On slow book collecting

I’ve been thinking a lot about the art of book collecting. It is an art, I think, for it comes with its own peculiarities, rhythms and language, and one can spend a thousand years studying it and yet still somehow not quite understand the twists of fate and circumstance that bring a book into yourContinue reading “On slow book collecting”

Trials For The Chalet School, an audio review

I’ve been contemplating doing some audio content for a while (I feel like I need to hashtag that liberally but I honestly can’t bear it, so forgive me). The current situation in the world has given me that opportunity and so, here we are with a review of Trials For The Chalet School – aContinue reading “Trials For The Chalet School, an audio review”

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”

Revisiting The Bunker Diary; or, the state of Children’s and Young Adult literature today

I’ve recently been revisiting The Bunker Diary by Kevin Brooks. Much of the prompt for this comes from a class I’ll be teaching in a couple of weeks about writing young adult fiction, though I admit a part of me was interested to see how it felt reading this complex, challenging book from a freshContinue reading “Revisiting The Bunker Diary; or, the state of Children’s and Young Adult literature today”

A quickening of the heart : life as a book collector

I had a bit of a lovely moment the other day. I found a clump of the books that I collect, and I bought them all because it was one of those rare occasions where I could actually afford all of them. And now, several days later, I’m still riding that wave of delight thatContinue reading “A quickening of the heart : life as a book collector”

The circularity of debate

I have become increasingly conscious of the circularity of many debates within children’s literature, and the way that, so often, these feel as though they’re pushing against an echo chamber. Does it matter to talk about such things when it feels as though nobody’s listening? Of course it does, for words are weapons and vitalContinue reading “The circularity of debate”

Conversations with dead authors : Enid Blyton

  Enid Blyton “Can you write a biography of somebody without ever knowing the true facts? Why, you barely know anything about me.” She’s bored and not trying to hide it. I suspect that she never hides the way that she feels. I saw the little flash of irritation when they took a little tooContinue reading “Conversations with dead authors : Enid Blyton”

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”

Picture books, art, and the appreciation of things

I have a passion project. Thanks to Facebook, and my inability to hold onto a USB stick for more than thirty second without losing it, I have started to gather an album of picture book images. The curation method for these is simple, eccentric. I have to like it. I have to be able to talk aboutContinue reading “Picture books, art, and the appreciation of things”

“She has torn yet another dress”: Reflections on being a book collector

It’s hard to pinpoint where you fell in love with something when you have been in love with that something for a while. I don’t remember my first book, nor my first library, nor my first story. I remember beats in my journey of literacy, of reading; moments that echo in my heart and singContinue reading ““She has torn yet another dress”: Reflections on being a book collector”

The politics of children’s literature; patterns, voice, ideology

Where are we in this year, this year that’s seen the paradigm shift, this year of evenings where everything made sense and then mornings where it didn’t, this year of hope and of fear and of confusion and of sheer raw confusion, confusion, confusion, where are we now? I have written about this before, fogged,Continue reading “The politics of children’s literature; patterns, voice, ideology”

Contributions towards a narrative of erasure

I was driving the other day and listening to the morning show on Radio 2. Chris Evans. Chat. You know the sort of thing.  One of the recurrent items on the show is ‘Top Tenuous’ : tenuous claims to fame on a particular topic. They were celebrating the 70th birthday of BBC Woman’s Hour andContinue reading “Contributions towards a narrative of erasure”

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”

On glass ceilings and echo chambers

It was YALC this weekend and for those of you who don’t know what it means, YALC is a Young Adult Literature Convention held as part of the London Film & Comic Con. YALC is in its third year now and seems to be going from strength to strength which is excellent and lovely news.Continue reading “On glass ceilings and echo chambers”

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”

A brief departure from the norm

I’ve begun this a thousand times. Every time a different sentence, every time a different way to phrase what I’m trying to say, and all of them wrong. So perhaps I don’t begin, perhaps I rather say this: I advocate for the importance and the relevance of literacy and literature on a daily basis. I believeContinue reading “A brief departure from the norm”

