Call for Papers: International Committee Focus Panel Session on BAME Britishchildren’s literature
Deadline: September 15, 2018
46th Annual Children’s Literature Association Conference
Hosted by IUPUI & IU East
June 13 – 15, 2019
The International Committee of the Children’s Literature Association is planning a special focus panel on Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) literature from the United Kingdom, to be presented at the 46th Children’s Literature Association Conference. This conference will be held in Indianapolis, Indiana, and hosted by Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis and Indiana University East from June 13 through 15, 2019.
The committee invites paper proposals that focus on the writing, editing and publishing of children’s literature from the United Kingdom by Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic authors and illustrators. The Committee is particularly interested in proposals that relate these books to the conference theme of “Activism and Empathy.” (Please see the definition of the conference theme here). We encourage scholars of color to apply.
Two abstracts will be selected, and the authors will receive “The ChLA International Honor Award,” which includes a grant of $500 each to cover expenses related to the conference (such as the membership and registration fees). Those papers selected for the International Focus panel will accompany a presentation by the Distinguished Scholar who will be invited by the Committee to present at the conference.
Please send 500-word abstracts accompanied by up to 250-word bios to the International Committee, Children’s Literature Association, at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “International Committee Paper Submission.” The deadline for submissions is September 15, 2018.
Authors of proposals selected for the panel will be notified by October 1, 2018. The International Committee encourages those scholars who are not selected for the International Focus panel to submit an abstract through the general Call for Proposals so that BAME children’s literature will become part of other panels at the conference. The call deadline for the 2019 ChLA conference is October 15, 2018.
We’re really excited to have two postdoctoral posts available here in the Children’s Literature Unit at Newcastle University, each lasting two years (if full-time). The successful candidates will work on projects funded by Newcastle University’s Research Excellence Academy and Research Investment Fund. These offer the opportunity to work closely on the Aidan and Nancy Chambers collection at Seven Stories, or to pursue a postdoctoral research project of the candidate’s own design. The former would suit someone with experience in working with literary archives and an interest in developing this experience further, as well as someone with an interest in one of the many areas covered by the collection, which spans the whole of Aidan and Nancy’s working lives. The latter will be more independent in scope since it involves a project of the candidates own, but we’re interested in work which aligns with research interests in collection and archives, heritage, or diversity and inclusion.
This post will be attached to the project ‘New Stories of Modern British Children’s Literature: the Chambers Collection’, and will map research pathways into the Aidan and Nancy Chambers archival material newly acquired by Seven Stories, the National Centre for Children’s Books. Applicants for this post should supply an academic CV and a cover letter in addition to completing the electronic application form.
This post will support research aligned with one of these three broad themes:
Developing collections, archives and exhibitions of children’s books, with a particular focus on how we tell national stories of children’s literature.
Children/young people and heritage.
Diversity and inclusion in histories of children’s literature.
Details of how to apply for this post are given in full in the online ad.
Successful candidates will be based in the Children’s Literature Unit, within the School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics, and will be joining a large and successful team of academics, doctoral students, and other postdoctoral researchers.
Applicants should have been awarded a doctoral degree in children’s literature, children’s culture, 20th-century publishing or a related area (or be in expectation that the award will be made by 31 October 2018), and should be able to demonstrate ongoing research interests that align with one or more of the designated areas.
The awards recognise both David Almond’s contribution to children’s literature and his connections with these partner institutions: he is a patron of Seven Stories and an honorary graduate of Newcastle University.
The Fellowships aim to promote high-quality research in the Seven Stories collections that will call attention to their breadth and scholarly potential. The two awards of £300 each are to facilitate a research visit to the Seven Stories collections in Newcastle upon Tyne, UK of at least two days by a bona fide researcher working on a relevant project. Applications will be considered from candidates in any academic discipline. The successful applicants will have a clearly defined project that will benefit from having access to the Seven Stories collections (please see indicative information about the collections below). All applicants should consult the Seven Stories catalogue as part of preparing their applications. A well-developed dissemination strategy will be an advantage. Priority will be given to the importance of the project and best use of the Seven Stories collections as judged by a senior member of the Children’s Literature Unit in the School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics at Newcastle University and a senior member of the Collections team at Seven Stories.
