Friday, October 13, 2017

Part I: The New Rules on Fear

On this Frightful and Superstitious Night of Friday the 13th, we embark on a chilling journey into our two part investigation of how fear and the cautionary tale transform the childhood experience.  

Cautionary tales were once a fundamental part of children’s literature and instilled fear by demonstrating the hazardous consequences caused by reckless choices. The stories served as didactic warnings for young readers about particular taboos located in a child’s social and physical environments. Characters in these narratives ignored any forewarnings and often met with a grisly and violent end. In early children’s literature, the Grimm Brothers and Charles Perrault’ stories contained numerous cautionary tales, collected from European oral traditions, that we are familiar with today. Film companies and authors (even the Grimm Brothers are guilty of this) have sanitized many versions of these works, but stories like “Little Red Riding Hood” and “Hansel and Gretel” still maintain their original undertones by warning children traveling alone of the dangers and strangers lurking outside the safe space of home.  

Lesser known works continue to influence contemporary authors like Edward Gorey and Neil Gaiman, who seek to recapture the element of fear children experience when the adult is absent. Heinrich Hoffmann’s Der Struwwelpeter, a German children’s book, contributed to the pioneering effort of combining narratives with illustrations. This collection of cautionary tales, intended for 3-6 year olds, visualized domesticated dangers for emerging readers. But, if a parent were to give their child this book today, society would issue a resounding gasp of disapproval.

In “The Dreadful Story About Harriet and the Matches” a little girl disregards the advice by the “pussy-cats” to not play with fire. Harriet’s dress goes up in flames and she is reduced to a mound of ashes “except for her little scarlet shoes”. This scene satirizes the unfortunate incident by using an illustration of two cats weeping “tears so fast; they made a little pond at last.” While Der Struwwelpeter’s pictures may be considered a gruesome exaggeration of the “what if” scenario, it doesn’t detract from the reality that this fear still exists today. Matches might be a thing of the past, but there are other ways in which fire presents itself as a very real hazard to young children. The question then becomes, should we still employ these cautionary tales as a method of teaching children? Or have we become to anxiety ridden about teaching fear to our children?

First let me say, that fear, or rather, how we should introduce fearful elements in children’s literature or film has becomes a controversial subject. For example, I was recently instructed by a first grade teacher that my daughter needed to withhold discussing her fascination with vampires, bats and deadwood trees with other classmates because it was scaring them. I scoffed at the suggestion, particularly since we are in the midst of the Halloween season, but was mainly appalled that we should ask any child to suppress their imagination. My daughter’s whimsical dream of turning into a flying bat should be considered normal for any child her age. Her obsession doesn’t extend towards the bloody and violent aspects of horror, but the supernatural and transformative elements. Do we ask other young girls to stop talking about fairies or boys to cease drawing dragons? These might be trivial examples, but the underlying meaning to the teacher’s request remained alarmingly clear: your daughter has a strange, unhealthy obsession with something we systematically disapprove of and we think any fear she might be causing in other children is harmful. Unfortunately, this isn’t an isolated incident, many parents across the country have heard of children being warned to keep this “scary” imagery out of school. And our book publishing and other entertainment industries are complicit with this new “fearful” school of thought. 

The “strange child” is typecast into our culture as something we should be weary of, something to fear. Netflix’s Stranger Things deals with this taboo of the “strange child” and the childish fear of monsters, which turn out to be real in the show. Mary McNamara of the Los Angeles Times points out how this fearful experience also highlights “the transformative powers of love and fealty.” Researchers have shown that when children read the un-sanitized fairy tales, the elements at work “provide concrete images of villains and monsters on which to project undirected anxieties and fears so they might be contained and dispatched, [help] to facilitate psychic integration, and to assure the child of the possibility of happy endings when the trials are overcome.[1]" Essentially, literature can teach children how to face and process fear. But, if we attempt to remove the symbols of fear from the childhood experience, are we creating some other kind of monster?

Which bring us back to this question, is there still a place for the cautionary tale in children's literature?

We will reveal the answer in the second part of our exploration and more at midnight on All Hallow's Eve! Stay tuned!

[1] Coates, Karen. “Between Horror, Humour, and Hope: Neil Gaiman and the Psychic Work of the Gothic,” The Gothic in Children’s Literature: Haunting the Borders, 2008.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

CFP: 2018 Children's Literature Association Conference

2018 Children’s Literature Association 45th Annual Conference hosted by Texas State University
“Refreshing Waters/Turbulent Waters”

When: June 28th - 30th 2018
Where: San Antonio, Texas at the Sheraton Gunter Hotel
Deadline for Abstracts: Sunday, October 15th, 2017
How to apply: The ChLa Website

Keynote Speaker: Dr. Debbie Reese
Debbie Reese is a tribally enrolled member (citizen) of Nambe Pueblo, a federally recognized tribal nation in northern New Mexico. She holds a PhD in Education from the University of Illinois, and an MLIS from San Jose State. A former school teacher and assistant professor in American Indian Studies, she publishes American Indians in Children's Literature, a resource and review site focused on depictions of Native peoples in children's and young adult literature. Her articles and chapters in journals and books are used in Education, Library Science, and English courses in the US and Canada. 

