NCRCL Blog

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.

NCRCL Open Day 2017

 

The annual NCRCL Open Day was held on Saturday 13th May 2017 at Digby Stuart College, University of Roehampton.

As usual, the Open Day was an exciting opportunity to meet new, current, and past students and staff over cupcakes, Danish pastries, cookies, tea, juice, and coffee. Apart from marvelling at displays of children’s literature treasures, staff publications, and poster presentations by current MA students, we also enjoyed fascinating talks by Zetta Elliott and Peter Hunt.

Zetta Elliott: “Inclusivity and Indie Authors: the Case for Community-Based Publishing”

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Photograph via Zetta Elliot

Award-winning Canadian author and educator Zetta Elliott spoke of her experiences as an author published through both traditional publishing and self-publishing routes. She advocated for “organic writing”, which “originates within a particular community and emerges without outsider approval and/or interference”, and prioritises the welfare of the community over commercial success. The value of self-publishing for marginalised groups was underlined by Elliott pointing out bleak statistics related to white supremacy in the American publishing industry:

 

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Infographic via Sarah Park

 

The infographic draws on Rudine Sims Bishop’s notion that books can function as mirrors, windows, and sliding doors for their readers. Elliott commented: “if you don’t see your reflection, your reality isn’t validated.” Moreover, she argued that it is important for everyone to read ‘diverse’ books – “books are for everybody”.

Elliott mentioned her own childhood experience of finding her reflection in Ezra Jack Keats’s books but not in any of the British fantasy stories she read, such as The Secret Garden, The Phoenix and the Carpet, or The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. From these fantasies, she learned that magic things only happen to white people in England, a narrative she counters in her recent Brixton-based novel The Ghosts in the Castle (2017). You can find out more about her books here.

Peter Hunt: “Wyrd Sister! Children’s Literature – Where We’ve Come from and Where We’re Going Or Why Children’s Literature Studies are The Best”

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Photograph via Peter Hunt

Distinguished children’s literature critic Peter Hunt, the first Professor of Children’s Literature in the UK and Professor Emeritus of Children’s Literature at Cardiff University, gave us a whistle-stop tour of developments in the field of children’s literature criticism.

He spoke fondly of the NCRCL, declaring it “the best place to study children’s literature”, and warmly recommended the children’s literature section of the library at the University of Roehampton, where he himself likes to “graze the shelves” when he is on campus and, after decades of studying children’s literature, still finds things of interest.

He concluded his talk by showing us a serendipitous find, Helen Bannerman’s The Story of Little Degchie-Head, a cautionary tale about a girl who likes poking fires and, due to this hobby, ends up with a doll’s head after burning off her own.

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Cover via AbeBooks

The Open Day also celebrated current students’ work. Nicki Oakes-Monger won the prize for the best poster presentation, Mary Bardet won the Hancock Prize, Jessica Lack the  Pinsent Prize, and Siobhan O’Brien the Cotton Prize. The day ended with a hugs and flowers for Julie Mills, our brilliant subject librarian, who is retiring this summer and will be much missed.

 

Anne Malewski is a PhD candidate at the NCRCL. Her doctoral research examines the changing boundaries between childhood and adulthood in twenty-first century Britain through the concept of growth.

The First Issue of RoundTable

The first issue of RoundTable, the new postgraduate journal for academic and creative writing at the University of Roehampton, is now available online (open access)! The first issue focuses on the theme of journey and includes fascinating children’s literature-related content: a candid interview with Professor David Rudd, academic articles, a YA short story, and reviews! You can access the journal here.

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The cover of the first issue

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NCRCL PhD Day 2017

Rebecca Sutton, PhD student with the NCRCL, reports on her experience of our 2017 PhD Day, which she organised this year.

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Illustration by Anne Malewski

The annual NCRCL PhD Day went ahead on Thursday 18th May in the pristine new Elm Grove Conference Centre at the University of Roehampton. It was a day of eight stimulating presentations by current PhD students and one soon-to-be PhD student. Here is an overview of the presentations, in the running order of the day, so you can get an idea of our current research projects:

  • Rebecca Sutton: “Inside/Outside: Contested Space in Young Adult Literature set in Israel/Palestine”
  • Sarah Pyke: “An “archive of me”: Constructing queer adult subjectivity through an oral history of adolescent reading”
  • Aliona Yarova: “Narrating Humanity: Children’s Literature and Global Citizenship Education”
  • Erica Gillingham: “Princesses and Hard Core Lady-Types Fall In Love: Pictorial Representations of Same-Sex Attraction in All Ages Comics”
  • Sinéad Moriarty: “P-P-P Pick up a Penguin: Antarctic Penguin Stories for Children”
  • Manuela Salvi: “The Secret School of the Mooning Guerrillas: a Creative Project on Children’s Fiction, Age Banding and Censorship”
  • Anne Malewski: “Playing Adults: Camp Wildfire and KidZania”
  • Emily Corbett: “Transgendered Identity and Bio-Social Determinism in Contemporary Young Adult Fiction”

It was exciting to share our research with each other and to see the sheer diverse nature of the research projects that we as the NCRCL research community are conducting, and to observe the passion, creativity, and academic rigor with which each project is being undertaken.  I felt very proud to be part of such an innovative and inspiring research group.

