Pictures from NCRCL Open Day

Here are a selection of photos from our NCRCL Open Day, held on Saturday, 18 May, and taken by Jonas Kontautas. We were treated to cupcakes, bunting made by Jane Carroll, and inspiring talks from author Melvin Burgess and academic Louise Joy (Cambridge).


Call for Papers – IBBY/NCRCL Conference – Feast or Famine

University of Roehampton, London.
Call for Papers on the theme of ‘Feast or
Famine: Food and Children’s Literature’

As a focus for imaginative gratification, food has a long-standing relationship with children’s literature. Sinclair’s jam-filled ‘coach-wheel’ in The Holiday House (1839) revolutionised Evangelist writing, as culinary reward overshadows recrimination; marmalade sandwiches and honeypots are as iconic as the Paddington and Pooh bears who favour them; and the delights of feasting reach from the comic visualization of The Beano to the excessive wizardry of Hogwarts banqueting. Darker shadows also trouble this relationship though; Brenda’s philanthropy in Froggy’s Little Brother (1875) witnesses the starvation of mice and children, while Andy Mulligan’s Trash (2010) condemns capitalist greed. Moving beyond the immediate concerns of children’s literature, the rise of cup-cake culture in the early 21st century and the recent success of the BBC’s The Great British Bake Off point to an on-going fascination with food that extends beyond sustenance to creation, image and consumption. This evident cultural fascination draws in adults and children alike and thus it seems timely to consider the rich complexity of the relationship between food and children’s literature.

The conference will include keynote presentations by well-known writers, publishers and academics. Proposals are welcomed for workshop sessions (lasting about 20 minutes) on the following or other relevant issues/areas from any period in the history of international children’s literature:

  • the metaphoric treatment of food in children’s books;
  • the visual representation of food in comics, film or picture books;
  • the lack of food – famine, hunger, starvation, or rationing;
  • over-indulgence and greed;
  • food-writing and culinary trends related to childhood;
  • global cuisines – national, ethnic etc.
  • the historical representation of food in children’s books (non-fiction or fiction);
  • environmental, historical and political concerns with food distribution, farming, waste management or consumption – e.g in dystopian fiction;
  • the impact of body image in youth culture – e.g. literary engagement with diet, health issues or eating disorders;
  • oral fixations of early childhood;
  • the consumption of flesh, body or blood: vampirism, cannibalism etc.;
  • food in fairy tales, fantasy literature and myth – e.g. animate and magical food;
  • food and power – the giving and withholding of food;
  • bad food or poison;
  • gender issues: e.g. feminist engagement with nurture, nature and mothering;
  • food and celebration or socializing – birthday cake, honorary banquets/feasts or tea parties.


We welcome contributions from interested academics and others researchers in any of these areas.

The deadline for proposals is 19th July 2013 . Please email a 200-word abstract (for a 20-minute paper), along with a short biography and affiliation to



NCRCL Open Day – Melvin Burgess and Louise Joy speaking

NCRCL Open Day

Saturday 18th May 2013

10.00 am to 1.00 pm


Duchesne Building, Ground Floor

Digby Stuart Campus

The NCRCL invites you to an exciting summer event for MA/PG Dip and PhD students past, present and future.

  • Tea, Coffee and Conversation – meet the NCRCL team.
  • Honorary Research fellow Melvin Burgess presents his latest book.
  • Presentations from NCRCL Staff about research and teaching interests.
  • Book launches – forthcoming publications from the NCRCL team.
  • Research Talk by Louise Joy (Homerton College, Cambridge) –  ‘The Laughing Child: Eighteenth-Century Children’s Literature and the Comic Mode.’
  • Light Refreshments to close the morning.

Current students and alumni are all welcome as is anyone interested in applying to the MA/PG Dip in Children’s Literature, or undertaking doctoral research at the NCRCL.

There is no charge for the open day, but you will need to book a place for catering purposes. In order to book please contact Lucy Parsons:

Learn More about the MA in Children’s Literature

Learn more about the MA in Children’s Literature (On-Site and Distance Learning),
run by the National Centre for Research in Children’s Literature (NCRCL),
University of Roehampton, London.


