Countdown to NCRCL/IBBY UK 2018 – 11 Days to Go!

25th Annual NCRCL MA/IBBY UK Conference

Crafts and Hobbies in Children’s Books’

Saturday 10th November 2018, 9:30 a.m. – 5:15 p.m.

Tickets are available here.

This short blog series will span the next eleven days, counting down to the 25th Annual Conference. It will be showcasing some of the papers anticipated for this year’s NCRCL/IBBY UK conference. Each day we will be turning the spotlight on to a different parallel session, giving an idea of what’s to come! You can expect lots of exciting content from well-known illustrators and craft practitioners, academics, and key figures in the children’s literature world!

wild flowers.jpg
Su Blackwell, Wild Flowers of the British Isles

Continue reading “Countdown to NCRCL/IBBY UK 2018 – 11 Days to Go!”

Musings on the 2018 NCRCL Open Morning

Emily Wilde, current MA student, writes…

The sun shone for the annual NCRCL Open Morning on Saturday 2nd June 2018 as delegates were welcomed on the registration desk by current PhD student Emily Corbett. The ground floor of the Duchesne building on the Digby Stuart Campus at Roehampton was home for the morning to a pop-up book shop, an exhibition of ‘Research Methods’ posters by MA students, displays of Carnegie books, animal stories from the Children’s Literature Collection and an inviting refreshment area. Amidst a friendly and relaxed atmosphere, new and current students met and chatted to staff and alumni over drinks and cakes (baked by the teaching staff!) before gathering for introductions from members of the NCRCL.

NCRCL events always involve cakes or biscuits

Beyond the MA: in conversation with alumni

To start the morning’s events, Dr. Alison Waller introduced and chaired ‘Beyond the MA’ with alumni Daisy Johnson and Mat Tobin to discover where life can lead after studying Children’s Literature at Roehampton University. Daisy spoke about the ways in which her MA had given “legitimacy” to her interests and provided a framework of resources and support within which to find her voice and gain the confidence to pursue a career which encompasses “a bit of everything”. Daisy described her various roles from blogging, writing articles, teaching and lecturing to working as a librarian and being ‘Writer in Residence’ for a Cambridge University creative writing project about the notoriously busy A14 road! She talked about her research into ‘landscapes’ for her MPhil and her fascination with mapping, explaining the exciting possibilities offered by being able to journey around the UK visiting significant sites encountered in children’s literature through a “filter of fictionality”.

Daisy Johnson

Mat echoed Daisy’s endorsement of Roehampton’s MA in Children’s Literature as “interesting challenging and engaging”, describing how it had provoked a “thirst for reading” and provided the opportunity to move in new directions from his career as an Assistant Head in a Primary School to Lecturing at Oxford Brookes University and now pursuing a PhD. He described how his first MA module had taught him to read books in a completely different way, taking account of theoretical perspectives such as structuralism, feminism and semiotics which subsequently led to the writing of an original Marxist fairy tale for his dissertation. Mat spoke of his current research into the presentation of landscape in children’s fiction, following his discovery of the work of author Alan Garner. Speaking of his interest in history and mythology, Mat described how this has shaped his research into the potential for children to connect with their local environments through the books that they encounter. He talked passionately about his determination to champion the power of children’s literature in the classroom and the importance of bringing together teachers, children, authors and illustrators to enable positive engagement with ‘reading for pleasure’.

Mat Tobin

Zoe Jaques: on animals in children’s literature

Following a break for more delicious refreshments and the chance to view the MA poster presentations, we were fortunate to be able to listen to an entertaining and compelling talk by Zoe Jaques, Fellow in Education and Children’s Literature at Homerton College, Cambridge and author of the fascinating Children’s Literature and the Posthuman: animal, environment, cyborg. Zoe talked about her work in the complex field of human/animal relations. She emphasized that, “animals and children are repeatedly and continually brought into dialogue with one another” and the irony which exists in the fact that humanity appears to consider itself to be hierarchically superior to animals but nevertheless, repeatedly adopts an “animal spokesperson” as the dominant mode of teaching children how to be human! Discussing anthropomorphism and using examples from Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit and Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, Zoe discussed the potential that exists within children’s literature for exploring and blurring the boundaries between animals and humans.

Zoe Jacques

The end of this enjoyable and enlightening NCRCL Open Day was marked by a celebration of current student’s achievements: Emily Wilde and Irit Collins won prizes for their Research Methods posters, Jessica Taylor won the Lathey dissertation prize, Jill Osborne won the Hancock prize for distance learning achievement and Nicola Oakes-Monger won the Pinsent Prize for on-site achievement.

