Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Conference in India, Nov. 25-27, 2011

Children’s Literature Association of India’s [CLAI] 5th International Conference


Place: Pune, Venue : to be announced

Date: 25th to 27th November 2011.

A folktale is a poetic text that carries some of its cultural contexts within it; it is also a travelling metaphor that finds a new meaning with every telling” – A.K. Ramanujan.

The above comment by one of the prominent folktale scholars of India embodies the essence of both theory and praxis of folktales and storytelling.

As literacy grew and the art of printing made books more accessible, storytelling began to die out. Worried that these folktales would fade from memory and disappear, collectors of folktales published them in books. Has the excessive presence of modern technological media almost eliminated the fashion of storytelling? Or viewed differently, are the hypnotic appeal of mass entertainment in television, music, video, films etc. just telling us stories in which we see ourselves, sometimes as we are, sometimes as we would like to be, sometimes as we hope we will never be? Then, as Julius Lester, the great African American children’s writer tells, “Story is who we are.” Folktales and After: Theory & Praxis in Storytelling is an academically worth mental exercise to explore into our own identity and it will be greatly exciting to be involved in this venture in the great central city of education in India, Pune, where cultural artefacts of east and west meet in a unique proportion and balance.

Traditionally, folktales taught the adults and children of a region how to live; it set a pattern for right living, directing almost a moral code of behaviour for a group of people. These tales were passed from one generation to the next and framed a set of rules for emulation. Today, the oral tradition has been replaced by mass media and children’s books have become the conservators of the oral tradition. Hence, the topic for the conference is a wide one that encompasses the total sphere of folktales, storytelling, and oral tradition, the whole gamut of tales and narration of children’s literature.

Folktales and storytelling are inseparable. This conference proposes to invite an international band of scholars in children’s literature to engage in various deliberations and themes associated with folktales and story telling. Discussions may be based on defining folktales, as folktales are often confused with fairy tales, myths, legends, fables, and other terms. Defining the realm of folktales in theory and praxis is essential to the critical evaluation of folktales study. Or, further explorations can be based on common characteristics of folktales. The themes of topics may vary as concerned with the setting, characters, plot, presence of animals, presence of tricksters, etc. in folktales. Another perspective may direct scholars to present papers on the structural aspects of folktales, especially on the Mnemonic devices used in folktales such as stock or set openings and closings in the narration of folktales, various formula and set descriptions in narration, etc.

Indian scholars, we suggest, may, perhaps, make a theoretical as well as performing effects of folktales narrated from different regions of the country and represent in papers topics such as themes, motifs, narrative structures peculiar to the folktales of the subcontinent. Or, for the more serious scholars, we propose a postcolonial study of folktales! British colonial officials, writers, missionaries, and their helpers collected a number of Indian folktales during colonization. Rich in local cultural details, these collections of tales contain elaborate prefaces and explanatory notes that often reveal how these colonial collectors of folktales delineated the other and dwelt with subjectivity while themselves experiencing shifting subaltern positions.

Other scholars can be more incisive in their criticism of folktales as for example by interrogating the presence of outmoded values of an earlier time preserved in ancient folktales or even by probing into their suitability as literature for children today. You may even go to the extend of breaking all norms of submissiveness questioning certain tales that might be communicating attitudes we no longer consider appropriate for children.

For the more serene scholars, we also put forward topics more child-centred like folktales and their contemporary impact on children, or characteristics of oral literature for children as exposed in certain examples of folktales of your choice.

We promise it to be an exciting experience in Pune – a unique instance of academic collaboration in children’s literature with Bhaasha, an NGO actively working for children. The local organizers of the conference in Pune require immediate email messages of confirmation in participation. Please send a message to Ms. Swati J. Raje as early as possible.

The abstracts of your paper presentations as word attached file in Times New Roman 12 point font, with double spacing, and the words limited to a maximum of 250. The abstract should reach Children’s Literature Association of India in the email address on or before 30 August 2011.

For further details of the conference venue and other requirements including accommodation and local hospitality, please contact:

Ms. Swati J Raje, Children’s Writer, Pune, India.

Phone: 91-9822401876

Mail to:

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Russell Hoban Buzz

With thanks to Russell Hoban and the U.K.'s Walker Books, here are the opening paragraphs of Hoban's March 2012 Soonchild. Candlewick Books will be publishing Soonchild in the States.

Sixteen-Face John: His North

Maybe you think there isn't any north where you are. Maybe it's warm and cosy and outside the window the street is full of cars or maybe there's just emptiness and a train whistle. There aren't any Eskimos or dog sleds, nothing like that. But in your mind there is a north.

There's a north where it's so cold that your nose hairs get stiff and your eyeballs get brittle and your face hurts and your hands will freeze if you leave them uncovered too long. A north wind where the white wind blows, where the night wind wails with the voices of the cold and lonesome dead. Where the ice bear walks alone and he's never lost. Where the white wolf comes trotting, trotting on the paths of the living, the paths of the dead. Where the snowy owl drifts through the long twilight without a sound. Where the raven speaks his word of black.
Two other Hoban books will soon be available again: The New York Review Children's Collection is reprinting The Sorely Trying Day, and Macmillan is republishing another of my favorites, The Little Brute Family.

