Mapping the Antarctic for Children: Publication in Children’s Literature in Education Journal

NCRCL PhD candidate Sinéad Moriarty’s article “Unstable Space: Mapping the Antarctic for Children in ‘Heroic Era’ Antarctic Literature” was published in Children’s Literature in Education  in January 2017.


Illustration of a map in William Grill’s Shackleton’s Journey which Sinéad discusses in her article. Image via William Grill.

Here is the abstract of Sinéad’s article:

This article examines the Antarctic landscape as one of the last places in the world to be explored and mapped, and as one of the most changeable landscapes in the world. The mapping exercises involved in the early, heroic-era Antarctic expeditions, helped to reduce a once mysterious and unknown landscape into a known entity, something that could be contained and restrained through visual representation. These maps focus on the limits of landscape, on the outer edges and the upper peaks and so mapping minimises and places limits upon landscapes, creating an image of the landscape which is static, re-presented for human consumption. The article will, therefore, look at the use of maps in a cross-section of six heroic-era Antarctic non-fiction narratives for children written within the last twenty years, and which recount the early Antarctic expeditions, recreating and re-presenting heroic-era maps as a means of enforcing stasis on this dynamic landscape. The children’s stories, such as Michael McCurdy’s Trapped by the Ice! (1997), Meredith Hooper’s Race to the Pole (2002), and Dowdeswell, Dowdeswell & Seddon’s Scott of the Antarctic (2012), show that the stultifying effect of maps is exacerbated in the children’s heroic-era narratives as they seek to fix the landscape geographically, as well as temporally, in the early twentieth century. The article will examine the way in which the maps in the modern retellings of heroic-era narratives seek to undermine the mutable nature of the Antarctic in order to present the child reader with an image of the continent, which is dominated by stasis.

You can access the article here.

Sinéad Moriarty is a PhD candidate at the NCRCL. Her work focuses on representations of the Antarctic in literature for children, and how authors have understood and represented this ‘wild’ landscape.


Roehampton Readers: Shackleton’s Journey by William Grill

Review: Shackleton’s Journey by William Grill

By Sinead Moriarty

Shackleton’s Journey tells the story of Ernest Shackleton’s 1914 -16 Endurance trans-Antarctic expedition in which the explorer sought to cross the Antarctic continent from the Vahsel Bay in the Weddell sea through the South Pole to the Ross Sea. The text is written and illustrated by British illustrator William Grill. It is this year’s winner of the Kate Greenaway Prize for illustration in children’s books.

It is somewhat unsurprising that Grill’s text was nominated for the Greenaway prize rather than its sister Carnegie Award for two reasons 1) it is filled with beautiful, hand-drawn illustrations that grip the reader and create visual interest in every page, and 2) because the written narrative is conventional and lacks some of the magic which the illustrations exude. The written narrative tells what has now become a familiar story. Shackleton gathers a crew of adventurous sorts and heads south. His ship becomes trapped and is eventually crushed. Through extraordinary leadership and ingenuity Shackleton leads his men on an arduous journey to safety, crossing treacherous Antarctic seas in small boats and traversing the uncharted interior of South Georgia before finally securing the safe return of his crew. There is little interrogation of the modern Shackleton myth that has exploded since the late 1990s. This is particularly evident in the postscript which briefly mentions the three men who did die on the expedition: The expedition’s second ship, the Aurora arrived at the Ross Sea and, not knowing that Shackleton and his crew never even made it to the continent, set about laying depots for the explorers; the ship’s chaplain collapsed and died on the ice while two explorers were killed when they became lost in a blizzard and were never seen again. Grill only briefly mentions the men and ensures that this does not to challenge Shackleton’s heroic status or his claims to have never lost a man under his leadership.

However, it is in the bountiful and beautiful illustrations that this book shines. Through the illustrations Grill examines elements of the expedition often omitted in texts retelling the narrative of the Endurance. He meticulously draws each member of the crew and so we meet each and every man who suffered and struggled to survive the expedition. This is in marked contrast to the other texts about the Endurance, which name only a small number of the crew, such as those involved in the boat journey from Elephant Island to South Georgia. We also meet all of the dogs taken aboard the expedition despite the fact that these animals are often overlooked in order to distract from the fact that the explorers killed and ate their animals when the ship sank. Another key strength of the text and a mark of originality and subversive potential are the landscape drawings of the Antarctic. In these illustrations, many of which are double-page spreads, we see the vast Antarctic, represented in a multitude of ways reflecting the movement and dynamism which is inherent in this landscape. These images also give an insight into experiences of the explorers who found themselves shipwrecked in the middle of a vast frozen ocean, knowing that there would be no rescue. In one image a tiny yellow ship sits in the bottom left corner of an image which is dominated by broken ice and dark blue sea. The insignificant size of the ship is highlighted and the threat posed by the natural environment is patent. There is great depth and intricacy to Grill’s drawings and these images tell a far more complex and interesting story of Shackleton’s journey.

Carnegie Greenway MedalsThe Roehampton Readers participated in the CILIP Carnegie & Kate Greenway Children’s Book Awards as a shadowing group. Meeting at the University of Roehampton to discuss the shortlists, their reviews were then posted to the shadowing site itself. Over this summer, we are sharing a selection of the reviews with you as part of the ongoing activity here at NCRCL. The Roehampton Readers group was coordinated by NCRCL PhD student, Kay Waddilove.

NCRCL at the ISSCL Conference 2015

On 11th April 2015, three of NCRCL’s PhD students — Anne Malewski, Sinead Moriarty, and Sarah Pyke — along with Dr Jane Carroll presented their current projects at the Irish Society for the Study of Children’s Literature (ISSCL) conference 2015 in Dún Laoghaire, Dublin.

The setting for the conference was the brand new Dún Laoghaire Lexicon, a cultural centre and library set on the seafront in the Dublin suburb. The NCRCL delegates were made to feel incredibly welcome by the ISSCL team and were even given a tour of the new library facilities before the end of the weekend! This two-day event brought together a dynamic range of academics, graduate students and writers of children’s literature, not only from Ireland and the UK, but Europe and Latin America as well.

The theme of the 2015 ISSCL Conference was ‘Constructing childhoods and texts for children’. The broad nature of this theme resulted in a wide range of interesting papers focusing on topics such as the construction of the image of the child in the work of bell hooks in texts such as Happy to be Nappy to an examination of Beckett’s Godot for children in Sesame Street! The first day of the conference culminated in a fascinating key note speech by Maria Nikolajeva who focused on the importance of fantasy literature in the cognitive development of the child.

Anne, Sinead, and Sarah have written brief reports from their presentations and experiences from the conference…

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Sinead Moriarty: ‘Physical suffering and child development in Antarctic whaling literature’


You are warmly welcomed to

‘Physical suffering and child development in Antarctic whaling literature’
Sinead Moriarty, NCRCL PhD Candidate, ECW Roehampton University

Antarctic Whaling literature for children describes a modern rite of passage in which young boys are sent into the wilderness and pushed to their limits to test their ability to join the adult community. This presentation will examine the connection between physical suffering and child development in these narratives.

Wednesday 22nd April
Fincham 001, Roehampton University