Some previous David Almond Fellows have gone on to take up fully-funded PhD studentships at Newcastle University, others have disseminated their research into the collection through book chapters, peer-reviewed journals and conference papers. One of our former Fellows said of her visit that it was ‘a wonderful opportunity to work in the archive of Seven Stories… it is undoubtedly an invaluable asset for researchers internationally, and something the city can be extremely proud of.’
Eligibility for the award
Applicants must hold a first degree or higher from a recognised institution of higher education.
Note: non-EEA applicants are reminded that to take up a Fellowship they must hold an appropriate visa. Neither Newcastle University nor Seven Stories can help with this process. Please see the UK visas website for more information.
Fellowships must be taken up before the end of December, 2018. Recipients are expected to spend at least two days in Newcastle and are encouraged to time their visits to enable them to participate in events organised jointly or separately by the Children’s Literature Unit and Seven Stories. (Please note: successful applicants must contact Seven Stories and agree a date for the visit prior to making travel arrangements; normally a minimum of two weeks’ notice is required before any research visit.) Acknowledgement of the Fellowships must accompany all dissemination activities arising from the research.
The Seven Stories Collection
Seven Stories is the only accredited museum specialising in children’s books in the UK. Its collections are a unique resource for original research, particularly insofar as they document aspects of the creation, publication and reception of books for children from the 1930s to the present day. The steadily growing archive contains material from over 250 authors, illustrators, editors, and others involved in the children’s publishing industry in Britain.
Researching the Seven Stories collection could enhance a number of research topics. Examples of research areas and relevant collections:
Makers of children’s literature: children’s book history 1750-2000
Children’s books have been under-represented in book history scholarship. Seven Stories’ holdings can be used to investigate the forces which have shaped the children’s book. Areas of interest include editing and publishing, education and bookselling, diversity and race and changing technologies. Key archival holdings include the David Fickling Collection, the Aidan and Nancy Chambers / Thimble Press Collection, and the Leila Berg Collection. The recently catalogued Noel Streatfeild Collection also provides fascinating insights into the life and times of a leading children’s author during the mid- twentieth century.
New adults: the growth of teenage literature
Seven Stories’ holdings represent the opportunity to investigate the development of teenage literature from a number of perspectives: holdings include detailed evidence of the process of composition from early draft to published text; evidence of socio-political contexts, and evidence of the publishing contexts. Key archival holdings include the Aidan and Nancy Chambers / Thimble Press Collection, the Diana Wynne Jones Collection, the Philip Pullman Collection, the Beverley Naidoo Collection, and the Geoffrey Trease Collection.
Inclusion and diversity
Seven Stories is particularly interested in supporting studies which explore themes of inclusion and diversity within our archives: race and heritage, disability, gender and gender identity, sexual orientation, age, socio-economic status, religion and culture. Projects in this research field might be cross-cutting, looking at a number of different archives within the Seven Stories Collection.
Children on stage: twentieth century children’s theatre
Seven Stories holds the complete archive of David Wood, one of the most prolific and influential playwrights for children in Britain. Projects based in this archive may approach the topic of children’s theatre from a number of perspectives, including theatre history and adaptation. Other relevant holdings include the Michael Morpurgo Collection and the recently acquired David Almond Collection.
one confidential letter of recommendation (sealed and signed; confidential letters may be included in your application packet or recommenders may send them directly)
Applications may be submitted by email or post.
Post: David Almond Fellowships, School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 7RU, UK
* NB Thanks to a major accrual, recently received, cataloguing of the David Almond archive is ongoing – the records are expected to be online by 30 June. An interim listing is available on request. Please contact email@example.com
Images from Seven Stories: The National Centre for Children’s Books, photography by Damien Wootten.
Workshopping the Poetry and Diaries of William and Dorothy Wordsworth
Hannah Piercy, doctoral candidate at Durham University, is part of a team of PhD students who recently set out to create sound pieces that bring William Wordsworth’s poetry to life and highlight the pivotal role Dorothy played in her brother’s creative process. The project – a collaboration between the Wordsworth Trust and the Northern Bridge Doctoral Training Partnership – included a workshop with students from Keswick School at the Wordsworth Museum in Grasmere. Here, Hannah reports on the team’s work with the students and shares some of the poetry they composed in response to the Wordsworths’ writings.
