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”
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:
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”
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.
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.