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”

Spaces; edges; the parts in between

Hold out your hand. Hold out your hand and look at it, at the way the fingers curve and shape themselves towards holding something that’s not even there. Look at the way it ends; at the horizon of your palm, the sunset edge of your nail against the thing beyond; look at your ending andContinue reading “Spaces; edges; the parts in between”

“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””

Dirty Dancing; sexuality and young adult literature

There’s a film called Dirty Dancing; you may know of it, you may not. My rapturous rewatching of it last night made me think of sexuality in literature, in media, and how afraid we are of it. I write about young women finding their place in the world; finding who and what they are going to be,Continue reading “Dirty Dancing; sexuality and young adult literature”

All the books I’ve never told you about

I thought about this post today as I stood in a local charity bookshop and gazed upon the shelves. I’ve done this a lot in my life; I know the shapes of bookshops, their feel, their patterns, and I love them. I love the way titles are grouped together, the slim multitudes of the pictureContinue reading “All the books I’ve never told you about”

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)”

On facilitating children’s literature

There’s two pieces I want to draw your attention to, as I think they’re worth a read. Firstly this piece talking about bedtime stories for very young children. It makes some interesting points about the word-image cognitive process taking place and links to some other useful pieces. Secondly, there’s a report out from Scholastic onContinue reading “On facilitating children’s literature”

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”

I just read my first ever Jane Austen – and this is what I learnt in the process

Reading’s a funny old thing isn’t it? (She says, lighting a pipe and putting on slippers). You find your groove; you find the sagas or the mysteries or the girls who write stories sitting in the kitchen sink, and you find yourself in the finding of these spaces. It’s a sort of chicken and egg thing;Continue reading “I just read my first ever Jane Austen – and this is what I learnt in the process”

“We don’t bury ourselves in books – books bury themselves in us” : finding ‘sequels’ for children’s literature classics

“We don’t bury ourselves in books – books bury themselves in us” Let that just hang for a moment. It was something that I heard today at the York Festival Of Ideas. I was at a talk about the 150th anniversary of Alice in Wonderland and Professor Robert Douglas-Fairhurst was discussing the idea of how aContinue reading ““We don’t bury ourselves in books – books bury themselves in us” : finding ‘sequels’ for children’s literature classics”

The blurred edge of literature (or: trees make books make trees)

How’s that for a thing? In case your Spanish isn’t amazing (and mine is quite patchy at best), here’s a link to an article which explains a little more about that video. It is a book which, once read, can be planted and thus grow back into a tree. It’s a circle of existence; textContinue reading “The blurred edge of literature (or: trees make books make trees)”

Series fiction, Glee, and the Babysitters Club : a few thoughts

According to Wikipedia, by the time the Babysitters Club series finished publishing in 2000, there had been 213 novels published. Another series, publishing around the same sort of timeframe (ish) was the Thoroughbred series which hit 72 books by the time it finished in 2005. And Glee finished recently, after 728 musical performances and 121Continue reading “Series fiction, Glee, and the Babysitters Club : a few thoughts”

Heroism, heroes and heroines in children’s literature (or, the one where I talk about Edmund but not Peter)

I watched Prince Caspian last night. It is, as is nigh tradition with my relationship with the Narnia books and films, a complicated thing but even amidst that complexicity, I was struck by something. I was struck by Edmund and his wry growth as a character in a way that I’ve never quite realised before. Edmund isContinue reading “Heroism, heroes and heroines in children’s literature (or, the one where I talk about Edmund but not Peter)”

New Year’s Read : Five Reading Resolutions for 2015

(With obvious inspiration due to Daniel Pennac) 1. Read Recklessly Read books when you have no time to read; read them in snatches on the bus, whilst waiting for the kettle to boil, whilst the adverts are on. Read them recklessly and with abandon and dangerously and interlace these texts into your life. Jam a paperbackContinue reading “New Year’s Read : Five Reading Resolutions for 2015”

2014 : The year of the paradigm shift?