Have you ever thought about doing an MA in Children’s Literature? If so, you are cordially invited to any and all of these upcoming events where you can learn about our programme. You might be interested to know that we offer two MA programmes – one on-site and the other by Distance Learning. The on-site MA can be completed in one year of full time study or by part-time study, while the Distance Learning MA can be completed from anywhere in the world through part-time study. Please get in touch with Laura Atkins, Senior Lecturer and Admissions Coordinator, if you have any questions ( And do come and join our on-site Open Evening (13 February) and/or or Virtual Open Evening (28 February). You can also read more about both events here. (


On-site Postgraduate Open Evening

Wednesday 13 February 2013

If you’re interested in studying a postgraduate course at Roehampton but want to learn more about us, then this is an ideal opportunity. All of our postgraduate course conveners will be in attendance to chat one-on-one with you. You will also be introduced to postgraduate study at Roehampton, your career options upon graduation and meet current postgraduate students. Book online here. (


Children’s Literature MA Virtual Open Evening

Thursday 28 February 2013

If you are interested in studying children’s literature at Master’s level and want to know more about the possibilities with Roehampton University’s National Centre for Research in Children’s Literature (NCRCL), please join Course Convener Alison Waller and Senior Lecturer Laura Atkins online during this virtual open day. We will give you an overview of the Master’s and Postgraduate Diploma programmes and a tour of the online learning environment. You will also be able to ask any questions you might have about the academic or practical elements of studying at a distance. While this will primarily focus on the Distance Learning MA, we are happy to address questions and spend some time speaking about the on-site programme as well. By booking onto this event, you will be sent a link which will give you the log-in details to participate in this webinar on Thursday 28 February 2013, from 5pm.

Places are limited and fill up quickly, so early booking is recommended. Book online. (



The MA Children’s Literature by Distance Learning examines texts aimed at children, from early fables and fairy tales to contemporary picturebooks and young adult fiction. Students are introduced to a range of literary and cultural theories, exploring social constructions of childhood and the place of children’s books in making culture, as well as reading the texts in a variety of ways. Both programmes are designed to be attractive to a wide range of individuals, including those who are interested in the subject in their capacity as librarians, teachers, counsellors, and parents. Students learn through a mixture of independent study, tutor feedback, and peer support.


Studying the on-site MA Children’s Literature at the University of Roehampton is a challenging and rewarding experience.  During the course your knowledge and passion for children’s literature will be developed and enriched through a number of thought-provoking modules.  Don’t believe us? See what previous MA students have to say about the programme: You will be introduced to Master’s-level study of children’s literature through the introductory ‘Critical and Culture Perspectives’ module.  In this, you will study a range of approaches to literature in general – from Freud, to the French feminists, from historicist methods to ecocriticism – giving you a sound, broadly-based theoretical background. We also believe that it’s necessary for students of children’s literature to be aware of issues and developments in complementary disciplines. This means you’ll cover something of the emotional and linguistic development of children as readers and the nature of their response to literature.


Please pass this along to anyone who you think might be interested.

IBBY/NCRCL Conference Report: Parallel Presentations

In addition to the main IBBY/NCRCL Conference programme (you can read the report on the main programme here), we ran a series of parallel sessions responding to the theme ‘Beyond the Book’. People often say they wish they could attend more than one, so hopefully these summaries will help with that problem…

Workshop A:
Michelle Ann Abate. The Big Smallness: Niche Market Picture Books and the New Children’s Literature
Gwen Athene Tarbox. Just a Figment? Online Participatory Writing Communities and the Future of the YA Novel

Abate spoke about niche market publishing for children in the USA. She showed examples of her subject, including a book designed to explain to a young child the cosmetic surgery being administered to its parent and a book on the process of having a tattoo. My immediate reaction was to wonder how such weird niche publications would go down in Britain.

Tarbox’s subject was an online writing community, also based in the USA, aimed at teens and called Figment. Teens can publish their own fiction under genre headings similar to that used in offline publishing. They are also encouraged by earning badges to review and comment on each other’s work. She showed us the profiles of some of Figment’s most prolific contributors and explained how some had managed to publish further afield, as a result of their success in Figment. I was initially taken with the idea. But my enthusiasm waned when the true character of the website was made clear. Although it was intended to be used by educators to understand the literary interests and aspirations of young people, it had in reality become a marketing tool for publishers, who use it to work out where they can launch successful products. In the end a project that began life as an educational service proved that even the imaginations of teens are used to promote the interests of the almighty dollar.