Description: Water is central to children’s and young adult literature as motif and metaphor: In Pam Muñoz Ryan’s Esperanza Rising, two characters are in a relationship described as being separated by a wide, difficult-to-cross river; in The Lorax Dr. Seuss warns us to protect our environment by planting a truffula tree seed and enjoins us to “Give it clean water. And feed it clean air”; and the poetry of Langston Hughes uses water in its various forms to compare the complexities of race to a deep river, to characterize a lost dream as a “barren field frozen with snow,” and to call on us all to re-imagine and reclaim the American dream, saying that “We, the people, must redeem/ The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.”

While proposals to present research on a wide variety of topics, genres, and periods related to children’s and young adult literature, texts, and culture are always welcome and encouraged at our annual conference, a common theme can be a useful tool for thinking through texts and approaches in innovative ways. Proposals to present your current, original scholarship can include but are not limited to some of the meanings and forms water can take in literature and culture for younger readers:

       Water as symbol, allegory, setting, and metaphor in works of children’s literature; Water as healing, flowing, still, eroding, dividing, connecting, drowning, saving, violent, shallow, transparent, muddy, calm, or turbulent
       Rivers, lakes, streams, oceans, ponds, clouds, rain, snow, mud, slush, fog, and ice in fiction and non-fiction, prose and poetry, cartoons and comics, historical fiction and science fiction, plays and films, toys and television programs, picture books and textbooks, etc. 
       The significance of water in specific cultures, communities, families, traditions
       Water and race; segregated drinking fountains and swimming pools; rivers as sites of travel, settlement, or colonization, of collaboration and contestation, of freedom and enslavement
       Water in indigenous cultures and literatures
       Oceans crossed, migrations, colonizations, the Middle Passage
       Access or lack of access to clean drinking water, water shortages, contested waters, water rights, water protectors, water and poverty, water as commodity, water as power
       Water and the environment, water pollution, environmental activism, climate change, rising waters, Standing Rock, Flint
       Water, spirituality, and religion; sacraments, blessings, and baptisms; water as sacred
       Animated, illustrated, photographed, filmed, or virtual waters
       Regional literature, the San Antonio and San Marcos Rivers, state and local cultures and histories, local indigenous literatures, San Antonio’s contested histories, Texas and/in children’s books 
       Water spaces and their social functions; waterways as hubs, connectors, or dividers
       Water symbols and metaphors in discussions about identities, sexualities, genders, ethnicities, races, abilities, sizes, and ages 
       Water as a life source and/or potential destroyer
       Water and play; water guns and water balloons; water’s role in childhood or its construction; sprinklers, waterparks, fire hydrants, and baths before bedtime
       Water as a weapon, water cannons and fire hoses
       Water creatures, real and/or mythic, animals anthropomorphized, water personified 
       Water as poetic inspiration; books as oases for readers; renewal and rebirth: personal, cultural, spiritual, and/or literary, including reboots in media and literature
       Water as social and political symbol, the tides of change, the rising flood
       Water and immigration, dislocation, refugees
       Interpreting real and fictional waters through various critical lenses: literary criticisms, queer theories, ecocritism, critical race theories, materialism, feminist theories, disability studies, etc. 

    Given that Texas State is the home of the Tomás Rivera Mexican-American Children’s Book Award, discussions of Tomás Rivera Book Award winners and honor books would also be welcomed (; book awards generally; monolingual and bilingual works for children; translation of children’s literature

Upcoming CFPs for Children's Literature

CFP: SWPACA Children’s/Young Adult Literature and Culture Area

When: February 7th-10th, 2018
Where: Albuquerque, New Mexico
Deadline for Submissions: October 22nd, 2017
Proposals for papers and panels are now being accepted for the 39th annual SWPACA conference.  One of the nation’s largest interdisciplinary academic conferences, SWPACA offers nearly 70 subject areas, each typically featuring multiple panels.  For a full list of subject areas, area descriptions, and Area Chairs, please visit 
The Children’s/Young Adult Literature and Culture area covers a wide variety of possible mediums: traditional book/literature culture, but also comics, graphic novels, film, television, music, video games, toys, internet environment, fan fiction, advertising, and marketing tie-ins to books and films, just to name a few.  Proposals on fiction, non-fiction, poetry, or cross-genre topics are welcome.  Interdisciplinary approaches are especially welcome, as are presentations that go beyond the traditional scholarly paper format.
Topics may include, but are not limited to:
·         -Diversity in Children’s and YA literature (gender, race/ethnicity, disability, body image, sexual  identity)
·         -Use of innovative formats for both children’s and YA literature
·         -The next “big” thing in children’s and YA literature
·         -Film adaptation issues
·         -Historical approaches to children’s and YA literature and culture
·         -New readings of children’s and YA literature and culture
·         -Re-imaginings of myth, fairy tale, and other traditional stories
·         -Explorations of specific authors in the children’s and YA areas
·         -Fan fiction and fan followings of books, films, and authors
·         -Beyond books and films
·         -Awards for children’s and YA literature (issues and controversies)
Proposals on other topics related to Children’s and Young Adult Literature and Culture will be read with interest.
For details on using the submission database and on the application process in general, please see the Proposal Submission FAQs and Tips page at
Individual proposals for 15 minute papers must include an abstract of approximately 200-500 words.  Including a brief bio in the body of the proposal form is encouraged, but not required.