Was 2014 the year children’s literature made itself known? Whilst there’s an obvious issue in such a grandiloquent statement (viz. children’s literature has always been ‘known’, etc, etc) I do think there’s something in that idea and this is going to be the blog post where I attempt to unpack that sentiment. In other words,Continue reading “2014 : The year of the paradigm shift?”

“Only the Other could write my love story, my novel”

Sometimes there are moments when I realise how much I love story. Storying. Telling something to somebody else, nobody else, just telling a story to the world and hoping, knowing, longing that somebody will hear. Just telling. Telling. It is all in the telling and the shaping and the forming and the making, making, making.Continue reading ““Only the Other could write my love story, my novel””

Let’s talk a little bit about adults and children’s literature

I’ve been doing a PhD (is that the right phrase? Do you do this sort of a thing?) for nearly a month now and so far my brain has resembled one of those Stretch Armstrong dolls I always wanted but never got for one reason or another. You can sort of feel the moments when everythingContinue reading “Let’s talk a little bit about adults and children’s literature”

A few thoughts on reading out loud

Now that I’m an official PhD student, I am officially researching children’s literature. It is terrifying, awe-inducing and a privilege, all at the same time. It’s letting my mind race, hugely, nervously, tentatively, into odd places and to self-indulgent places because I’m able to do what I enjoy. And what I enjoy is talking about books. Children’sContinue reading “A few thoughts on reading out loud”

Awards and children’s literature

Last night #kidbkgrp talked about awards and children’s literature. It was a very brief and quiet chat as there weren’t many people online (my thanks to those who were around!). I therefore decided that the chat as a whole wasn’t worth storifying but, as I do think this is a topic worth pursuing, I decided toContinue reading “Awards and children’s literature”

“Language is a skin : I rub my language against the other”

“Language is a skin: I rub my language against the other. It is as if I had words instead of fingers, or fingers at the tip of my words. My language trembles with desire.” – Roland Barthes Barthes was one of the first people I found who said what I wanted to say about language and whoContinue reading ““Language is a skin : I rub my language against the other””

Tribes, reading and the nature of identity (and a lot about horses)

I don’t understand you. I don’t. I can’t. Your experience is not mine, mine is not yours. I can gain empathy with you. I can share common ground. But I can never, ever fully understand the experience that is your life. I don’t understand your childhood. I understand my childhood, I understand spending every SaturdayContinue reading “Tribes, reading and the nature of identity (and a lot about horses)”

The Wilderness of Children’s Literature

“Let the wild rumpus start!”  – Maurice Sendak, Where the Wild Things Are What is children’s literature right now? Is it vile and dangerous?  Is it something that adults shouldn’t even be reading at all? I don’t want to tell you about what you should and shouldn’t read. But what I will do is this.  I will support you in makingContinue reading “The Wilderness of Children’s Literature”

You shouldn’t read this post

You shouldn’t read this post. You shouldn’t read this blog. You shouldn’t read this for the simple reason that I am telling you not to read it. Are you still reading? You shouldn’t. You shouldn’t have this tab open. You shouldn’t still have the internet. You shouldn’t have your device switched on.  What I amContinue reading “You shouldn’t read this post”

I swim to literature and grab it, finger-tight and breathless

I am moving house at the moment. Not literally, I hasten to add. I am not typing this from a laptop balanced on my knee somewhere on the M1. I am moving in a few days and I type this surrounded by boxes and bags and the remains of Things Which Should Not Be MovedContinue reading “I swim to literature and grab it, finger-tight and breathless”

“Nobody needs me” – “I do.” A few thoughts on space, relationships and children’s literature

Catching Fire is one of those films that I fear I might be thinking about for a long time. It aches inside of me and I love it. I love the furious pain of Jennifer Lawrence in it (that end shot!). The layers beyond layers of story and doublespeak and intrigue. The beautiful honesty ofContinue reading ““Nobody needs me” – “I do.” A few thoughts on space, relationships and children’s literature”

