampton runs a reading group Roehampton Readers, which discusses the CILIP Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Children’s Book Awards shortlists as a shadowing group and post reviews to the shadowing site. The group  meets weekly to read one of each of the titles shortlisted for the Carnegie and Greenaway awards, with a member of the group leading the discussion on each title.


The next meeting is on 25th April. We meet at 5.30 until around 7.00 in Fincham room 002 and the books we will discuss are After the Fire by Will Hill and A First Book of Animals illustrated by Petr Horáček and written by Nicola Davies.


All children’s literature students past and present are welcome to come along and we would love to have some new members.


Bookings for the NCRCL Open Morning 2018!


use cupcakes teapot books

NCRCL Open Morning
Saturday 2 June 2018 | 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Duchesne Building, Ground Floor, Digby Stuart Campus

Announcing the National Centre for Research in Children’s Literature’s summer event! The Open Morning is an opportunity to meet the NCRCL team over tea and cakes, celebrate current research, and hear some fantastic speakers.

9781138547827We are delighted to announce that Zoe Jacques, lecturer at Cambridge University and author of Children’s Literature and the Posthuman, will be joining us this year to talk about her cutting-edge work. We also welcome back two of our MA alumni, Daisy Johnson and Mat Tobin, who will be discussing exciting projects they have developed since their time at Roehampton. There will be a chance to visit the Children’s Literature Archives and Collection, and plenty of time to talk to new and old friends. More details to follow.

Current students and alumni are all warmly invited, as is anyone interested in applying to the MA/PG Dip in Children’s Literature. Please also join us if you are curious about the work of the NCRCL, or thinking about undertaking doctoral research at the NCRCL.

There is no charge for the Open Morning, but you will need to book a place for catering purposes. In order to book please email Madalina Miron at

Ontological Dialogues & Metaphysical Structures: NCRCL Research Talk with Lisa Sainsbury

paul kidby

Illustration for Terry Pratchett’s The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents by Paul Kidby

“It’s not someone unless it can talk! Otherwise it’s just food!”
Ontological Dialogues and the Metaphysical Structures of Children’s Literature

Dr Lisa Sainsbury, NCRCL
Department of English and Creative Writing, University of Roehampton

In this talk I will reveal a pattern of dialogue that can be found in children’s books across different periods and cultures. The ‘ontological argument’ is a polemical vein that runs through dialogues in children’s literature from Tom’s Midnight Garden (1958) by Philippa Pearce to Jacqueline Woodson’s Brown Girl Dreaming (2014). Evaluations of power are central to dialogues that rehearse tensions between Kantian and Cartesian notions of existence as property — and I show that changing attitudes to childhood and its literature can be traced in the way these dialogues are framed. Some of these arguments are between one child and another (peer dialogues), as is the case in Pearce’s novel, while others are between adults and children (adult-child dialogues), as in The Book of Everything (2006) by Guus Kuijer. The dialogues offer a form for the working through of power relations rooted in and out of existential crisis. For the characters involved, being is at stake in the dialogue — ‘Nothing exists any longer. I don’t either’ (Kuijer 2006: 14) — and the common factor across these texts is this sort of ontological struggle. The wider significance of this existential concern is revealed by the ubiquity of such dialogue and I will suggest that close examination of the ontological argument is key to understanding the formal structures and deep concerns of children’s literature.

Wednesday 21st March 2018, 1-2pm*
Fincham Building, Fi 001
Digby Stuart College, University of Roehampton


* Please note that this talk will be accompanied by a research talk by Dr Kate Teltscher: ‘“Gigantic children of the sun”: Kew’s Palm House and the Victorian Cultural Imagination’