The 5th of June 2017 was not so much ‘a fine showery morning’, as Dorothy Wordsworth says of the 5th of June 1802 in her diaries; it was one of those days when being outside for a few minutes can get you soaked to the bone – a typical rainy day in the Lake District, some might say. I grew up in the Lakes, not so many miles away from Dove Cottage in Grasmere, where the Wordsworths lived for almost nine years. And as a secondary school pupil, I attended Keswick School, so there was a special pleasure for me in meeting some of the current year ten students of Keswick School to workshop some creative and critical ideas about the poetry, diaries, and lives, of William and Dorothy Wordsworth.
To create a manageable plan for workshopping William and Dorothy’s work in less than five hours, we had decided on a short list of poems and diary entries to discuss and record with the students during the day. We ran four sessions, discussing and trying out creative exercises based upon one of William’s poems and one of Dorothy’s diary entries in each session. Some of the texts we chose, like I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud, were obvious choices, but some, like The Tables Turned, perhaps seem less obvious. We chose to pair The Tables Turned with Dorothy’s diary entry for 15th April 1798, written before the Wordsworths moved to Grasmere, when they were living in Alfoxden house, Somerset. The Tables Turned implores its addressee to ‘quit your books’ and ‘Come forth into the light of things, / Let Nature be your teacher’, while Dorothy’s diary discusses how ‘Nature was very successfully striving to make beautiful what art had deformed – ruins, hermitages etc’, and notes that ‘Happily we cannot shape the huge hills, or carve out the valleys according to our fancy.’
We asked the students to think about how we perceive nature today, and invited them to compose their own poems in response to the themes and issues raised by Dorothy and William’s writing. As we read over the poems composed by the students, it was fascinating to see how many of them – the majority of the group, in fact – had fixated on the idea of more modern distractions from nature, and in particular, the role of smartphones in ‘filtering’ nature for us in a more literal way. While William’s poem admonishes its addressee to abandon books and ‘hear the woodland linnet’, the year ten pupils from Keswick School used their poems as a chance to reflect on the need to abandon their phones and enjoy nature in its own right. Many of the poems focused on the idea of opening your eyes – perhaps connecting to the motto of Keswick School, levavi oculos, ‘I lift up my eyes’, which in a longer form is also the motto on the coat of arms for Cumbria as a county – Ad montes oculos levavi, ‘I shall lift up mine eyes unto the hills’. The students urged each other to ‘Lift up thy eyes / from the screen filled with lies’:
They lamented ‘The views that rival any other in the land, / Ignored by these kids, for a devise in their hand / Open your eyes.’ Yet these poems also celebrated the enjoyment of nature that young people, at least those growing up in Cumbria and other rural settings, still very much have. One poem proclaimed:
Year by year the fieldmice breed,
and green shoots sprout from every seed,
After all this trouble the birds still sing
Oh nature! what a marvellous thing.
Others balanced the use of technology alongside enjoyment of nature, one observing poignantly:
Zoom in on a picture but know
in the real world nature has
a higher resolution than any screen.
Look up to the trees, to the branches and leaves.
Notice the veins that weave
across the surface like a thread,
unravelling like a map to the road ahead.
It was fantastic to see this group of pupils enjoying and thinking carefully about their engagement with nature through the poetry and diaries of William and Dorothy Wordsworth. Our hope is that that is what these soundpieces of young people reading and discussing the work of the Wordsworths, and the enjoyment of nature, will encourage, along with the Wordsworth Trust’s work on Reimagining Wordsworth more broadly. Young people today can still get a lot out of both poetry and nature, as illustrated by the poems these year ten students produced at the Wordsworth Trust. It is with one of these poems that I will end, a poem that again deals with the intersection of nature and technology:
Eyes fixated on a glaring screen
human turning into robots,
surviving on wifi and phone signal,
they come alive as their
If you only looked up just
long enough to see the
mesmerising beauty of shimmering
lakes and the staggering
beauty of the mountains rising, breathtakingly from
The moment ends
as the addictive phone looms
up from the pocket and
snaps the “insta worthy”
Photographs by Kate Sweeney, doctoral candidate at Newcastle University (School of English). This post originally appeared on the Wordsworth Trust website. You can read more about the project here.
