Ponds, children’s literature, and Hayao Miyazaki

The stories that we read as children stay with us. Sometimes practically: dishevelled, bruised, cracked-of spine; or sometimes more metaphorically as a memory, or a feeling we can’t describe or even fully realise. This is because literature is a continuum: everything we read talks to everything we’ve ever read before and to everything we’re yetContinue reading “Ponds, children’s literature, and Hayao Miyazaki”

Cynthia Voigt, Americana and the texture of literary things

“Dicey looked out over the tall marsh grasses, blowing in the wind. If the wind blew, the grasses had to bend with it.” I don’t remember the first time I read Cynthia Voigt. I do, however, remember what it was that I read. A book called Homecoming. A title that bore little resonance to myContinue reading “Cynthia Voigt, Americana and the texture of literary things”

Annotated: Sabre The Horse From The Sea by Kathleen Herald

My research has been recently turning towards juvenilia – stories written by girls, for girls, and what that tells us about being a girl – and it bought me to an extract of Sabre The Horse From The Sea by Kathleen Herald (in: Where Texts And Children Meet, eds. Bearne and Watson). It is anContinue reading “Annotated: Sabre The Horse From The Sea by Kathleen Herald”

Tales Out Of School by Geoffrey Trease

Tales Out of School: A Survey of Children’s Fiction by Geoffrey Trease My rating: 3 of 5 stars Epochal at its time, this book sought to locate children’s fiction as an object of serious critique. It came during a powerful point in the history of British children’s literature, that mid-twentieth century that saw so manyContinue reading “Tales Out Of School by Geoffrey Trease”

The legitimacy of critique : or, who am I?

(This is today’s post – a long read touching on criticism, the internet, and also distant reading. There’s a bit of theory, but I hope it’s worth the effort. If you’d like to read other longer posts in this series, here’s the archive of long reads.) I have a friend who’s researching narrative autobiography, andContinue reading “The legitimacy of critique : or, who am I?”

Learning how to be not afraid

I was asked, the other day, in the middle of a conversation: “what has life as a research student taught you?’. And my answer was: “it’s taught me to be not afraid.” I was a little bit surprised as to where that came from and more so, perhaps, in how I phrased it. I thinkContinue reading “Learning how to be not afraid”

Who are you if you are afraid? : On mediating complex content in children’s literature

  “If I have the agency to read texts for young people critically, then might not young readers have this agency also?” Nodelman, Perry (2016) The hidden child in the hidden adult Jeunesse : Young People, Texts, Cultures 8 (1), pp266-277   I have been thinking about this post for a while and how bestContinue reading “Who are you if you are afraid? : On mediating complex content in children’s literature”

How many you’s are you a you to?

It was my first year at University. I was sat in a room, surrounded by green fields and woods, and a man was talking about grammar and language. These were lectures that I didn’t, wholly, understand. They were lectures that I couldn’t and wouldn’t miss, not for a second, and I didn’t know why, or evenContinue reading “How many you’s are you a you to?”

Don’t be afraid of academic children’s literature

I bought a writing magazine really. I don’t do this often, because I’m a self-funded researcher and those magazines aren’t cheap. But every now and then, I dip in and see what’s going on. One of the ones I bought recently had an article in which the author discussed an academic text from 1963 andContinue reading “Don’t be afraid of academic children’s literature”

A spectrum of choice : Girlhood and Enid Blyton

“Shall I tell you what I want? What I really really want? I really really really want to see a recognition of the diverse modes of femininity and girlhood presented in Enid Blyton’s school stories zig a zig aah.” Whilst I’m conscious that these aren’t the exact lyrics for the Spice Girls classic, I want you to imagineContinue reading “A spectrum of choice : Girlhood and Enid Blyton”

The urge for the classic : on children’s books and those eternal surveys

Another day, another survey that says what children can and should read. The click bait nature of most of these articles aside (and note, I say most and not all), there’s something interesting here worth teasing out. I suspect that something might centre on the historic constructions of children’s literature itself; the nature of ageContinue reading “The urge for the classic : on children’s books and those eternal surveys”