(Rebecca Butler, alumnus of On-site MA)

Workshop B:
Mieke K.T. Desmet. SMELL THE COFFEE Miffy, Peter Rabbit, Paddington Bear and Co Sell Coffee and More
Kiera Vaclavik. The Dress of the Book: Children’s Literature, Fashion and Fancy Dress

Sadly, we were unable to get a summary of this session. If you attended the conference and would like to submit something, please get in touch.

Workshop C:
Ciara Gallagher. Virtual Worlds and New Literary Interactions in Salman Rushdie’sLuka and the Fire of Life
Maaike Palmier-Claus. The Blank Page: The Writing Process and the Creative Dissertation

Ciara opened the workshop with an examination of Salman Rushdie’s 2010 book Luka and the Fire of Life. The text engages with ideas of alternative realities. Ciara used two short films which are based on the novel to examine the themes within the text. The first film is the promotional film created to go with the publication of Luka and features Rushdie along with child narrators reading different sections from the text. The video reflects the non-linear nature of the narrative through jump cuts between Rushdie and child narrators. The second short film was the winner of a competition in Kingston University. It was an animated video that reflected the nature of the narrative through highlighting the element of computer games within the narrative and also looks at the tension between tradition and modernity in the relationship between the child protagonist and his father. There is a comic tone in the video but also a darker undercurrent which similarly reflects the ambiguity within the narrative in relation to the potential of the alternative realities. Using these two short films was a really interesting way to look at themes within the text, particularly the alternate realities in their potential benefits and pitfalls. There is an element of excitement in the possibilities of alternate realities, with the potential to change identities, endless opportunities and active diversity, but there is also a lack of actuality and a heavy commercialisation and an element of self-deception. Having not read the novel before the workshop I was definitely inspired to seek it out!

Maaike’s presentation dealt with the process of writing the creative dissertation. One of the opening lines of presentation was “Writing is like walking into a cave of self-doubt” and the emotional commitment necessary to complete a creative dissertation was highlighted throughout. Maaika explained her creative process moving from the short story module in the MA – which was a darkly comic story which began with a boy killing his father – to her creative dissertation which centred on the internal world of a teenage girl who is in a coma following an accident. Maaika highlighted the importance of getting to know your characters and her short readings of her story had most of us in tears, showing how emotionally powerful it was in just a few paragraphs. Definitely a dissertation I’d love to read more of.

(Sinead Moriarty, alumni On-site MA in Children’s Literature)

Workshop D:
Hannah Field. Children’s Movable and the Threat of the Mechanical Book
Carey Gibbons. Reimagining the Form of the Book: Su Blackwell’s Book Sculptures

Sadly, we were unable to get a summary of this session. If you attended the conference and would like to submit something, please get in touch.

Workshop E:
Kerenza Ghosh. Walking with Wolves: Children’s Responses to the Wolf Tradition in Stories
Sally Maynard. The Impact of E-Books on Young Children’s Reading Habits

Kerenza Gosh’s excellent talk highlighted her work with a group of upper Key Stage 2 children while they explored the wolf tradition in fairy stories. The children were already very aware of the wolf’s aggressive, gluttonous and dishonest reputation in folk and fairy tales, fables and legends. The children discussed the wolf stereotypes and also parodic subversions of these images. The film ‘Hoodwinked’ was especially enjoyed by the children, with its portrayal of a helpful detective wolf and some very suspect sheep. The children had produced their own illustrations based on a wide range of sources; traditional stories, films, Doctor Who episodes and factual diagrams. It was interesting that many children drew the wolf as howling at the moon, an activity not specifically linked to wolves, but perhaps linking to a Jungian cultural heritage of collective unconscious. On reading Walk With A Wolf by Janni Howker, illustrated by Sarah Fox-Davies, empathetically showing the wolves in their natural environment, the children became more aware of the actuality of a wolf’s life. They were also fascinated that while watching a documentary of wolves hunting a bull elk, the wolf didn’t always succeed in killing its prey.

Karenza summarised that the constant literary smear campaign against the wolf has maintained the  almost primeval fear of wild animals, perhaps a necessary survival instinct in the days when wolves and men lived closely together. Today our fear of wolves has become perhaps more symbolic, though our fear of sinister strangers, we fantasise about the hybrid werewolf but a re-visioning of the wolf should really be sought in order to understand how they truly function in the wild. In the subsequent discussion, an interesting point was raised that although there were instances of female wolves providing nurturing tropes ( Mowgli, Romulus and Remus), the ‘big bad wolves’ were usually shown as male.

