Sinéad Moriarty & Anne Malewski Talking Moomins at the Dulwich Picture Gallery


Dulwich Picture Gallery, London

On 15th December 2017, two NCRCL PhD candidates — Sinéad Moriarty and Anne Malewski — were invited speakers at the Dulwich Picture Gallery‘s sold-out A Moomin Winter’s Eve event in connection with their Tove Jansson exhibition.


Feeling at Home: Home Spaces in Tove Jansson’s Moomin Novels

In The Poetics of Space (1964), Gaston Bachelard talks about the home as “the human being’s first world” and argues that “always, in our daydreams, the house is a large cradle”. The concept of home is also fundamental within our first literary world: children’s literature. In our talk, we explored ideas of home and home spaces in Tove Jansson’s Moomin novels.


Anne on the left, Sinéad on the right

We discussed the importance of the idea of home in human culture generally and in children’s literature in particular, examined spaces Tove Jansson made a home for herself in ‘real’ life and through her art, and then analysed representations of home in four of her Moomin novels: Finn Family Moomintroll, Moominland Midwinter, Moominpappa at Sea, and Moominvalley in November.

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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.


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.

Report: NCRCL PhD Day 2015

By Kay Waddilove, PhD student


PhD Day 2015 delegates listens to the speakers in Session 1: Anne Malewski and Kay Waddilove.

A fascinating and eclectic set of papers, along with some innovatory events, combined to make the 2015 NCRCL PhD day an exceptionally interesting and enjoyable occasion. In Session 1 Anne Malewski offered a detailed deconstruction of the Shane Meadows’ film This is England (including a perceptive observation on the likeness between Margaret Thatcher and the puppet of Roland Rat), which led to vigorous debate and intense questioning from the audience. Kay Waddilove’s discussion of the 1950’s career novel phenomenon linked this short-lived but highly successful genre to the socio-economic changes of the post-war decade, particularly with regard to women’s lives, and postulated that such populist literature could carry important ideological messages.

Sinead Moriarty speaks about Robert Scott, J.M. Barrie, and Antarctic adventure narratives.

Nick Campbell presents on his research into Neo-Romaticism and the ‘archeological imagination’.

Session 2 dealt with landscape matters: Sinead Moriarty used compelling images to discuss the dialogue between children’s literature and heroic-era stories, analysing the impact of J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan on Robert Scott’s Terra Nova narrative, and establishing persuasive links between the Antarctic and Neverland. Nick Campbell spoke of William Mayne’s subtle use of language and his ‘archeological imagination’, using a range of paintings and illustrations to demonstrate his thesis on the representation of Neo-Romanticism in prose as well as in the more acknowledged visual medium.

Sarah Pyke speaking about her research with the Memories of Fiction project on LGBTQ adults reading practices.

Sarah Pyke reports on her research into LGBTQ adults’ reading practices, a project that is a part of Memories of Fiction: An Oral History of Readers’ Life Stories.

After a delicious (and ecologically sound) lunch at The Hive, we returned to another pair of papers in Session 3. Sarah Pyke outlined the progress of her empirical research pilot with LGBTQ adults recalling their childhood reading, illustrated by original quotes. She went on to discuss different types of reading and how reader-response theory can address the effects of the childhood reading choices of LGBTQ adults. Erica Gillingham focused on Romance studies and discussed how lesbian YA novels combine aspects of popular romance, lesbian romance, and YA conventions, proposing an original analytic model of seven narrative elements for the genre, from the introduction of the heroine to the all-important first kiss to the resolution.

The fourth session concluded the day with talks from two fortunate beings who have recently completed their PhDs. Simon Machin outlined useful practical tips for revising and submitting the final thesis, while Judy Bainbridge (Dr Bainbridge!) reflected on the final stages between submission and viva.