Good books, bad books : discussing value in children’s literature

I  had an interesting chat earlier this week with a colleague. She asked me to show her an example of good illustration, versus an example of bad, and whilst I could easily fulfill the request for the former, I struggled with the latter. Bad. Bad books. We think about that a lot with children’s literature;Continue reading “Good books, bad books : discussing value in children’s literature”

“Mr and Mrs Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive”

“Mr and Mrs Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much” I bet you know where that comes from. I bet you remember the first time you read it; maybe not the precisions of it, the exact thing you had for lunch, or what colourContinue reading ““Mr and Mrs Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive””

Turn Left : on serendipity, shelving and selection of children’s literature

In beginning this post, I want to take you back a step. I want to take you away from books themselves and back to the word. I want you to think about these sentences. I want you to think about how you know that they’re sentences. I want you to think about what tells you that thisContinue reading “Turn Left : on serendipity, shelving and selection of children’s literature”

The library of things (with thanks to Bachelard and Barthes)

I’m moving books; placing Coram Boy against Drama, The Whitby Witches against The Three Musketeers. This is my packing and these are the boxes of texts pressed together in their fleshy book-bound bodies, and they are full of my life and a thousand other lives. This is my library; a library of things, of books, of boxes, of moments. As Bachelard writes in The PoeticsContinue reading “The library of things (with thanks to Bachelard and Barthes)”

Let’s talk about sequels in children’s literature

A couple of articles and new titles have caught my eye this week and they’re all about sequels to classic pieces of children’s literature. ‘Katy‘ by Jacqueline Wilson is out now, ‘Return to the Secret Garden‘ by Holly Webb is due in October and ‘Five Children on the Western Front‘ by Kate Saunders has beenContinue reading “Let’s talk about sequels in children’s literature”

An A-Z of Picture Book Terminology

I’ve been thinking about these posts from Sarah McIntyre and how I work with picture books. I could talk, quite happily about picture books all day and I’m very conscious that when I start going on about recto and verso and page turns and white space that it’s a language quite foreign to many. So, inContinue reading “An A-Z of Picture Book Terminology”

A Children’s Literature Tour of Great Britain : Mark West

A Children’s Literature Tour of Great Britain by Mark I. West My rating: 3 of 5 stars West’s tour of Great Britain from a children’s literature perspective both satisfies and frustrates in fairly equal measure. What interests me about this book is the palpable tension between the nature of such a guide and the literatureContinue reading “A Children’s Literature Tour of Great Britain : Mark West”

Voice in children’s literature : Power, space and place

One of the big things I’m passionate about (and you may have gathered this) is the demystification of children’s literature. Of literature, really, of the breaking down of the fear of it and the awe of it and the preconceptions of it. Doing my MA in Children’s Literature (with the rather superb department at Roehampton)Continue reading “Voice in children’s literature : Power, space and place”

New beginnings, New Year’s resolutions, and a shiny quarter

The thing about the children’s literature online community (CLOC – patent pending) is that it’s full of brilliant and smart people writing brilliant and smart things. And I think that’s vital. I think questioning and examining and rootling into the heart of what we read and write is such an important thing. It’s through that  rootling thatContinue reading “New beginnings, New Year’s resolutions, and a shiny quarter”

A 21st Century Chalet School Girl

I’ve mentioned this previously on Twitter but I thought I’d share it with you. This, the below, is part of my Great Project . I am writing a book about the Chalet School series. (I know, right? Joyous nerdery abounds) And these are the two introductory chapters. They’re subject to change, naturally, but I thoughtContinue reading “A 21st Century Chalet School Girl”

How children distinguish fantasy from reality

I’m so pleased to share with you an interview with Allán Laville, a doctoral researcher based at the University of Reading, who very kindly let me talk to him about his work. (And oh guys, his work is fascinating and bears a WORLD of relevance for how we look at children’s literature – particularly when thinkingContinue reading “How children distinguish fantasy from reality”