NCRCL Open Morning

Saturday 2 June 2018 | 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Duchesne Building, Ground Floor, Digby Stuart Campus

use cupcakes teapot books

You’re invited to the National Centre for Research in Children’s Literature’s summer event! The Open Morning is an opportunity to learn more about our children’s literature programmes, meet the NCRCL team over tea and cakes, celebrate current research, and hear fantastic speakers. 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.

Zoe Jacques
Zoe Jacques

We are delighted that Zoe Jacques, lecturer at Cambridge University and author of Children’s Literature and the Posthuman will be joining us this year to talk about her work on animals in children’s literature

Two MA alumni, Daisy Johnson and Mat Tobin, will also be in conversation with Alison Waller, discussing the exciting projects they have developed following their time at Roehampton.

There will be a chance to visit the Children’s Literature Archives and Collection, and plenty of time to talk to new and old friends. You can also buy second-hand books from a pop-up bookshop!


10.00 | Registration & refreshments

10.20 | Introduction from the NCRCL team

10.30 | Beyond the MA: in conversation with alumni from Children’s Literature

11.15 | MA Poster Presentations (a chance to talk to current students about their work), refreshments, book displays, and meeting the NCRCL team

12.00 | Zoe Jacques: on animals in children’s literature

12.45 | News from the NCRCL and Student Prizes

Refreshments and cakes will be available to everyone. If you would like something a little more substantial, the library café will be open for sandwiches and small snacks.

At the end of the morning you will be able to visit the Children’s Literature Collection in the library with Archives tutor, Dustin Frazier Wood.

There will also be a pop-up bookshop selling second-hand books.

There is no charge for the open day, but you will need to book a place for catering purposes. In order to book please email Madalina Miron at  before 25 May.

Happily Ever After: The Power of Story

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.

blackberry blue
Cover of Jamila Gavin’s fairy tale collection Blackberry Blue. Image via illustrator Richard Collingridge

Continue reading “Happily Ever After: The Power of Story”

Call for Papers: 2017 IBBY UK/NCRCL Conference



Centre for Literacy in Primary Education, London SE1 8QW.

Call for Papers

‘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?

The conference will include keynote presentations by writers, publishers and academics. Proposals are welcomed for parallel sessions (lasting about 20 minutes) on any relevant issues from any period in the history of international children’s literature. These might include:

  • variations in fairy tales across cultures
  • campfires to apps – how fairy tales have been shared across time
  • how fairy tales are viewed through a feminist lens
  • whether fairy tales are inclusive for readers of all backgrounds
  • the challenges that modern tellers of fairy tales face
  • how fairy tales can challenge established storytelling tropes
  • how to make an old story feel new

The deadline for proposals is July 31st 2017. Please email an abstract of approximately 200 words (for a 20-minute paper), along with a short biography and affiliation to Ann Lazim of IBBY UK at

Please note that only six papers can be selected due to the smaller size of this year’s venue.

Details of past conferences can be found on the IBBY UK website at



NCRCL PhD Day 2016


PhDday 2016 Manuela Salvi
Illustration by Manuela Salvi


18th May 2016 | Duchesne 001

Digby Stuart College, University of Roehampton

10:00-10:15 Welcome

10:15-11:15 Session 1

Erica Gillingham: ‘Lip Gloss and Curling Heat: “First Kiss” Scenes & Malinda Lo’s Young Adult Science Fiction Novels’

Manuela Salvi: ‘The Secret School of the Mooning Guerrillas: Pushing the Limits of Age Banding and Storytelling’

11:15-11:45 Tea Break & 2nd Annual PhD Bake-Off

11:50-12:50 Session 2

Anne Malewski: ‘Apparent Growth: Height as an Arbitrary Signifier’

Nick Campbell: ‘Count the Stones: Earth Mysteries and Post-War Children’s Fantasy’

13:00-14:00 Lunch at The Hive

14:00-15:00 Session 3

Kay Waddilove: ‘We Need to Talk About Enid: Constructions of Motherhood in the Domestic Stories of Enid Blyton’

Sinead Moriarty: ‘The Legacy of an Antarctic Cat: Mrs Chippy’s Last Expedition and Subverting “Heroic” Antarctic Narratives’

15:00-15:15 Bake-Off Prize & Concluding Remarks

Call for Papers – Archiving Childhood: the 3rd NCRCL Conference

We are delighted to announce the call for papers for Archiving Childhood: the 3rd NCRCL Conference which will take place on Friday 1st July 2016 at the University of Roehampton.