Thanks go to the following people, without whom this project would not have been possible: Lucy Stone, Michael Rossington, Sarah Rylance and Evie Hill (Newcastle University), Jeff Cowton, Bernadette Calvey, Melissa Mitchell, and Susan Allen (Wordsworth Trust), Tracey Messenger, Helen Robinson, and the Students of Keswick School, Deirdre Wildy (Queen’s University Belfast), Robert Macfarlane (University of Cambridge), sound artists Conor Caldwell (Queen’s University Belfast) and Danny Diamond, and project leaders Jemima Short and Kate Sweeney (Newcastle University).
I was delighted to chair this event. For me, Brian and Sarah are two of the most important contemporary YA authors, and I love the fearlessness of their writing, both in its form and content. They tackle urgent and complex subjects, while telling stories in unusual and innovative ways.
Sarah and Brian’s working relationship began at the award ceremony for the Carnegie Medal 2015, when Sarah was shortlisted for Apple and Rain, and Brian for When Mr Dog Bites. At that time, Brian was thinking of writing a novel in verse and he asked Sarah about the form. They began corresponding via WhatsApp, sending messages and chunks of text back and forth in what became a swiftly unfolding digital conversation. The whole novel was written this way, its authors working in different countries, not meeting in person until afterwards.
We Come Apart is a love story that doesn’t shy away from darkness and difficulty, beautifully told in verse, with two narrative voices. At the early draft stage, the authors each wrote a section and sent it to the other, in a kind of creative tennis match. At first, Brian wrote the character of Nicu and Sarah created Jess’s voice. Both authors spoke about how different this was from their usual creative process in having to relinquish control of planning and respond to what they received. They found the quality of their writing improved because they were working collaboratively. They also learned about their own process by seeing the differences in the other’s working style (it definitely sounded as if Sarah was more of a planner than Brian!). However, in the later editorial stages, the process slowed down, and both writers worked on each character’s sections. A love story seems perfect for this dual narrative approach, with its layered perspectives, so that each character is shown to be struggling via their own interiority, but is also seen with compassion and understanding through the eyes of the other.
The authors described their careful approach to the depiction of difficult topics such as the domestic violence of Jess’s home life. Sarah wanted to write the scenes just explicitly enough, so that any young person who had experienced similar abuse would recognise what was happening; but so that it wouldn’t be traumatic for those readers who weren’t yet ready to understand the violence of the situation.
I asked Brian and Sarah about the issue of writing in the voice of someone from an under-represented group: in this case, that of Nicu, who is Romanian, of Roma ancestry. Brian talked about his experience of working with Roma teenagers, and how that fed into the creation of Nicu’s speech patterns, and both authors cited the extensive research they’d undertaken. They discussed the importance of privileging and amplifying ‘own voices’ narratives, while also resisting the idea that, as writers, we can only create from our own lived experience.
The conclusion to We Come Apart feels nuanced and in keeping with the subtle balance of light and shade within the novel as a whole. Sarah spoke about one particular tantalising WhatsApp exchange as they approached the end. She could see the little dots told her ‘Brian is writing’, but it took long minutes for the response to appear. They finally wrote three versions of the ending. I had an odd experience on first reading the novel: I think the ghost of the ending not chosen was haunting my perceptions, and I was braced for a more brutal denouement that didn’t come. However, on second reading, I could more fully appreciate the satisfying end to Jess and Nicu’s story.
Inspired by speaking to Brian and Sarah, I now want to experiment with collaborative writing in my own practice. I’ve started a conversation with a writer I admire, intrigued by the potential for surprises and innovation that these authors describe, and I’ve also devised a workshop for collaborative writing that I’ve begun using in my teaching. I’m very grateful to Sarah Crossan and Brian Conaghan for sharing their experience of working together, and to Dr Lucy Pearson for inviting me to chair their conversation.
The event was organised as part of the Newcastle University Postgraduate Open Day, and presented in association with Seven Stories. Photographs by Rachel Pattinson.
For a number of years, I have had a peripheral awareness of Edward Gorey’s work, but it was not until last Christmas that I received my very own copy of one of his books. Since then, I have fallen in love with his work. His gothic sensibilities, morbid sense of humour, and plots that frequently involve mysterious deaths in old country houses, or children being lured away by bizarre creatures, are ingredients that make Gorey’s picturebooks a treat to read.