So here’s the part where you make a choice

We live in exciting times. You know that, right? Right now, the dialogue and the productivity and the talent that forms the world of children’s literature is amazing. Outstanding, even. I’d argue we’re living in a new Golden Age Of Children’s Literature. We really, really are. I’ve been reminded of that recently when following theContinue reading “So here’s the part where you make a choice”

The eyes have it : “Hugless Douglas” by David Melling

Can I talk to you about Hugless Douglas? Firstly, I need to give you a bit of background. This book is not one to read when you are feeling remotely hormonal. I read it, and I sobbed. Hugless Douglas broke me in a very good way. It’s a simple, emotional and beautifully told story. AndContinue reading “The eyes have it : “Hugless Douglas” by David Melling”

Learn to question, learn to love

I read something last night over on headguruteacher which has got me thinking. He talks about the difference between knowledge and skills, and the way they interplay and whether one is useful without the other or if, in fact, it’s a symbiotic relationship. It’s a post well worth wallowing in, and one that I think bearsContinue reading “Learn to question, learn to love”

Fat, the Chalet School, and a bit of a rant

The other night, I had a dream. I woke up and I had a book idea, formed, whole in my hands. This book was to tell the story of girls in a genre that I love, that of the Girls’ Own Novel. The turn of the century boarding school story. The jolly japes and theContinue reading “Fat, the Chalet School, and a bit of a rant”

Children’s Literature Studies : (eds) M. O. Grenby & Kimberley Reynolds

Children’s Literature Studies: A Research Handbook by M.O. Grenby My rating: 5 of 5 stars This is the book I’d have wanted before I did my MA in Children’s Literature. That’s not to cast aspersions on my MA (which was, to be brief, one of the best accidents that ever happened to me), but ratherContinue reading “Children’s Literature Studies : (eds) M. O. Grenby & Kimberley Reynolds”

The use of Framing and Composition in Ellen and Penguin : Clara Vulliamy

I’ve spoken before about how much I love Clara Vulliamy’s skill with picture books. She’s got an awareness and respect – and love – for the medium that translates into some very good and very smart books. It was with some excitement when I discovered Ellen and Penguin and the New Baby nestling on theContinue reading “The use of Framing and Composition in Ellen and Penguin : Clara Vulliamy”

The New Normal : The Normalising of Creativity

Recently I’ve been thinking about doing a PhD ( Me! A PhD! Me who didn’t even get her GCSE Maths!), and as part of this I’ve been considering what I’d do it on. There’s a part of me that yearns, genuinely, just to get buried in the books and occasionally pop up and produce aContinue reading “The New Normal : The Normalising of Creativity”

How to be a genius : Paul Barker

How To Be A Genius: A Handbook For The Aspiring Smarty Pants by Paul Barker My rating: 2 of 5 stars I can see where this is coming from, I really can. Essentially it’s a Horrible Histories-esque spin on how to be a genius, covering topics such as ‘The Evil Genius’, ‘Fields of Genius’ andContinue reading “How to be a genius : Paul Barker”

The nature of inspiration

I recently went to see the Jersey Boys in London and was struck in particular by the story of Bob Gaudio. Gaudio was the songwriter behind some of the greatest and most enduring songs in 20th century music – ‘Big Girls Don’t Cry’, ‘Walk Like a Man’, ‘Rag Doll’, ‘Beggin”, and so many more. There’sContinue reading “The nature of inspiration”

The Child and the Book : Nicholas Tucker

The Child and the Book by Nicholas Tucker My rating: 4 of 5 stars Although now somewhat dated in parts, and in others somewhat debateable, The Child and the Book is an epochal classic in the world of children’s literature criticism. Taking a psychological and reader-focused approach, Nicholas Tucker explores the differing attitudes of theContinue reading “The Child and the Book : Nicholas Tucker”

When you read one book, but can’t stop thinking of another

It’s an act of literary bigamy. That moment when you pick up your new read but can’t help but contrast it against that other book you read. And it happened to me this week. I’m not going to review the new read because I don’t think I can do it objectively. I’ve got no bonesContinue reading “When you read one book, but can’t stop thinking of another”

