Alumni News: Looking for Ideology in Children’s Fiction Regarding the Holocaust

NCRCL Alumni Spotlight: Nadine Majaro, Distance Learning MA 2012, has recently published an article based on her MA thesis, entitled ‘Reimagining Significances: do authors of children’s fictions about the Holocaust convey ideological positions which reflect their national background?’. Below is a short piece from Nadine on how she made the transition from MA thesis to publication, an abstract for the paper, and a link to the full text of the article.

boy-in-striped-pyjamasFrom Nadine Majaro

Those of you who have completed your dissertations will know how they take over your life – you go to bed thinking about the perfectly crafted sentence and hope that, when you wake up, you will remember your brilliant night-time ideas.

I am sure that some of you feel that, once all the writing and proofing is finished, you never want to look at your dissertation again.But I felt a bit differently.I was proud of my work and wanted to try to make it more widely available. Gillian Lathey recommended that I consider editing my dissertation for the Journal of Children’s Literature Studies.I did a bit of research on the journal and found that I could not even access it through the British Library – this set a few alarm bells ringing but I decided to give it a go anyhow.

The first stage was to cut 20,000 words down to 6,000. Pretty daunting. My dissertation was on the ideologies conveyed by three books about the Holocaust for young readers.I argued that those ideologies are strongly influenced by the history or culture of the countries in which the authors work. I wrote about The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne from Ireland, Milkweed, by Jerry Spinelli from America and Once by Morris Gleitzman, who lives in Australia.

I decided that the easiest way to deal with the word count would be to take out an entire section. I cut out the section on the Gleitzman book – not without regret as I thought it was the best of the three books I had covered, but it is in some ways the most complex so I thought it would be harder to abbreviate.Once I started cutting words out, it became surprisingly satisfying!

I submitted the article to the editors and received some very helpful comments from two referees.Having made their suggested changes and put all the referencing into the form required by the journal, I received a nasty shock.The journal had gone out of business, so perhaps I should have heeded the earlier warning signs.However, Bridget Carrington and Pat Pinsent, the editors, told me that the New Review of Children’s Literature and Librarianship were looking for contributions, so I sent my article to them.To my delight, it was accepted with no further need for refereeing.All I had to do was change the referencing system for the third time – still, it was worth it to see my work in print.


This article examines two books about the Holocaust, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne from Ireland and Milkweed by Jerry Spinelli from America, and argues that they contain both overt and covert ideological positions, some of which are strongly influenced by the history or culture of the countries in which the authors work. This argument is supported by a detailed examination using a toolkit derived from work on ideology by a number of academics, including Peter Hollindale, Robert Sutherland, and John Stephens. This examination of the texts is extended to cover some of the questions raised in the extensive debates on Holocaust literature including whether there is a moral responsibility to convey facts accurately and how the victims of the Holocaust should be portrayed. This work demonstrates that the shared surface ideology of the books co-exists with extensive differences in hidden ideology, some of them troubling.

Link to article

Nadine Majaro completed an MA in Children’s Literature after a long career as an accountant in the City of London. She is now heavily involved in various charities.


About Erica Gillingham

Academic, Writer, Craft. LGBT Children's Literature. London, UK, via California ·

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