The first text of his I came across was a picturebook called The Gashlycrumb Tinies (1963), an alphabet book that lists twenty-six inventive ways in which a group of children come to a grizzly end. The book is amusing, in a macabre way, and illustrated with the beautiful pen-and-ink drawings that made Gorey famous. The Gashlycrumb Tinies displays many of the features one would expect from Gorey’s work, from the Victorian style of the fashion and the settings, to the rhyme scheme, and the prevalence of death as a major theme.
One of the things I find most intriguing about Gorey’s books is that they feel as though they belong to another time. The black-and-white illustrations would not be out of place in an austere Victorian-era children’s book. So stylistically old-fashioned are some of his books that I was surprised by how recently he was working. When I imagined the author behind these strange texts, I envisioned a pale and sinister Edgar Allen Poe type figure, scribbling down these ghoulish tales by candlelight. Even the name, ‘Gorey’, seems to suggest such a character. It turns out that the Edward Gorey in my head didn’t quite match the real-life Gorey, a bearded and bespectacled gentleman who lived in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, in a house he shared with his many cats.
From 1953, up until his death in 2000, Gorey produced more than one hundred books, usually small hardback volumes with titles that are equal parts humorous and baffling, such as The Fatal Lozenge, The Glorious Nosebleed, and The Haunted Tea-Cosy. Though working in the twentieth-century, there is a definite nineteenth-century feel to his work, and in interviews he discusses having been influenced by writers of that period. He cites Lewis Carroll and Edward Lear as major influences, and that the tradition of British nonsense rhyme inspired much of his work. One of my favourite picture books by Gorey is an alphabet book called The Utter Zoo Alphabet (1967), which is certainly a descendent of the nonsense alphabets produced by Edward Lear. In this text, Gorey presents an A-Z of strange animals, from the Ampoo to the Zote, with short descriptions of each.
It is unsurprising that Gorey enjoyed a readership consisting of both children and adults. The books exhibit Gorey’s whimsical imagination, with fantastical creatures and suspenseful narratives that would pique the interest of child readers, while also having sinister undertones and an atmosphere of dread that adults such as myself are fascinated by. Not to mention, the illustrations are works of art in themselves. When asked why his children’s books were not as upbeat or colourful as those produced by his contemporaries, Gorey explained that he thought such work was tedious. He remarked, ‘Sunny, funny nonsense for children- oh, how boring, boring, boring’. For Gorey, the edge of malevolence in his children’s books is what made them interesting. It might seem troubling that books like The Gashlycrumb Tinies, which depict the death of children with such relish, are read by children, but the deaths are often so absurd that they become more amusing than shocking. It is when the books have a foot in reality, however, that the result can be chilling. One such book is The Loathsome Couple, which I found particularly unsettling. The events in The Loathsome Couple are based on the Moors murders carried out by Ian Brady and Myra Hindley in the nineteen-sixties. Published in 1977, it chronicles a fictional couple, Harold Snedleigh and Mona Gritch, who lure children to a remote villa to murder them, until they are eventually discovered and arrested.
I found the way in which Gorey used the picturebook format, one that is so keenly associated with young children, to present a subject matter that is so horrific, nothing short of jarring. Gorey himself stated that it was ‘by far my most unpleasant book’, and it is easy to see why. Unlike his others, which would please both child and adult audiences, The Loathsome Couple is distinctly for adult readers, at least in my personal opinion. The others I have been cheerfully making my way through; though chilling, are chilling in a much more enjoyable way.
While Gorey was inspired by Carroll and Lear, his work has in turn inspired children’s authors working today. Lemony Snicket, for example, exhibits a similar gothic sensibility in his A Series of Unfortunate Events novels, which also hinge on placing children in dire situations. Philip Ardagh’s Eddie Dickens novels similarly makes use of Victorian settings, and the accompanying illustrations by David Roberts are very evocative of Gorey’s. It is no wonder that Gorey has left his mark on children’s literature, as his books are so peculiar that they must surely leave an impression on those who read him. His books are fascinating little marvels, brimming with deliciously dark humour, and I would heartily recommend them to all.
 Stephen Schiff, ‘Edward Gorey and the Tao of Nonsense’, The New Yorker, 9 November 1992, 84.
