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.
The 24th annual IBBY/NCRCL MA Conference took place on 11th November 2017 at the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education in London. This year’s theme was ‘Happily Ever After: The Evolution of Fairy Tales Across Time and Cultures’. Nick Campbell, who completed his PhD with the NCRCL this year, reports on his experience of the conference.
Once upon a time, not my time, not your time, but a very good time, a bold traveller arrived at a marvellous, gleaming building, in a city of endless rains – and there, I was given a cup of coffee, a biscuit and a schedule for the annual IBBY/NCRCL conference. This year, the theme of the conference was fairy tales: telling them, retelling them and rereading them.
There is a strange magic in the collaborative nature of this conference: the National Centre for Research in Children’s Literature, and the International Board on Books for the Young, which seeks to promote international understanding through children’s books. Added to that interdisciplinary character was our venue that day, the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education. The conference audience was formed of teachers, librarians, academics, writers and illustrators, representing many perspectives and experiences. This multiplicity was reflected in the speakers: researchers, writers, a translator, an illustrator, a publisher.
We are pleased to announce that the current round of applications for our annual scholarships in children’s literature is open.
TECHNE AHRC Doctoral Training Partnership 2018
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 7 Nov 2017 from 5.30 p.m. at Grove House on our Froebel campus – please register here and contact Prof. Peter Jaeger for details P.Jaeger@roehampton.ac.uk
Postgraduate Research Studentships – Jacqueline Wilson Scholarship 2018
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 £4,195 for Home/EU students and maintenance of £16,553 p.a. for 3 years full-time subject to satisfactory progress. (NB – these figures are correct for 2017-18 and are yet to be confirmed for 2018-19).
24th Annual NCRCL MA/IBBY UK Conference
‘Happily Ever After: The Evolution of Fairy Tales Across Time and Cultures’
Saturday 11th November 2017, 9:15 a.m. – 4:45 p.m.
Centre for Literacy in Primary Education, 44 Webber Street, London SE1 8QW
Happily Ever After: The Evolution of Fairy Tales Across Time and Cultures
The same fairy tales often appear across different cultures. How and why does this happen?
Should fairy tales be updated – or even subverted – to appeal to modern audiences?
How have fairy tales evolved as they’ve been retold across the centuries?
This year’s IBBY UK/NCRCL Conference will explore these issues as they are reflected in international children’s literature, with a range of plenary speakers and parallel sessions.
Keynote Speaker: Professor Vanessa Joosen, University of Antwerp
Other speakers include: Jackie Morris, author and illustrator; Beverley Naidoo, author; Jamila Gavin, author; Hilary McKay, author.
Book your place online at https://ibbyconference2017.eventbrite.com
For further information, please contact Ann Lazim email@example.com
Review: Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
By Kay Waddilove
Salt to the Sea is a historical YA novel set in the closing months of World War II. As with her debut Between Shades of Gray (2011), previously shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal, Ruta Sepetys weaves a fictional narrative around an actual, but little-known historical event. In the final months of the Nazi regime a multitude of refugees, both civilians and soldiers, fled from the advancing Soviet army to the Baltic Sea ports in the hope of boarding a ship to safety, and escaping the chaos of war-torn Europe. Several German ships were conscripted for this evacuation, dubbed Operation Hannibal, including the Wilhelm Gustloff, a large cruise liner designed for around 1400 passengers. Approximately ten and a half thousand refugees were loaded onto this ship, which, on 30 January 1945, was hit by Russian torpedoes. It sank in less than one hour, in a snowstorm, and approximately 9000 people died, over half of them children.
As Sepetys informs the reader in her postscript, this sinking was “the deadliest disaster in maritime history”, with a death toll exceeding those of the Titanic and Lusitania combined, yet it is a tragedy that is virtually unknown outside Germany. As a writer committed to shining an ideological light onto such “hidden chapters of history” through “the child and young adult narrative” (Between Shades of Gray did this for the plight of Lithuanian deportees to Siberian labour camps), Sepetys explores the event from the different perspectives of a group of young protagonists. The refugees came from Germany, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and the author builds her story around four contrasted fictional characters: Joana, a young Lithuanian nurse; Emilia, a Polish teenager; Florian, a Prussian art preservationist; and Alfred, a punctilious Nazi soldier. They all have a secret; carrying their guilt, their fate, their shame, or their fear – or perhaps all four – as psychological burdens which they describe as “hunters” in the opening chapters.