 Reading is widely considered to be an important part of childhood; it helps with countless aspects of children’s growth and maturation but recent reports have found that the amount of reading done by young people is decreasing. Sally Maynard opened her workshop by noting that reading has increasingly had to compete with television, computer games and hand held devices (including mobile phones) which have a particular emphasis on visual media. On questioning reluctant readers, their difficulties were not only due to the concentration levels but also to feelings of embarrassment in being seen reading a book. It is possible that e-books may be able to help by offering a more picture-based experience and also by utilising technology that the children are more comfortable with using in public.

The first project that Sally outlined was held in 1990 where children were asked to use CD-ROMs. These were designed to give a book-like experience (pages which ‘turned’ and bookmarks) but was operated using a computer. At the time it was suspected that girls did not enjoy the ‘new’ technology as much as boys, but in Sally’s study it was found that the girls enjoyed the electronic books just as much as the boys. It was not until 2010 when there were more advances in hand-held devices that Sally continued her research. Families were issued with a Kindle, a Nintendo DS Lite and an iPod Touch, preloaded with examples of software. Despite being a small sample, the children, in general, were more receptive than the adults, taking to the new devices enthusiastically. Sally was hopeful that with even more advances in technology (the iPad was launched in later in 2010) e-books would provide valuable reading experiences for reluctant readers.

(Hilary Clarke, current Distance Learning MA student)

Workshop F:
Erica Berry Irving. Beyond the ‘grown up child’: the quality of childness in Matilda: The Musical
Anne Malewski. Second to the Right & Straight on till Gallifrey: The Uses of J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan in Steven Moffat’s Doctor Who

The Group F parallel discussions featured Erica Berry Irving’s discussion on the Stage Musical Adaptation of Roald Dahl’s Matilda. She posited that Matilda became a more active and revolutionary character compared to her largely passive and internalized role in Dahl’s original text. Musically, the show emphasizes Matilda’s hopeful, dreamer nature rather than the oppression of the adults over the “grown up child” of Matilda. The ancillary children were included in this exploration of ‘childness’ as they grow closer with Matilda, changing from a group of ‘I’s to a collective ‘We.’

Partnered with this was Ann Malewski’s presentation on Steven Moffat’s use of the Peter Pan mythology in Doctor Who. Amelia Pond was a key source of intermedial references. Just as Wendy meets Peter, Amy meets the Doctor as a child in her nightgown and we see her floating outside the TARDIS over a glowing space-scape. The incorporation of Barry’s text plays throughout Amy’s tenure as companion. Matt Smith’s Doctor is both “ageless and ancient”, like Peter. Neither has a home – Gallifrey having been destroyed in war, and Peter an orphan. The Doctor validates Amy’s childhood experiences as “Amy’s Imaginary friend,” much as Peter validates Wendy’s childhood experiences when he returns to take her daughter on an adventure. This mode of intermediality encourages viewers to become “detective viewers”, leading the audience to re-read the source text in order to gain a greater insight into the commercial fiction of Doctor Who. While Peter Pan is in the collective imagination of western audiences, repurposing its themes in this manner adds depth to both the source text and meaning to the target text.

(Carissa McQueen, current On-site MA student)

Workshop G:
Kirsty Jenkins. Enhancing the Experience: Rekindling and Renewing Forgotten Texts
Lucy Pearson. What’s the problem? Building teenage publishing in Britain

In their papers, chaired by Dr Alison Waller, Kirsty Jenkins and Lucy Pearson offered two perspectives on publishing for young people. Or is that a misleading term?

Jenkins explored the recent rise of small publishers dedicated to republishing children’s novels that have fallen out of print and out of season. Girls Gone By, to name one of many, specialise in school stories (such as Elinor Brent-Dyer’s Chalet Girls), but their catalogue also runs to such surprising names as Geoffrey Trease. The accent is definitely on nostalgia, and Jenkins also talked about the huge volume of fan activity that goes way ‘beyond the book’, in the form of original fiction, scholarly activity and even winter holidays.

Pearson, author of a new monograph on children’s publishing, talked about Kaye Webb’s faltering approach to repeating her great success with Puffin Books by launching teen-oriented Peacock Books. Pearson read Webb’s misreading of her own readers in the context of a cultural anxiety over the ‘problem’ of teenagers, and the recommendation of Aidan Chambers (ignored at first, later vindicated) that young adult readers – particularly reluctant ones – deserved their own literature. Together, the very different subjects of these papers suggested that new and valuable models of reader engagement can be led and originated by publishers themselves.