It was especially great to welcome Aliona Yarova who, working between Sweden and the UK, came all the way from Sweden to present her research, and two new students starting with us this autumn – Emily Corbett (recipient of the Jacqueline Wilson Scholarship) and Harriet Salisbury (recipient of a TECHNE Studentship).

The theme for the third NCRCL Bake-off was ‘Food in Children’s Literature’. There were Google Buns from The Magic Faraway Tree, Seed Cake from Swallows and Amazons, Bruce Bogtrotter’s Chocolate Cake and Honey Cakes for Miss Honey from Matilda, and finally Carrot Cake from The Case of the Missing Carrot Cake. Alison Waller and Lisa Sainsbury were the judges and prizes were awarded for: Best Reflection of Theme, Best Taste and Best Presentation.

It was a great day for both academia and for baking! I can’t wait until next year.

Rebecca Sutton is a first-year PhD student at the NCRCL. Her research is centered around contested space and identity in Young Adult Literature set in Israel/Palestine.

Photographs taken by Rebecca Sutton.

Two Memories of Fiction Events on Childhood Reading Experiences

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Illustration via Quentin Blake

Welcome to these two Memories of Fiction project events!

Memories of Children’s Books
Wednesday 31st May 2017
6.30 to 8 p.m.
Putney Library

Shelley Trower, lecturer at the University of Roehampton and project leader of Memories of Fiction: An Oral History of Readers’ Life Stories, and Ferelith Hordon, children’s librarian and editor, will lead a discussion of the items in the Wandsworth collection of Early Children’s Books. The collection will be on display, and the discussion will focus on memories of children’s books, especially as material objects: their covers, their smells, their feel. Please bring memories (or even physical copies) of a children’s book you remember reading!

This event is free, and refreshments will be available. All welcome!

You can read more about this event, and register for it here.

Our Lives in Libraries
Wednesday 7th June 2017
6.30 to 8 p.m.
Balham Library

Shelley Trower, lecturer at the University of Roehampton and project leader of Memories of Fiction: An Oral History of Readers’ Life Stories, and Alison Barton, librarian and book group facilitator, will discuss memories of libraries and what they mean to us, ranging from childhood to the present, from book groups to cuts and hopes for the future. In preparation for the event, please have a think about a visit you remember making to a library!

This event is free, and refreshments will be available. All welcome!

You can read more about this event, and register for it here.

These events are part of the Wandsworth Heritage Festival and supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. If you can’t make it to these events, Memories of Fiction welcome any comments on their blog.

RoundTable Journal Launch

Welcome to the launch of RoundTable, the English and Creative Writing Department’s new postgraduate journal:

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RoundTable is a peer-reviewed journal which actively promotes original and imaginative work by postgraduates and early career researchers within the fields of Children’s Literature, Creative Writing, and English Literature. RoundTable is invested in fostering a postgraduate community committed to research and practice beyond discipline boundaries.
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Bookings for the NCRCL Open Day!

NCRCL Open Day

Saturday 13th May 2017 | 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Duchesne Building, Ground Floor, Digby Stuart Campus

Welcome to the National Centre for Research in Children’s Literature’s spring event for MA/PG Dip and PhD students past, present, and future! The Open Day is an opportunity to meet the NCRCL team over tea and cakes, celebrate current research, and hear fantastic speakers.

We are delighted to announce that award-winning Canadian author and educator Zetta Elliott, an advocate for greater diversity and equity in publishing, and distinguished children’s literature critic Peter Hunt, the first Professor of Children’s Literature in the UK, will be joining us this year.

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!

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Volunteering Opportunity with Prison Reading Groups (PRG)

PRG is a project hosted by the University of Roehampton to set up and fund reading groups in prisons.  We currently support over 45 groups in more than 35 prisons nationwide. PRG are now recruiting volunteers to support prison Family Days.

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Prison Family Days allow prisoners to spend a whole day with their partners and children. With our partners Give a Book, PRG provides a book bag with a specially chosen book and accessories for each visiting child. In 2015 volunteers from the NCRCL created a database of age-appropriate books and in some cases also volunteered to help out at a prison on the day. Have a look at the 2016 Report or go to the Prison Reading Group website.

The project was a great success and is now an ongoing part of our work. We are currently recruiting volunteers who would be willing to go to one of the prisons involved to encourage the parents to read with their children and generally to help out with activities.

The prisons are widespread but each could be managed as a day trip and PRG would pay all travel expenses. They are as follows:

Prison                        Location                                Family Day date

Albany                       Isle of Wight                           10th April

Lewes                         East Sussex                             19th April

Wymott                      Preston, Lancashire              29th May

Dovegate                    Staffordshire                          31st May

Brixton                       South London                         15th June (tbc)

Huntercombe            Henley, Oxfordshire              2nd August

Thameside                  South East London                2nd August

We are also planning to support an additional 11 prisons in the second half of the year, with dates still to be circulated once they have been confirmed.

If you are interested, please contact prg@roehampton.ac.uk as soon as possible to discuss it in more detail!