Review: The Bone Sparrow by Zana Fraillon
By Lorna Collins
The Bone Sparrow tells the story of 9-year-old Subhi, whose family have fled Burma (Myanmar) as a result of the persecution of the Muslim minority known as the Rohingya. Subhi, however, knows nothing of his homeland, since he was born in the Australian detention centre in which the story is set.
Subhi’s life consists of permanent hunger, constant threats from other detainees as well as from the ‘Jackets’ who run the centre, interspersed with involvement in smuggling packages for older members of his ‘family group’. His only escape is the magical ‘Night Sea’ of his mother’s stories which he believes brings him gifts. We later discover these ‘gifts’ are left by Queeny, his seemingly heartless sister as mementos of their father, knowing (as Subhi does not) that they will never see him again.
Jimmie, a girl who lives outside the centre, manages to get in through a hole in the fence. Her mother had died 3 years previously and we gradually learn that she has been pretty well ignored by her father since then, resulting in her skipping school and being unable to read. She carries with her a book of stories written by her mother which she longs to read. Subhi is able to read and longs to hear fresh stories, since his mother, previously an avid story teller, seems to have given up altogether. The two children quickly form a bond. Jimmie also able to bring with her a thermos of hot chocolate which is an unimaginable delight to Subhi.
Review: Beck by Mal Peet and Meg Rosoff
By Lesley Smith
Beck is a picaresque coming-of-age novel set in the first half of the twentieth century. The central character is a mixed-race orphan who suffers from physical, sexual, emotional and racial abuse, but eventually finds his place in the world.
Prejudice influences his very conception, as his mother meets his father when he is drinking beer in a street in Liverpool. A black sailor, he has been refused entry to the pub. After his family all die in a flu epidemic, Beck endures three years of harsh treatment in an orphanage. He is then shipped to Montreal to lodge temporarily in a home run by Catholic priests and learns to nurture plants in the priests’ vegetable garden. This learning serves him well in later years, but the abiding memory of this time, and one which comes back to haunt him again and again, warping his attitude towards any kind of loving relationship, is the appalling physical and sexual abuse he suffers from the priests.
Sent to work on a farm, Beck is despised, half-starved and made to sleep in a barn because his skin is black. He runs away, but has a long way to travel before he finds a place where he can be properly accepted. The plot takes us on a considerable journey through Beck’s formative years and across Canada, although sometimes whole years are left out of the story and the reader is left wondering how Beck managed to survive during these periods. A pivotal moment is his meeting with an older woman called Grace. She is also of mixed race, but she has created a role for herself within the indigenous Blackfoot tribe who are themselves viewed as outcasts by society as a whole.
Review: Sputnik’s Guide to Life on Earth by Frank Cottrell Boyce
By Julie Mills
Frank Cottrell Boyce won the Carnegie award for Millions (2004) and his novels have been regularly shortlisted/nominated for the Carnegie medal since then. His children’s novels include Framed (2005), Cosmic (2008), The Unforgotten Coat (2011) and The Astounding Broccoli Boy (2015). He has also revived Ian Fleming’s famous flying car in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Flies Again (2011).
Sputnik’s Guide to Life on Earth gives us a hearty helping of Frank Cottrell Boyce’s humour and fantasy whilst being grounded in the not so wonderful life of Prez, a young boy who is living in temporary care. It is a boy-orientated narrative with episodic flights of fancy and imagination.
The flights of fancy are great investigations of “what if?” – What if the remote control really could rewind real life? Or a reverse explosion could rebuild Hadrian’s Wall? Or the supermarket self check-out gave you money and not the other way around? – all delivered with Frank Cottrell Boyce’s trademark humour. These sequences also allow him to explore big themes: time, ageing, death, love, home (Life, the universe and everything?). The story also gives insight into the experience of children who are carers, living with dementia and life in care for both young and old.