Bookings for the NCRCL Open Day!

NCRCL Open Day

Saturday 13th May 2017 | 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Duchesne Building, Ground Floor, Digby Stuart Campus

Welcome to the National Centre for Research in Children’s Literature’s spring event for MA/PG Dip and PhD students past, present, and future! The Open Day is an opportunity to meet the NCRCL team over tea and cakes, celebrate current research, and hear fantastic speakers.

We are delighted to announce that award-winning Canadian author and educator Zetta Elliott, an advocate for greater diversity and equity in publishing, and distinguished children’s literature critic Peter Hunt, the first Professor of Children’s Literature in the UK, will be joining us this year.

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!

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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.

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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.

Alumni Q&A: Helen Swinyard’s Library Epiphany

We caught up with Helen Swinyard who completed the MA in Children’s Literature at the NCRCL in 2003. Through the MA, Helen discovered that being a school librarian is an exciting way to pursue her love of children’s literature.

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Helen Swinyard speaking at the Haringey Children’s Book Award which she set up. In the background: authors Philip Womack and 2016 winner SF Said.


What led you to the NCRCL?

I had friends from school studying their undergraduate courses at Roehampton (it was the University of Surrey Roehampton then) and I remember visiting them a couple of times and walking past the NCRCL on campus and thinking ‘what’s that?’ I thought it sounded like an exciting place.

I had always enjoyed reading as a child and wanted to be a writer when I ‘grew up’. So even though the demands of secondary school meant I didn’t read that much, I always wanted to read English at university level. However, during my undergrad degree I had a first year set course and then had second year modules I didn’t really enjoy – the experience wasn’t what I had anticipated at all. Finally when I was completing my degree I suddenly rekindled my love of reading and analysing, and luckily had the chance to carry straight into an MA as I didn’t want it to end! The NCRCL was top of my list.

What did you most enjoy and take from the MA?

It was a real indulgence for me at the time to spend a full year immersing myself in children’s literature and surrounding myself with others who love that world as much as I do. After 3 years of studying general English literature, and having to read things that didn’t really interest me, that year helped me regain my love of reading.

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Illustrating Marvellous Imaginations

The 23rd annual IBBY/NCRCL MA Conference took place on 5 November 2016 at the University of Roehampton. This year’s theme was ‘Marvellous Imaginations – Extending thinking through picture books’. This week on the NCRCL blog, alumni and current NCRCL students will be reporting on various aspects of the conference, including the speakers, panellists and parallel sessions.

Illustrating Marvellous Imaginations

During this conference, people were not just taking notes, asking questions about picturebooks, and discussing marvellous imaginations: Laura Davis and Emma Dunmore were also illustrating the conference proceedings.

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Marvellous Imaginations: A Wonderful Day

The 23rd annual IBBY/NCRCL MA Conference took place on 5 November 2016 at the University of Roehampton. This year’s theme was ‘Marvellous Imaginations – Extending thinking through picture books’. This week on the NCRCL blog, alumni and current NCRCL students will be reporting on various aspects of the conference, including the speakers, panellists and parallel sessions.

Marvellous Imaginations: A Wonderful Day

By Suzanne Curley

On Saturday November 5th Roehampton University once again hosted the annual IBBY/NCRCL Conference. This year’s theme was ‘Marvellous Imaginations: Extending thinking through picture books’.

There was, as always, a plethora of fascinating sessions from academics and leading experts in the field of picture book study and creation.

The day began with a lovely array of tea, coffee, pastries and socialising, with an opportunity to browse the display tables, including the IBBY Collection of Outstanding Books for Young People with Disabilities, which showcased a range of books representing a variety of disabilities both physical and mental, from board books, right up to young adult fiction.

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A teeming display table

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Marvellous Imaginations: Reflections on the makers and readers of picture books

The 23rd annual IBBY/NCRCL MA Conference took place on 5 November 2016 at the University of Roehampton. This year’s theme was ‘Marvellous Imaginations – Extending thinking through picture books’. This week on the NCRCL blog, alumni and current NCRCL students will be reporting on various aspects of the conference, including the speakers, panellists and parallel sessions.

Marvellous Imaginations: Reflections on the makers and readers of picture books

By Lesley Smith

Martin Salisbury: “The New Picturebook-Makers: Visual Thinker as Author”

Martin Salisbury is Professor of Illustration at Anglia Ruskin University and leads the MA Children’s Book Illustration programme.

Picture books are usually 32 pages, which gives you 12 spreads between the end papers and titles. People think picture books are easy to write but pictures are a language in themselves, not just an extra to the words. Drawing is another way of thinking, a way of reasoning on paper and many people are visual thinkers, working out their ideas through drawing – “I prefer drawing to talking. Drawing is faster and leaves less room for lies” (Le Corbusier).

In picture books for children, it the image used to merely reflected the words, but the authorial side of illustration has come to the fore in recent years and there is often more meaning in the pictures than there is in the text (e.g. There’s a Bear on My Chair by Ross Collins). Publishers are, however, still a little nervous about wordless books where all the writing is in the pictures.

In France, picture books are more sophisticated. In China, interest in picturebooks is increasing as entertainment is becoming as important as overt didactism. In Germany, the Wimmelbuch (literally teeming book, like Martin Handford’s Where’s Wally?) is on the rise.

Vivienne Smith: “Playing at Reading? Why picturebooks really matter in the teaching of reading”

Vivienne Smith is a lecturer in Primary Education at the University of Strathclyde. She is particularly interested in reading as a creative and social practice.

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Beyond the Uniform and The Big Ideas Project: Parallel Session 1

The 23rd annual IBBY/NCRCL MA Conference took place on 5 November 2016 at the University of Roehampton. This year’s theme was ‘Marvellous Imaginations – Extending thinking through picture books’. This week on the NCRCL blog, alumni and current NCRCL students will be reporting on various aspects of the conference, including the speakers, panellists and parallel sessions.

Beyond the Uniform and The Big Ideas Project: Parallel Session 1

By Andrew Pope

In The Big Ideas Project, researchers investigated a range of concepts through children’s books with 60 primary school children. Beyond the Uniform is a collabroative project that uses children’s and YA fiction to examine social attitudes to women military veterans. Attended by a select group of no more than 10, this session was run by Debbie Beeks and Helen Limon, both of whom came across as formidably powerful characters in their field.  I chose this session because of its potential relevance to my next assignment, in which I plan to write about Apache, by Tanya Landman, the story of a Native American girl/warrior.

Debbie Beeks from the Seven Stories foundation in Newcastle explained how the researchers in The Big Ideas Project were obliged to demonstrate that they had informed the local community of their work, and that, through her and Seven Stories, they had selected children’s picture books in order to provide focus for sessions with groups from local schools. Debbie is apparently trained in Drama, and her inventiveness was very evident in the stimulating exercises which were used to encourage the children’s understanding. Thoroughly inspirational!

Helen Limon, who works at Newcastle University, then reported on her work with military veterans, investigating the use of picture books and YA literature in easing the rehabilitation process, particularly for women. Again, her commitment and observation were inspiring; both speakers stressed the need to adjust one’s view, or ‘frame’, when considering picture books, since the images and ideas may seem innocuous, and yet the underlying assumptions that they reinforce may well be less than even-handed!

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