(Nick Campbell, current PhD student)

Workshop H: 
Marta Borges and Sandie Mourão. Planeta Tangerina: an editorial concept that pushes boundaries
Dominique Sandis. Greek Children’s Literature in the Digital Age: An overview

In workshop H, Marta, Sandie and I, under Penni Cotton’s forever caring eyes, presented our cosy group with two different perspectives of publishing in the realm of children’s books.

Filled with excitement and pride, Marta Borges and Sandie Mourao, presented the independent and exceptionally innovative publishing house, Planeta Tangerina , from Portugal. Specialising in picture books, the editorial/creative team of Planeta Tangerina believe that the picturebook is one of the most challenging arenas for experimentation. They have two house rules: do not follow formulas and always challenge the reader. Marta and Sandie described the internal dynamics of the publishing house – the relationships that are nurtured between the creators and how these have influenced their books. Throughout their presentation, they showed us examples of the books which were met with awe. In addition to the creation and publication of their books, the publishing house also follows marketing and promotional techniques that further aid in constructing the ultimate literary experience for all those who come in contact with the books. Marta and Sandie provided tangible evidence of the notion of “beyond” the book – from its initial birth, creation and through to the reader’s ultimate engagement.

Next, I presented our group with a brief overview of the digital developments in Greek children’s publishing. Some 2500 e-titles have made available by the end of 2011 by approximately 50 publishers, including backlist titles and new releases. While the greater part of ebook sales belongs to adult fiction and non-fiction, scattered sales of YA fiction titles have been noted. Sadly sales of children’s e-books are still scarce. The majority of eBook buyers tend to hail from Greece and Cyprus, yet sales are also notable in countries that retain strong Greek speaking immigrant populations (i.e. US, UK, Australia and Canada). Psichogios Publications is currently the biggest ebook publisher in Greece and a pioneer in publishing interactive picture book apps in Greece. Its apps were briefly presented to the group. While there are many aspects, both positive and negative, discussed about the digital age, a positive effect that was noted was that digital developments have in fact offered national literature previously constrained by language, borders and their small readership with a way out of confinement. Apps, for example, are deliberately aimed at an international market and produced in additional languages other than the home market (i.e. English, French, German, Spanish and Chinese). Each new app is made as innovative and advanced as possible so to become internationally competitive and accessible across cultures while retaining their unique national flavor. We can only hope that originality, exciting plots, clever ideas and fun illustrations will help to make an impact.

When the presentations came to an end, our group entered into a discussion regarding children’s book publishing in general, beginning with a small conversation about the situation in Greece and then moving on to explore the different trends that have been noticed lately, especially in YA literature. It was a very open and honest discussion and I came away having shared but also learned many different things about this further aspect that is so closely tied to the book, but yet can often go so far beyond it.

(Dominique Sandis, completed PhD student)

IBBY/NCRCL Conference Report: Plenary Sessions

Thanks to several past and current students of our On-site and Distance Learning MA and the PhD programme in Children’s Literature, you can now read this detailed report from our 2012 IBBY UK/NCRCL MA Conference. This year’s theme was ‘Beyond the Book’ which was interpreted in a range of fascinating ways by the speakers. This post covers the main programme, and there will be a separate post with descriptions of the parallel sessions. Enjoy!

Before the Book? Manuscript, Household Reading, and the Origins of Children’s Literature’ Professor Matthew Grenby (University of Newcastle):

The first speaker of the morning was the charismatic Matthew Grenby, whose work on 18th century Children’s Literature is at once compelling and challenging. He presented on manuscript literature of the mid-18th century, and its relationship to the rise of print culture and the (perhaps) decline of oral storytelling. While he first argued for a linear relationship (oral traditions –> manuscripts –> printed books), Matthew quickly turned it around and said “Not so fast.” Manuscripts – specifically those created my mothers for their own children – continued to flourish as print culture arose. Indeed, these hand-written “books” became increasingly book-like, mimicking the form they preceded.  Many children’s books were originally darling hand-drawn manuscripts, only reaching commercial success at the reticence of their authors and under the guise of moral responsibility to the correct upbringing of a child. Other authors used manuscripts in conjunction with their printed material, either to solicit responses or simply to compete with printing pirates. This just skims the surface of Matthew’s research. The relationship between oral traditions, manuscript culture, and printed text is cyclical and intertextual, not linear. Print was not encumbered by the lingering manuscript culture, but was defined and informed by it.