Canonical, national, classic: all these terms imply quality with regard to children’s literature, but too often these labels ignore the forces of privileging a dominant group’s work over all others. Because the reifying of children’s literature means longer shelf-life, sales, and interest, the public curation of a nation’s children’s literature matters. An increase in global migration (for both economic and political reasons), shifting international relationships, and isolationist and nationalist movements around the world suggest that now is a useful moment to focus on the question of the composition of national children’s literatures. How are such histories compiled, and who has a stake in the creation, promotion, and maintenance of the idea of a national history of children’s literature? What voices are left out? Are there ways that non-dominant groups can usefully intervene in the curation process ensuring that a national children’s literature represents the nation? Guest editors Dr. Lucy Pearson, Dr. Aishwarya Subramanian, and Professor Karen Sands-O’Connor invite abstracts for papers on the theme of the curation of national histories of children’s literature. We are particularly interested in papers that consider how or if non-majority groups within a nation find space/place within the national conversation about children’s literature, and how different stakeholders (publishing, education, award committees, museums and archives) play a role in the creation and marketing of alternative voices in the national children’s literature story.
Papers will normally be 5000-7000 words in length; we may consider shorter submissions where these represent scholarship in emerging areas.
Abstracts due: 1 March 2018; completed papers 1 September 2018, publication July 2019.
Abstracts (300 words) and a short bio (150 words) should be submitted to IRCL.National.Literatures@gmail.com.
I was about nine when my Nana dropped off a pile of books, bought at some jumble sale or other because I was known for my peculiar love of reading. It was a strange assortment of children’s books including the sentimental nineteenth century novel The Wide Wide World (I never managed to read it, but prized it for its gilt edges) and several Biggles titles (also impenetrable despite my taste for adventure stories). But amidst these, a treasure: the UK first edition of Ursula Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea (1968). It was a book which would furnish my childhood imagination and immeasurably enrich my life. As the many tributes prompted by the news of Le Guin’s death demonstrate, I was one of many.
The island of Gont, a single mountain that lifts its peak a mile above the storm-racked Northeast Sea, is a land famous for wizards.
– A Wizard of Earthsea
Among Le Guin’s many wonderful qualities is her worldbuilding, which for me is unsurpassed in the realm of fantasy literature. Not only the landscape, but the politics, economics, and customs of her imaginary worlds are depicted in detail and depth. A Wizard of Earthsea begins with a conventional trope – an insignificant boy discovering he is a powerful wizard – but in Le Guin’s books magic is never an easy solution but, like all power, must be used mindfully. This magic is built on words: in Earthsea, learning the true name of an object or person gives you power over that or them. This was an idea that resonated deeply with me as a bookish child, and which has continued to grow and take on new dimensions as I have come to understand the power of language and naming in the real world. Looking back, I realise that the importance of songs, stories and legends in her books also helped to set me on the path to studying Anglo Saxon and Medieval literature.
Words matter, and what made Ursula Le Guin so great was her willingness to embrace this as truth, even when it meant scrutinising her own work. Setting out to write against the tradition of white dominance in fantasy, she showed that people of colour could be fantasy heroes (though her hero Ged was invariably whitewashed on covers), but later ruefully acknowledged that she was still unwittingly ‘writing partly by the rules as an artificial man’. This realisation prompted her to return to Earthsea and to revise it in ways which undid some of the fundamentals of her world. Tehanu (1990) does not simply overturn the idea established in the first book that women cannot be wizards: it fundamentally questions the basis of this gendered power and suggests that it must be remade altogether.
As a scholar of children’s literature, I continue to find meaning in children’s books of all sorts. But Le Guin, more than any other writer, has grown alongside me. At nine, A Wizard of Earthsea offered me a compelling vision of growing into adult power – and of its drawbacks. I was nearing my teens before I encountered The Tombs of Atuan (1971), which gave me a female protagonist undergoing her own growth. The dedicated high priestess of a female sect, Tenar holds power, of a sort, but it is the power allotted to women by a society which has turned its allegiance to men (we are told that most worship the twin God Kings) and it requires them to sacrifice love, and companionship, and growth. The book presages the revolution that Le Guin would return to in Tehanu: Tenar’s route to freedom lies in overturning the structures of power she has known, even at the cost of relinquishing her own position of power. The more radical revolution which takes place in Tehanu, which sees the wizard Ged without his powers and magic as we have known it leaking out of the world, confused and disappointed me on my first reading in my early teens. But as an adult I’ve grown to admire the radical changes Le Guin makes here, and to love the different kinds of magic she reveals through this book. Women’s work is magic here, and no less powerful because it is often positioned outside the realm of language.