For information on how to submit a proposal for a roundtable or a multi-paper panel, please view the above FAQs and Tips page.

Call for Papers, Children’s and Adolescent Literature at CEA 2018

When: April 5-7, 2018
Where: St. Petersburg, Florida
Deadline for Submissions: November 1st, 2017
How to Apply:

CEA welcomes proposals for presentations on the general conference theme: Bridges. The Sunshine Skyway Bridge crosses Tampa Bay from St. Petersburg, called the Sunshine City in honor of its Guinness Record for most consecutive days of sunshine (768). St. Petersburg is home to historic neighborhoods, distinguished museums, contemporary galleries, and a wide variety of dining, entertainment and shopping venues. St. Petersburg is also home to the College English Association’s 2018 national conference, where we invite you to join us at our annual meeting to explore the many bridges that connect places, texts, communities, words, and ideas.
CEA invites proposals from academics in all areas of literature, language, film, composition, pedagogy, and creative, professional, and technical writing. We are especially interested in presentations that build bridges between and among texts, disciplines, people, cultures, media, languages, and generations. For your proposal, you might consider: 
·         -Bridges between disciplines, languages, or generations
·         -Bridges between races, classes, cultures, regions, genders, or sexualities
·         -Cultural or ideological bridges in literary, scholarly, or theoretical works
·         -The bridge as construct, form, metaphor, motif, or icon
·         -Connections between text and images or sound
·         -Bridges between theory and practice, reading and writing, writer and audience
·         -Building bridges between teaching and scholarship; faculty and administrators; professors and  students
·         -Bridges as physical artifacts and symbols of industry and technology
·         -Digital humanities as a bridge between worlds
·         -What bridges connect, support, and pass over

While we welcome essays pertaining to any area of Children's and Adolescent Literature, we are particularly interested in explorations of “bridges” in literature and culture, including rhetorical studies, books, films, digital texts, and other media.
All presenters at the 2018 CEA conference must become members of CEA by January 1, 2018. To join CEA, please go to
Other questions? Please email  

Translating and Transmediating Children’s Literatures and Cultures [Book Contribution]

When: N/A
Where: N/A
Deadline for Submission: November 1st, 2017
How to Apply:

Translating and Transmediating Children’s Literatures and Cultures
CFP for special journal issue of Bookbird
Bookbird: A Journal of International Children’s Literature seeks contributions for a special issue on the translation and transmediation of children’s literatures and cultures. Mediation – whether in the form of adaptation, translation or remediation – allows for a reevaluation of a variety of notions ranging from authenticity, textuality, authorship, audience agency, age appropriateness, creativity, and storytelling. Henry Jenkins’ definition of “transmedia storytelling,” in particular, encapsulates the worldbuilding strategies of most of today’s popular children’s literary/cultural products. The lure of Alice in Wonderland, Harry Potter, or the Moomins is considerably enhanced by the plethora of interconnected media platforms – novel, film, animation, computer game, fanfiction, cosplay, collectibles, etc – all of which maximize audience engagement by unfolding an increasingly elaborate fictional reality. The way in which each media “adds a new cultural layer, supporting more diverse ways of communicating, thinking, feeling, and creating than existed before” (Jenkins, Clinton, McWilliams) resonates with how translation as an inventive “act of both inter-cultural and inter-temporal communication” (Bassnett) allows us to see in different ways the original text that always already “bears in itself all possible translations and gets richer with each additional reading-rewriting,” as Walter Benjamin put it. Topics for papers might include, but are not limited to:
·         -De/reconstructing fictional realities and expanding storyworlds through media/language change
·         -Domestication and foreignization as strategies of translating/transmediating children’s literature
·         -The visibility and/or the invisibility of mediators of children’s literature
·         -Intergenerational dynamics in translation and transmediation (crossover fiction, family adventure  film, dual audiences, age appropriateness)
·         -Image-textual dynamics (translating illustrated stories, picture books, novelizations and subtitlings of children’s cinema)
·         -Translation/transmediation of children’s/YA literature as a negotiation process (between publisher demands, parental expectations, social norms, children’s cognitive abilities, emotional needs, and imaginative worlds)
·         -Importing and exporting children’s literature and culture through translation and transmediation: global challenges, glocal specificities, East meets West
·         - Interfacing the ethics, politics, and aesthetics of translation and transmediation
mediators’ changing the image/voice of the child reader
·         -Metatextual and metamedial self-reflectivity in the service of audience engagement
Full papers should be submitted to the editor, Björn Sundmark (, and guest editor, Anna Kérchy ( by 1 November 2017.