(Carissa McQueen, current on-site MA student)

‘Digital Developments: Panel on Book Apps and Digital Publishing’ Kate Wilson (Nosy Crow), Neal Hoskins (Winged Chariot), and Sara O’Connor (Hot Key Books), moderated by Laura Atkins (NCRCL, University of Roehampton):

We were treated to a fascinating panel on digital publishing. Kate Wilson presented Nosy Crow’s Cinderella iPad app; a paradigm of interactive play and reading. The vibrant world is fully animated so very young readers can engage in multiple ways with the text. The app also lends itself to growing with readers as they develop. StoryCloud, from Winged Chariot, was web-based, rather than app-based, explained developer Neal Hoskins. This allows for a broader range of users on an array of devices and employs a more traditional story-telling mode, focused on text rather than a game-type narrative. And finally, Sara O’Connor from Hot Key Books presented the innovative Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner. Also available as a traditional printed book, the Multi-touch iBook version explores intriguing ways to bring a text to life without abandoning the essential form of the book. One example: the words on the digital page animate, giving the reader the experience of severe dyslexia the author and protagonist suffer from. It was clear that these three publishers seek to completely reimagine books and storytelling in a digitally native way. The passion and excitement for the virtually boundless possibilities in digital publishing will inspire authors and developers alike to create new forms of narrative that both celebrate and move beyond the book.

(Carissa McQueen, current on-site MA student)

‘Charting the Journey of a Circus-Theatre Collaboration Inspired by Shaun Tan’s The Arrival’ Co-Created by Sita Brahmachari (author, Artichoke Hearts, and speaker on the day) and Kristine Landon-Smith for Tamasha Theatre Company

Is it possible to turn a wordless graphic novel into a theatre play? Sita Brahmachari – winner of the Waterstone’s Children’s Book Prize 2011 and nominee of the Carnegie Prize 2012 – gave a moving account of her experience scripting Shaun Tan’s The Arrival for theater. In order to retell Tan’s famous story about an immigrant who has left his family behind to start a new life in a foreign country, Sita drew on the experience of her own father who arrived in England from Kolkata in 1959. She combined family memories with central elements of the book, such as suitcases, docks, and stations or the little white paper bird. It had been her aim to recreate the international, challenging and sometimes frightening side of immigration journeys which is why she and play director Kristine Landon Smith formed a collaborative piece between Tamasha Theatre Company and Circus Space. The circus artists of different ethnic backgrounds perform impressive flights and falls – all lit with sepia-coloured light just as the pictures in the graphic novel. Altogether,  the play captures Tan’s positive message by centering on a man who founds a house to support fellow migrants. Watch out for upcoming performances of this stunning production in 2013!

(Nadja Korthals, alumnus of on-site MA)

‘Eight Books is Never Enough: Carnegie and Giving the Readers a Voice’ Kay Waddilove (School Librarian) talking with young book reviewer Emilia Lamkin (age 12) (Note, we received two reports on this session and they so compliment each other, we decided to post them both):

Kay Waddilove talked about her work with her own school in contributing to the CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Children’s Book Awards Shadowing Site, and introduced us to Emilia Lamkin a 12-year-old reviewer.

First we saw a fun 007-inspired short film created by children from Kay’s school (which you can watch here). This was followed by a video where the children from Kay’s school discussed in detail what the shadowing had meant to them (you can watch it here). The overwhelming impression was how much they valued the experience, and the enjoyment that they had reading and discussing the books. They particularly enjoyed extending the range of their reading, attempting unfamiliar genres and authors and the opportunities for group discussion with other book lovers was cited as a real bonus. You can see their shadowing review site here.

In an onstage interview, Emilia, who was chosen to attend the conference because of the quality of her reviews, came across as  an eloquent and thoughtful reviewer. It became apparent to the audience very quickly that the advantages gained by participation in the scheme were not limited to the literary skills of reading and reviewing. The young readers had benefited from the interaction with their peers, increasing their abilities in social skills, self confidence and debating. You can see Emilia’s school’s shadowing review site here and Emilia’s review of A Monster Calls here.