Identifying geniuses in children’s literature

Genius is one of those almost unidentifiable things. You either have it, or you don’t, and until you become able to manifest it in ways we understand and can legitimise (ie: through a Mensa Test) , it may remain a relatively hidden talent. It’s a difficulty faced by geniuses in children’s literature and one that I’m goingContinue reading “Identifying geniuses in children’s literature”

Gendered books in children’s literature

There’s been an interesting debate on Twitter over the last couple of days about book design, marketing, and packaging in relation to issues of gender. Princess books versus Digger books. Construction of identity. Audiences. It’s been an interesting debate and it’s one that I’ve found particularly thought-provoking and incredibly complex. One comment on a postContinue reading “Gendered books in children’s literature”

The Chalet School and Sickness

Once upon a time there was a fictional school with a predilection for near-death incidents. These ranged from the understandable (clinging onto a precipice in the middle of raging floods, climbing a mountain and er hanging off a precipice, or falling into a frozen lake – no precipices involved in that one) through to theContinue reading “The Chalet School and Sickness”

Location, location, location

On the long drive back from Scarborough (everywhere seems MILES away when you’re a kid), we used to pass this house.  It was a perfectly innocent house but in my head it was where Jill, from the books from Ruby Ferguson, lived. For some reason this innocent house in my home county, on the wayContinue reading “Location, location, location”

hello baby : a high contrast mirror book

hello baby : a high contrast mirror book is one of the new titles (September 2012) from Priddy Books designed specifically for newborn babies. My thanks to Priddy Books for sending me a copy of this to have a look at. It’s part of a wider range of books for newborns and the other itemsContinue reading “hello baby : a high contrast mirror book”

The nature of genius in GirlsOwn Literature

Margia Bettany. Maidlin di Ravarati.Mildred Lancaster. Three characters, from three distinctly different authors. The one thing they have in common (apart from starting with the letter M..)? They’re all gifted and talented characters in their respective books. Genius in GirlsOwn Literature is a curious thing. It’s almost precluded to be gender specific due to the dominanceContinue reading “The nature of genius in GirlsOwn Literature”

Digital children’s literature – values and validation

The presence of the adult mediator / facilitator in children’s literature is without question. Children, whether they’re in the emergent literacy, pre-literate, or literate stages of their development, have one constant in their reading experience – that of the adult. The child does not come across texts which have not been tacitly approved or purchasedContinue reading “Digital children’s literature – values and validation”

Everybody sometimes a Yoda needs

Everybody a little life in their Yoda needs hmmmmm? As part of the thought process began here, I wanted to briefly explain who my inspirations were in relation to my writing / blogging about children’s literature, language and literacy and hopefully (she says, sliding back into art-school vocabulary) contextualise my critical practice. Maria Nikolajeva  If youContinue reading “Everybody sometimes a Yoda needs”

On critiquing, reviewing and writing about children’s literature

“At a time when unpaid bloggers online are gaining influence at the expense of professionals, we need to convince the public that good reviewers exist, and are still worth listening to. Otherwise, our readers will continue to look to the internet for news, and the art of the book review will join the typewriter inContinue reading “On critiquing, reviewing and writing about children’s literature”

On Elinor M. Brent-Dyer

“The world of juvenile literature is made the poorer by the death on Saturday of Miss Elinor Brent-Dyer, whose 56 “Chalet School” stories, set in the Austrian Tyrol, attracted a huge readership from all over the world – not only of children but adults also.”  (The Times : 1969) Poorer. I like that. It speaksContinue reading “On Elinor M. Brent-Dyer”

Lights, camera, action : The role of the Book Trailer

I first discovered video-editing when at university. I loved it. There’s something arcane and primally satisfying about creating a coherent whole from a bunch of disjointed clips. Film has such a potential. Every moment of an image of screen says something, good or bad. When you’re working with film (particularly in the post-production stage), you’reContinue reading “Lights, camera, action : The role of the Book Trailer”

Children’s Literature : why?

The official news of my MA came through last week so I can now put the letters behind my name. I am now officially MA, BA (hons). In all honesty it it was an odd moment. All I could think was ‘thank god’ and ‘No seriously, thank god’ and ‘right, so I don’t have anotherContinue reading “Children’s Literature : why?”