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”

Words, wording, writing, making : thoughts on authoring

Before we get into this post, I’d urge you to go and read this by the estimable and muy excellente Clara Vulliamy. It’s a really interesting post on the terminology of writing ie: do you call yourself an author? A writer? Or a … something else?  And it is the inspiration behind this post.  IContinue reading “Words, wording, writing, making : thoughts on authoring”

Structurally speaking

Structure in children’s literature, heck, literature in general, is an odd tricksy beast. If I think of structure, one of the first examples that come to mind(though everything is an example of structure, this one comes first) is Tristram Shandy. Though it still remains not the most readable of books for me, and nowhere approaching children’sContinue reading “Structurally speaking”

“Look back, but don’t stare” : what I want from the world of children’s literature in 2014

I recently got a copy of the Take That documentary Look Back, Don’t Stare from the charity shop near me. It’s an amazing documentary and one that, in a way, bears a lot of interest for me. In it, we see the boy-now-attractive-beardy-man-band Take That come to terms with working together as a five piece:Continue reading ““Look back, but don’t stare” : what I want from the world of children’s literature in 2014″

Love in children’s literature : the pain, the glory, the wonder

It’s a big old subject is love. Love changes everything. All you need is love. Love in media simply is. It’s one of the core tenets of our humanity, of our experience, and so we talk about it. We share it. We are inspired by it. We are made by, reshaped by and broken by love.

The marginalisation of children’s literature

Amanda Craig has left The Times. For those of you who don’t know her work, she is a critic of children’s literature. She is very good. She was one of the few mainstream print media ‘presences’ of children’s literature. I have been thinking about this. And other things like this, like this post on theContinue reading “The marginalisation of children’s literature”

“The more we invest in children, the more we destroy their future”

I’m reading a bit of Jack Zipes at the moment (Sticks and Stones  : The Troublesome success of children’s literature). It’s one of those books that I don’t know if I agree with it (in fact, there’s areas I’d love to wade into and pick apart) but my word, it’s a fiery, passionate and brilliantContinue reading ““The more we invest in children, the more we destroy their future””

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”

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”

Superman, heroes and heroines (or: how literature lets us make heroes)

I saw Man Of Steel earlier (don’t worry, no massive plot spoilers.) Suffice to say I didn’t really like Russell Crowe as Jor-El but I adored Henry Cavill as Superman. I felt he really got the farmboy wholehearted goodness of Superman and made it big. Man Of Steel has left me thinking about the nature ofContinue reading “Superman, heroes and heroines (or: how literature lets us make heroes)”

The Complications Of Being Merely Whelmed

I am going to make a statement. I think we are in a golden age for children’s literature. I genuinely do think that. I think the provocative, brave and brilliant books that are being published right now and over the past few years are wonderful things. I think if you grow up now, you’ve gotContinue reading “The Complications Of Being Merely Whelmed”

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

I think about things, probably much more than I should, and sometimes the expressing of things is difficult. That’s life, I suppose, that tongue-knot that comes when you least expect it. But it’s how you deal with it, that’s what matters. It’s how you learn to speak, to write to express yourself even through allContinue reading “Standing on the Shoulders of Giants”

Discovering your story

I am very stubborn. (Hi Mum. Don’t laugh). I am very stubborn and quite contrary and distinctly independent. I have a few things I believe in, very very much. One of those things is that books – literacy – libraries – all these things fall under one of our greatest achievements as humanity. We shareContinue reading “Discovering your story”

The fatness of words

There are words that are people, words that live. Words like plumeaux, fat, mythical, snuggling warm words. Words like dash – where – I – skip a beat – and fall – and slip-slip-slide my way across the paragraphs and jerkily into the new space. I like words. I like their power. Their glower. TheContinue reading “The fatness of words”