When Emilia was asked to sum up her experiences with the scheme in one word, the word she chose was “Wow!”; a convincing argument in itself of the value of the scheme!

(Hilary Clarke, current Distance Learning MA student)

When I look at the judgements of past Carnegie juries, such as 1967’s The Owl Service, I do wonder: did readers agree with them? ‘Beyond the book’ can describe readers’ responses, and the challenge of encouraging and sharing them.

Kay Waddilove’s panel celebrated the Red House Award (voted for entirely by children) and the Shadowing initiative run by CILIP’s Carnegie and Kate Greenaway awards. Red House seeks children’s nominations and votes; the Shadowing website promotes their reviews and discussion as an alternative perspective on its shortlist. A PhD student at the NCRCL, Waddilove’s role as school librarian gives experience of both. Her presentation was a valuable and entertaining combination of theory, interview and documentary.

A highlight was her interview with young reviewer Emilia Lamkin, demonstrating some of the confidence fostered by participating in Carnegie’s website, on which she is a Star Reviewer. She also praised the Red House Award, which does not have an adult jury.

Two short films showed the enthusiasm generated by both initiatives: many stressed that certain books, which wouldn’t have been their own choice, turned out to be ‘mind-expanding’.

But the role of Waddilove and her colleagues cannot be overestimated; the panel was a tribute to the potential of a school’s library to encourage and enrich readers’ experiences.

(Nick Campbell, current PhD student)

Lots of Suddenlies…. David Wood the National Children’s Dramatist

David explained the title of his talk as being his guiding principle when writing plays for children – “the aim is to make it absolutely impossible for the audience to want to take their eyes off the stage, for fear of missing something.”  David’s other top tips for writing plays for children, either as original drama or as an adaptation were:

  • Look for the interval – make sure you have a cliffhanger that makes the children want to come back after their ice cream – plus have a climax midway through Act 2 – to keep them going to the end.
  • Think carefully about the narrator – can a child narrator carry the story?
  • Remember that the audience will have no “theatre manners” – they will participate if given the slightest opportunity so this is both a challenge and an opportunity.
  • You will probably be limited by the size of your cast.
  • Will you include songs/puppetry/ magic etc?
  • If you have animal characters, what is their relationship to real animals – do they speak, wear clothes, talk to humans, etc?

So the art of writing drama for children is largely one of problem-solving.  David has adapted very many stories for children, including The BFG, The Witches, Tom’s Midnight Garden, The Tiger who Came to Tea, Guess How Much I Love You – the list goes on and can be found on his website at  He also writes original plays – and has had a parallel career as an actor (rather incongruously appearing in the film If… but I realised mid-way through his talk that I remembered him from Playaway from when I was a child!)  His adaptation of Goodnight Mister Tom opens at the Phoenix Theatre on 22nd November 2012 and Tom’s Midnight Garden at the Bloomsbury Theatre from 12th December.

(Deborah Bacon, current Distance Learning MA student)

‘Creating the Pop Up Experience: Authors as Curators’ Pop Up Festival and Schools Programme – Dylan Calder with author Candy Gourlay (Tall Story), and author/illustrators James Mayhew (Katie books) and Karin Littlewood (Immi):

Next it was the turn of Dylan Calder, who introduced his company Pop Up Projects. This non-profit, social enterprise, set up two years ago in 2010, works with a range of partners and funders to deliver an annual literature programme in some of London’s inner-city schools around the King’s Cross area, culminating in the summer with a two-day children’s literature festival of free events and experiences celebrating books, stories and the imagination. Dylan explained how his vision of putting authors and artists at the helm was vital in terms of making the festival experience a truly creative and collaborative event. He then introduced three authors who have curated events at Pop Up – Karin Littlewood, James Mayhew and Candy Gourlay. Each author was given a small budget to work with and a free hand to create their own world “beyond the book”.

Karin spoke first, describing how she first heard Dylan’s vision for the Pop Up Festival in a back garden in the East End of London and came away buzzing with ideas, keen to take on the task of curating an event at the first festival in 2011 centred around her book Immi. She took the audience through photographs charting how her idea of building a giant igloo took shape and how the event became a collaborative community project, involving dancers from the London Contemporary Dance School who choreographed and performed a piece, students from St Martin’s who helped to construct the igloo, and original music composed by Ben Graves of the Guildhall School of Music. On the day, children and their families entering the magical world of Immi’s igloo could create their own art, listen to story-tellers, watch the dancers perform – and even meet Immi, an actor dressed up as the character from the book.