Emergent literacy, graphic novels and picture books (oh my!)

I’m planning to do a series of posts in the near future on Graphic Novels. This will include a couple of reviews and also some more theoretical posts such as the following on Emergent Literacy. I first fell into graphic novels after the end of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I longed for a way toContinue reading “Emergent literacy, graphic novels and picture books (oh my!)”

Chin up, chest out – hold on a minute

I’m a little peeved. There’s a line which I’ve just read in Mary Cadogan’s Chin up chest out Jemima which is rankling with me. I’ll quote it here: “Of course I moved on from DFB, through Elsie Jeanette Oxenham and Elinor Brent-Dyer and others, eventually to adult literature.” (2004:15). Now I’m genuinely a fan of Cadogan’s work.Continue reading “Chin up, chest out – hold on a minute”

The Rhetoric of Character in Children’s Literature

The Rhetoric of Character in Children’s Literature by Maria Nikolajeva My rating: 5 of 5 stars Spectacularly readable and accessible, I love this book and it’s defined a lot of my attitude towards character theory. Worth hunting out – and hanging on to. View all my reviews

The influence of children’s literature on adult literature

Just got back from a really enjoyable evening at the University of Reading where I attended a lecture called The influence of children’s literature on adult literature. Delivered by the excellent Karin Lesnik-Oberstein, she talked about intertextuality and asked whether the dynamics of intertextuality between adult and children’s literature were subject to value judgements dependingContinue reading “The influence of children’s literature on adult literature”

Call for Chapter Proposals – Hermione Granger as Feminist Model

There’s been an interesting call for chapter proposals for a book entitled “Hermione Granger saves the world”. Whilst I have to confess that Harry Potter leaves me cold and bitter like a literary version of Gollum and that my contribution on the feminist aspects of Hermione would mainful consist of a doubtful “Hmmm” , theContinue reading “Call for Chapter Proposals – Hermione Granger as Feminist Model”

“We want to make strong, helpful women of them – not spineless jellyfish!”

Jo returns to the Chalet School sees the beloved headmistress, Mademoiselle Leppâtre, discovered unconscious in her room and rushed to the Sonnalpe for an emergency operation. If it fails she’ll die. It’s not the first time that the reader of the Chalet School series has been presented with illness. In fact there are times when the early TyroleanContinue reading ““We want to make strong, helpful women of them – not spineless jellyfish!””

Elsie Oxenham, the Abbey Girls and talent vs marriage

Elsie Oxenham (EJO) and the Abbey books is one of those series I fell towards following my love-affair with Brent-Dyer. EJO is an odd writer; one who’s dated greatly and then, in some queer little moments, not at all. I’m reading my Abbey books at present with a view towards gaining research for my dissertationContinue reading “Elsie Oxenham, the Abbey Girls and talent vs marriage”

Gifted and Talented children in children’s literature

I’m working on my dissertation at present and am discussing the representation of Gifted and Talented Children in children’s literature. Following both a plea on Twitter (thanks Tweeps!) and Mailing Lists (thanks, er, Meeps?), I now have a fairly healthy list of G+T characters / titles which I thought I’d share. Anybody else you thinkContinue reading “Gifted and Talented children in children’s literature”

“Gosh, odds bodkins!” expostulated Jemima : The very curious tale of the British Boarding School story

There’s something distinctly British about the boarding school story. It struck me the other day on my commute home. For some reason I had Sally from Malory Towers stuck in my head. Good old solid loyal steadfast Sally (poor sod!) was always doomed to be second fiddle to Darrell’s central role. And then I gotContinue reading ““Gosh, odds bodkins!” expostulated Jemima : The very curious tale of the British Boarding School story”

Children’s Literature and War

It’s the 11th November. On this day at 11am in 1918, the armistice was signed between Germany and the Allied forces and hostilities were ceased. Following a few signatures between a few men the war, which had changed lives and the world irrevocably, officially came to an end. So why am I writing about thisContinue reading “Children’s Literature and War”