Altogether a memorable day, and many thanks are due to all involved. The day was enhanced by the Exhibition and the fascinating poster displays compiled by delegates. These featured several ‘bookshelves’ – ecological titles by Peter Dickinson, archival copies of Puffin Post from the 1970s, first-edition career novels of the 1950s, lesbian YA romances, as well as a Memory Wall bookshelf created by attendees, and a post-it display on being-an-adult v being-a-child. The crowning event, however, was undoubtedly the Bake-Off, featuring a splendid array of home-made goodies, all linked to children’s literature, contributed by the delegates. Thanks are due to Alison Waller who bravely agreed to judge the winner, and (channeling Mary Berry to perfection), nobly tasted every contribution – and still so slim! Offering the opportunity for speakers to be videoed added a useful learning dimension for the presenters, and for this, and the other innovations, and not least their excellent advance organization of the day, huge thanks are due to Sinead and Anne. Thanks also to the contributors for providing thought-provoking papers which illuminated the variety of research projects being undertaken in the NCRCL. And finally, a nod to the outstanding and committed staff of NCRCL who force – ooops, I mean encourage – their research students to participate in such invaluable events – sine quibus non!!

Photos by Anne Malewski.

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


Book Review Series: The Middle of Nowhere by Geraldine McCaughrean

The NCRCL Book Review Series is a monthly series written by a NCRCL student published on the first Wednesday of every month. The aim of this series is to reflect the diverse research areas of NCRCL’s students and open a dialogue about particular texts, themes, and traditions. 

Review of The Middle of Nowhere by Geraldine McCaughrean (2013)

by Sinead Moriarty

Comity Pinny’s mother is dead, her life is falling apart and she is effectively alone in the vast wilderness of the Australian Outback. But, just like many of McCaughrean’s other young female protagonists, Comity is independent, courageous and determined to persevere. Comity’s father, Herbert Pinny, is Stationmaster at Kinkindele Telegraph Repeater Station Number Four, and it is for love of him that her mother left her home to move to one of ‘the loneliest, most god-forsaken patches of nowhere on the whole continent of Australia.’ But he cannot cope with the loss of his wife, or the grief of his daughter and so instead he uses his job as a telegrapher – a communicator – to totally isolate himself. McCaughrean examines communication and human connections in many ways throughout the novel, through Herbert Pinny’s job, in the inventive letters that Comity sends to her cousins, and through the oral tales and bible stories which become entwined and transformed through telling and retelling.

Through Comity’s friendship with Fred, a young local Aboriginal boy, we see the power of words, of stories and of communication – to change people’s perception of people and places. Comity begins to see the beauty that Fred has always seen in the surrounding landscape. What Comity always understood as wilderness, is, to Fred, refuge, safety and home. He shows her the places steeped in local legends, and shows her how to see these stories as part of the landscape. Fred is, in many ways, Comity’s salvation. However their friendship is complicated by the simmering racial tension that grows throughout the novel which is exacerbated by the new station assistant Quartz Hogg.

Despite Comity’s courage, as the pressures builds the weight of the burden which Comity carries sometimes becomes too much. Comity’s grief bubbles throughout the novel, boiling over at times, “Like a dust storm grief spun in through the myrtle trees and smashed Comity in the face, choking, stinging, blinding. She stood on the verandah and wailed and screamed and sobbed for the loss of her mother.” McCaughrean does not shrink from portraying the real grief of loss. At one point in the novel the narration shifts to the viewpoint of another stationmaster Mr Boyce who arrives at Kinkindele to find Comity alone and Herbert Pinny virtually comatose. The switch in the narration is indicative of Comity’s inability to cope. In interview, McCaughrean says that she did deliberate about the switch, and about showing Comity as an overwhelmed child questioning “was that an adult thing to have done? Should I have made Comity strong enough and clever enough not to need adult intervention? But it didn’t feel honest or plausible. So I couldn’t.” (1) Because in the end Comity is a child, struggling to cope in extreme circumstances and her eventual collapse is simply human fallibility. The Middle of Nowhere is a beautifully written, complex book from an author who is adept at interweaving fiction, history and myth, and does so once again to great effect.


About the Reviewer:

Name: Sinead Moriarty, current PhD student in Children’s Literature at Roehampton.
Research Area: Wilderness and Wild landscapes in British and Irish Children’s Literature.
Path to Roehampton in 140 characters: B.A. in English and Film Studies at Trinity College, Dublin. M.A. in Children’s Literature at Roehampton. A year of working, and missing Children’s Literature, before I returned (joyfully) to start a PhD in Jan 2013.
Favourite (secret) re-read: The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle! I buy it for every neice/nehew/cousin I know and read it again before handing it over.
Unsung Picture Book: This Is Not My Hat by Jon Kassen
Unsung Young Adult Novel: The Island by Eilis Dillon

Series edited by Erica Gillingham