James Mayhew then described his event at the 2012 festival – a Pop Up Picture Pavilion. Drawing on his successful Katie books, which introduce children to famous paintings, James worked with students from Central St Martins School of Art to build a magical, colourful art gallery. Inside, children could scribble and draw and pretend to be Katie –  climbing onto sets inspired by Rousseau’s Tiger, re-creating famous paintings such as “Starry Sky” and posing behind life-sized cut-out figures (with a photograph of a serious-looking child transformed into her role as Velazquez’s Spanish Infanta drawing a collective sign of admiration from the audience). With the help of illustrator Clara Vulliamy and artist Vanessa Stone, the day-long event also included drawing and paper-cutting workshops as well as story-telling.

Candy, author of Tall Story, rounded up the segment with a lively description of her 2012 Pop Up Fiesta, inspired by her native Philippines. The curated space included book-based quizzes and game shows devised to engage the young audience (with Candy describing how questions had been tailored so that children could take part even if they had not read a particular book) and featured several of Candy’s author and illustrator friends – lured in, she said, by the promise of being treated like stars for the day (particularly as she laughingly admitted, she had blown much of her budget on hiring traditional Filipino dancers). The event was a great success, culminating in the arrival of the Filipino dancers who proved (to Candy’s relief) to be worth every penny, treating the audience to performances including traditional bamboo dancer and Spanish flamenco, reflecting her country’s rich and vibrant history.

(Sue Nicholson, alumnus of on-site MA, creative dissertation)

Jim Kay, illustrator of the Greenaway and Carnegie Award-winning book, A Monster Calls:

He does a terrific dragon. Course he does. You name it, Jim Kay draws it. Wherever he places his pencils and brushes, castles, bugs, landscapes arise. So detailed and beautiful, so appealing, that a story starts to unfold right under your eyes.

But then, not all stories can be happy stories. So when we meet Kay’s Paddington Bear, we find a wild beast with haunted eyes, whose dangerous claws hold a suitcase so clumsily you want to take it away from him. Free him from his burden.

Yes. Dark stuff. Too dark for children. Or that is why publishers told Kay off when he tried to find a job illustrating children’s books. Refusing to draw more dragons, it was eventually A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness that gave him the opportunity to show that children love his work. Struck by the story and convinced not to disturb the individual reading experience, Kay created what feels like an illustrated world of our emotions. Kay the drawer humbly stepped back and created landscapes of carbon prints and tissue paper, and a green man built from cut out ink spots. As a singular visual artist, he shows extraordinary trust in language, but also knows how to go beyond the words. Not by giving the story a face, but by emphasising the powerful emotions that we can only feel, not read.

(Wendela De Raat, current on-site MA student)

Conference Photos

We are working on a longer post with summaries from our recent IBBY/NCRCL Conference (Saturday, 10th November) which was on the theme ‘Beyond the Book’. But in the mean time, we thought people might enjoying seeing photos from the day.

NCRCL Director, Lisa Sainsbury, opens the conference.

Matthew Grenby from the University of Newcastle gave a talk on 18th century hand-written manuscripts and the origins of children’s book publishing.

‘Digital Developments: Panel on Books Apps and Digital Publishing’, left to right: Laura Atkins (NCRCL – moderator), Kate Wilson (Nosy Crow), Neal Hoskins (Winged Chariot) and Sara O’Connor (Hot Key Books)

Author Sita Brahmachari (Artichoke Hearts) on creating a circus-theatre adaptation of Shaun Tan’s The Arrival.

School librarian Kay Waddilove and young book reviewer Emilia Lamkin (age 12) discuss shadowing book awards

Roehampton archivist Kornelia Cepok and librarian Julie Mills cut the cake celebrating Just William’s 90th anniversary, and highlighting the Richmal Crompton collection held at the University of Roehampton. Thanks to Macmillan Children’s Books for co-sponsoring the cake.

There are more photos to come of the afternoon sessions (David Wood; the Pop Up panel with Dylan Calder, Candy Gourlay, Karin Littlewood, and James Mayhew; and Jim Kay).

You can follow the Twitter convesation on the day at #IBBY12.

And if you want to see more of Jim Kay’s presentation, Candy Gourlay has created a wonderful illustrated summary here.