Ursula Le Guin was an activist to the last, speaking out against ‘alternative facts’ as recently as this February. Recognising that ‘the politics of Fairyland are ours’, she also showed how alternative worlds could help us revision the politics of our own.
Thank you, Ursula Le Guin, for the mind treasures you gave us. I hope you’re flying on the other wind.
 Ursula K. Le Guin, Earthsea Revisioned (Cambridge: Green Bay Publications, 1993), p. 7.
 Ursula K. Le Guin, Earthsea Revisioned, p. 25.
During the knowledge-exchange program for the Visiting Publishers Fellowship at the Shanghai International Children Book Fair, in November 2017, I spent an inspiring afternoon at the China Welfare Institute Publishing House’s picture book publishing department. The Publishing House has developed into a comprehensive one from a magazine house which was founded in 1950 by the formidable visionary and philanthropist, President Soong Ching Ling, guided by her philosophy: “Giving Children the Most Valuable Things”.
Located in a designated Heritage Building, in a lovely part of the city, the Institute’s dedicated editorial team (led by Yu Lan) is the power-house behind a range of beautifully produced picture books portraying contemporary Chinese family life. The Love and Beauty list is part of the range marketed for independent readers.  The Publishing House has won many honours for its books and the team is committed to engaging with young Chinese writers and illustrators and to make their work available to a wider readership.
A number of their fiction and non-fiction titles are available in other languages. For example, I Have a Little Lantern by author and illustrator, Gan Dayong, is a very charming story about a little girl’s long journey to school in the dark of the early morning. On the way, she meets many anxious animals but her lantern, and the knowledge that her teacher is watching out for her, lights up the dawn for them all. This title is available in Mandarin, English and Mandarin, and French and it is excellent.
Two very engaging titles by the young artist, Liu Xun, Tooth, Tooth, Throw it on the Roof, and Riddles, use time-honoured Chinese cultural practices to gently illuminate the transformative developments in contemporary China’s urban and rural regions. Tooth, Tooth, visually and thematically links the loss of a little girl’s front tooth with the changes proposed for her neighbourhood. The ritual of throwing the lost tooth onto her Grandfather’s roof, so that she will grow tall, is reassuring. The roof has protected the family for generations and the child is propelled out of her bed and through the welcoming neighbourhood to find her Grandfather. A symbol painted on the walls of the little shops and homes indicate that these alleyways are scheduled for demolition. But the signs are faded and the atmosphere of the neighbourhood is happy, safe and joyful and so there is a suggestion that the inevitable changes will not be so destructive or, perhaps, as imminent.
Riddles, uses the Qingming Festival – Tomb Sweeping Day – to reunite a child and her loving grandmother, who appears in a fluffy cloud, for a happy day of play and stories. The illustrations portray the emotional strength that cultural festivals can bring even to the challenges of remembering the beloved dead. Though I could not fully understand the text, I was very moved by both these titles. As a recent, and very happy, resident in Shanghai I have been regularly confronted by my own ignorance and unacknowledged prejudices about contemporary Chinese life. This story and its richly detailed, representational illustrations gave me an insight into family life in the city and would, I’m sure, have a general appeal were its text to be accessible to non-Chinese readers.
It is hard for independent Chinese publishers to promote books in other languages, particularly in English where there seems to be an almost overwhelming offering already. But, there are some really outstanding titles being published here. For example, while I was in the editorial offices, we looked at a picture book in preparation and I felt the excitement book people feel when they see something very special. I can say no more (yet) but the man with the soup van who feeds the city’s night workers and some hungry cats, is a brilliant creation and I’m sure I’ve met him, more than once, coming home after a late night.
I am looking forward to discussing with CWI ways in which these and other titles can be shared with a wider range of readers.
The Visiting Publishers Fellowship is a six-day programme offering a small group of children’s book specialists insights into China’s publishing landscape and the opportunity to visit the Shanghai International Children’s Book Fair. Helen Limon will be presenting her findings from Shanghai at the upcoming European Literacy Network Winterthur Conference and the Bologna Children’s Book Fair at which China is the 2018 Guest of Honour.
 In the UK, I would see these being books that were read to or with children of a younger age group.