The conference is part of archivechild, a new a collaborative project reflecting the ongoing research of members of the National Centre for Research in Children’s Literature. The project takes diverse approaches to the idea of the archive: from building theoretical frameworks and working within Roehampton’s specialist archives and collections, to exploring notions of collecting and memorialising stories or understanding children’s literature as a repository of meaningful objects.

Photo Creative Commons

Call for Papers

Clothes folded in attic-boxes; play-lists of songs and albums; marbles, shells and conkers lined-up on windowsills; memories of stories and nursery rhymes; tins jammed with ticket stubs; alphabetized book-mountains under beds; postcards and photographs lining walls and staircases; shelves packed with fabric, or skeins of yarn; recipes in bulging folders; sideboards full of vinyl records; a writer’s desk and manuscripts; digital images of ancient books, catalogues, maps or illustrations; art collections in a disused telephone box; nature reserves; grand buildings crammed with objects of ancient and modern life.

The urge to collect and preserve can start in early childhood. Archives hold and preserve the past, yet they can also be virtual, future-orientated and open-source. Indeed, the very nature of archives is changing as our children grow into adulthood; in a digital world, material books may end up in digital archives, rather than sitting on children’s bookshelves.

The 3rd NCRCL conference celebrates the archive in all its forms and recognizes it as an important aspect of childhood culture. We invite scholars to explore the archive as a crucial concept in children’s literature studies, taking into account the physical spaces and practical methods, as well as the conceptual possibilities of archiving. PhD students are encouraged to submit proposals for our special graduate poster session.

Papers and posters might examine the following areas:

  • Archive stories
  • Songs, illustrations, and poems in the archive
  • Theories and methodologies of archiving
  • Objects archives, archives of ideas
  • The archive, the library, the museum, the exhibition
  • The archive as memory, memory as archive
  • The reader as archive
  • Archives in children’s literature
  • Children as archivists and collectors
  • Archival silences
  • Archiving senses
  • Collecting and collectors
  • Digital archiving
  • Cataloguing
  • Beyond the archive

Please send an abstract (200 to 300 words) and a short biography to by February 28th 2016.

You are invited to become a virtual collector and join us on Twitter #archivechild or follow us on Facebook or our blog




Photo: Creative Commons

Last chance to sign up!

Last chance to sign up for the NCRCL open day summer event this Saturday!  Please contact Julia Noyce before midnight tonight to book your place!

Download the programme

  • Meet the NCRCL team

  • Book launches

  • Talks by Adèle Geras (author of   the Happy Ever After trilogy,  Troy, IthakaLizzie’s Wish and Cecily’s Portrait) and  Beth Rodgers (Aberystwyth University)

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


IBBY UK/ NCRCL Conference Report – David Lucas

David Lucas – “Drawing, stories, ambiguity and magic”

by Eleanor Hamblen


David Lucas presenting in the portrait room
David Lucas presenting in the portrait room

Children’s writer and illustrator David Lucas rounded off a truly delectable day with a talk entitled Drawing, stories, ambiguity and magic. He began by leading the audience through his recent picture book, Grendel: A Cautionary Tale about Chocolate. Following on from a long tradition of edible worlds in children’s literature, the protagonist’s surroundings are transformed into chocolate by a wish concealed in a chocolate egg with Midas-like consequences. Delighted at first, Grendel comes to comprehend the darker side of this chocoholic’s paradise and the error of his greed.

Lucas went on to discuss the poetic logic of symbolism which enables us to communicate quite opposite meanings simultaneously. Lucas enjoys playing with contrasts, as is apparent his 2008 book The Lying Carpet which features a tiger skin rug who is at once king of the jungle and a doormat, embodying both pride and humility. For Lucas, beauty is found in the union of opposites, combined in a state of high tension and conflict. The visual arts are inherently symbolic since they can only ever stand in for reality. To demonstrate this, Lucas drew a simple star with five interlocking lines which has come to represent a great burning ball of gas millions of miles away.  He explained that all art falls somewhere between pattern (the ideal) and representation (the real). Medieval, folk, and religious art privilege pattern since they are aspiring to an ideal. Lucas’ own interest in pattern is evident in his illustrations which create unreal worlds with crystal clear vision.