Alida Allison

Norwegian Tragedies, Norwegian Response

In news stories of the last few days, we learned of tragedies in Norway and of the deaths of more than 90 individuals. A lone gunman, it would seem, is responsible for a bombing in Oslo and the slaughter of dozens of youths camped on an island. See:

In light of this senseless slaughter, it is difficult not to think of Berit Westergaard Bjørlo--our yearlong visitor from Norway who returned to her country a little more than a month ago. We sent her our sympathy, and she responded:

Thank you so much for expressing your sympathy this way. The unbelievable tragedy effects our small country deeply. It feels especially heartbreaking that so many young persons got killed, injured and traumatized.

The first aftermath is marked by an atmosphere of shock, numbness and grief, but also by a deep sense of community. We hope that what has happened won't change our society to be less open and democratic, but rather appeal to work to stabilize these values.

Thanks again. Berit

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Lisbon (June 2012) & Kassel (Dec 2012): 200-Year Celebrations of the Brothers Grimm

This is the provisional site for the Grimm in Lisbon 2012 Conference, which will take place in June 21–23, 2012. Deadline for proposals Sept 12, 2011.

"Fairy tales, Myths and Modernity – 200 years of Brother Grimm’s Children’s and Household tales” Kassel, Germany. December 17-20, 2012. Deadline for submission of proposals and abstracts: November 14, 2011.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Naomi Lesley in Print

"Solar Systems and Power Systems: Decentering the Naturalized Universe in Virginia Hamilton's The Planet of Junior Brown" in the Children's Literature Association Quarterly

Abstract: Critical race theorists argue that white ideals of culture become "natural" standards against which adolescents and nonwhites are judged. They argue that this naturalization of whiteness both reinforces dominant power structures and conceals the un-natural machinations of repression. Virginia Hamilton addresses similar concerns in The Planet of Junior Brown. The central image of the novel is the reconstruction of a model solar system to include a new planet, a process that becomes a metaphor for the need to reconstruct society. Through manipulating the "natural" physical universe, the characters realize that the social universe needs to recognize the needs of people who do not match systemic norms. In the process, Hamilton demonstrates the cracks in the constructs of age and race, and suggests that their naturalization is the source and the solution of the problem.

"Too Good to Be True: The Fall of the Ideal Youth, from Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm to The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants" in jeunesse

Abstract: Within half a century of the publication of G. Stanley Hall’s Adolescence, the qualities of ideal and dangerous adolescents flip: ideal adolescents actually behave in a disturbed fashion, while seemingly well-adjusted youth are understood to be courting danger later in life. A comparison of seemingly ideal characters in adolescent novels from two periods—the first decade of the twentieth century and the first decade of the twenty-first—helps to illuminate how and why these desires and fears for youth shift. In Kate Douglas Wiggin’s 1903 novel Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, Rebecca represents the ideal youth common before Hall’s publication and the subsequent spread of anxiety about the psychological health of adolescents. Ann Brashares’s The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and its sequels, published from 2001 to 2007, reflect a distinct change in thinking, given the books’ focus on a potentially ideal teen, Bridget, who is undermined and written off as too good to be truly authentic. In these examples, it is not only apparent that the conception of the ideal shifts, but it is also evident that the “squeaky-clean” ideal adolescents are in fact the ones who are less controllable and more dangerous to the existing social order.

Friday, July 1, 2011

2011: The Summer of Carole Scott

This summer sees translations of How Picturebooks Work, co-authored by me and Maria Nikolajeva, for readers in Korea and in Brazil. It is already available in Japanese. "Frame-Making and Frame-Breaking in Picturebooks" has just appeared in translation in Spanish. And I have a chapter which explores the relationship between Roald Dahl and his most famous illustrator, Quentin Blake, coming out later this year in a collection on Dahl edited by Charlie Butler and Ann Alston (this one in English!).

I am currently working on a presentation on "Artists' Books, Altered Books and Picturebooks" for a conference in Tuebingen this September. It has been an interesting journey, and I was excited to find a wonderful Artist's Book created by Jenny Yoshida, a former graduate student in my Study of Picturebooks class in SDSU's Special Collections.

The day before the conference is a workshop for PhD students, where I will be moderating one of the sessions. Berit Westergaard Bjorlo, who attended SDSU this past year as a visiting faculty member, will be participating. After the conference, I will return with her to Norway, to help establish an on-going exchange for our students and faculty with Bergen University, and to offer a couple of presentations, on picturebooks and on Pullman.

Maria Nikolajeva, former SDSU visiting faculty, and now professor at Cambridge, will be involved in both the workshop and the conference. I will be visiting her the week before the conference to which we will travel together. I am looking forward to the opportunity of catching up with Peter Hunt and Morag Styles while I am in England, and with Perry Nodelman, Bettina Kuemmerling-Meibauer, Nina Christensen, Sandra Beckett and other old friends at the conference.

Meanwhile I am working on my ceramic sculpture and enjoying being active with the Potters' Guild here on Salt Spring Island, and as a Library volunteer. I'm returning to San Diego for two weeks in July to catch up with friends and colleagues and to organize a Friends of the Library meeting to welcome the new Library Dean.