Goldsmith Frame of Reference

Some thoughts from the editor emeritus

Annette Goldsmith

Looking Back at The Looking Glass: The First Five Years

Once upon a time, some librarian friends in Toronto decided to start an online children's literature journal. They were used to writing book reviews but wanted to have a flexible format for writing longer articles about books and issues of passionate interest to them. They decided to make it an online journal not so much because (in 1996) they saw it as the way of the future, but rather because they had no money and, using publisher Sue Easun's website at the University of Toronto, it was more or less free. (Except for the hours and hours and hours of volunteer time that they and assorted spouses devoted to the cause, of course.) They wanted their journal to be one that readers would be genuinely happy to see; much like the librarian friends always welcomed the latest issue of the Horn Book. Finally, they wanted to have a refereed section so they could attract really good academic writing too. They invited eminent scholars from three different countries to be on the editorial board. And so, after nine months (seriously) of careful planning, The Looking Glass was born: an international children's literature e-journal with a Canadian perspective.

Since April 2, 1997 was Hans Christian Andersen's birthday too, we launched TLG with a big birthday party at the Lillian H. Smith branch of Toronto Public Library. This fairy castle-like building was the perfect venue for board member Jeffrey Garrett's wonderful slide lecture showing how illustrators in different countries have interpreted the Alice books. Since his was the first article in Alice's Academy, and we hadn't set up the peer-review system yet, it was edited in the usual way. But after that, scholarly submissions were sent out for peer review. I stepped in as the first (interim) editor of Alice's Academy, and was relieved when we found an academic, Elizabeth Pandolfo Briggs, to take over. Ironically, now, as a doctoral candidate at the Florida State University College of Information, I'm very much an academic. I'm still passionately interested in international children's books as a research area, specifically, how and why they get published in translation.

In keeping with TLG's intersection of the traditional and the modern, designer Bernard Kelly contributed a clean design with light, bright colours like aqua and tangerine, complemented by the Tenniel illustrations. The original home page header featured Alice stepping out of the looking-glass. An early plan was to have an animation of Alice entering into and then emerging from the looking-glass, since Tenniel drew both, but in those days it would have required too much bandwidth, so we kept it simple. We even offered a text-only version for readers whose equipment couldn't handle the graphics. Another technical challenge was coming up with a design for Joanne Schott's brilliant double Acrostic. Much work from Rob Lee (spouse of Katherine "The Cook" Matthews) and my husband, Don Lloyd, gave us an easy-to-read form that could be printed off and filled in. I paid my proofreading dues by checking five years' worth of Acrostics! If you've never gone Down the Rabbit Hole (now called Archives), I urge you to try at least one Acrostic. Use it for fun to test your own knowledge, but it's also an excellent staff or classroom training tool.

There are a lot of people to thank for the first five years of TLG. First, the board members who responded so promptly to emailed requests for help: Lissa Paul in Canada; Dan Hade, Adele Fasick, and Jeffrey Garrett in the U.S.; and Geoff Williams then in Australia. All the regular column editors and guest contributors, and the superb technical support... in particular our webmaster, Allen Briggs, who ended up hosting the site. When Elizabeth and Allen had their twin boys, TLG still appeared, though Elizabeth was running Alice's Academy and Allen was running the site. Who could resist Jeffrey "The MaD hAtTeR" Canton, who dished the dirt about the children's book world in Spyglass? He did double duty by also reassessing Canadian classics in LG Lore. Sue Easun also wore two hats, as publisher and column editor of Personal Reflections, a view from the ivory tower. For humour, we turned to Sarah Ellis; her piece, "The Big Nap," a Chandleresque riff on life at the daycare, debuted in her column, In the Twinkling of an Eye, and subsequently appeared, to our delight, in Horn Book. Katherine "The Cook" Matthews came up with delicious, outrageous, or really icky (eating fried worms, for example) original children's literature recipes in her food and travel column, Pig and Pepper. It was really a food column, but Katherine was living in France and doing a fair bit of travelling at the time... Doug Crane edited ykcowrebbaJ, the translation column, giving "translation" the broadest possible meaning. Margo Beggs brought her trained art-historical eye to design and illustration in Picture Window. Caucus-Race, the round-the-web column, was ably directed by Martha "The Dodo" Scott. Joanne Schott's double Acrostic was a real challenge: when complete, the text of the crossword would reproduce a quote from a children's book, and the first letter of each answer would spell out the author and title of the work (hence the "double" part.) The only comparable acrostics I've seen are the ones created by Natalie Babbitt, which aren't nearly as complex. At a presentation in Cambridge, England, we acquired two new column editors: Ruth Allen and Mary Nix. Ruth kept us apprised of children's literature developments in England in A Distant Mirror, and Mary introduced us to innovative projects in My Own Invention. I met Sue Corbett at a writer's conference in Miami, and soon she was producing Illuminating Texts, the counterpart to Margo's visual column. Our most lyrical writer, Mary Beaty, edited The Monitor, about anything and everything to do with children's books. My own Frame of Reference was an editorial that introduced each issue. I save for last, Kathleen Bailey, whose column, Mirrors and Windows, was an intimate reflection on issues close to home, in her own library and her own reading, particularly fantasy. Kathleen did a great deal of behind-the-scenes work on TLG, for which I thank her. My apologies if I've forgotten anyone.

Our readers, too, deserve special mention. They could be anyone with a personal and/or professional interest in children's books: librarians, teachers, academics, booksellers, publishers, authors, illustrators, parents, other words, pretty much everyone. As children's book zealots, we naturally hoped that anyone who fell upon our site might be intrigued, look around, and maybe even opt for a (free) subscription. We did get the occasional letter from readers, but really didn't know much about them. During the first five years, we concentrated on content rather than contact. There were plans for discussion boards to extend the conversation and make the site more interactive. Sue hoped to do a column called Dinah's Kitchen, within Alice's Academy, in which we would interview young researchers about their work. But in spite of such unrealized plans, I think TLG managed to accomplish quite a lot.

I'll let Jane Goldstein tell you about her five years, but I want to compliment her and her staff on some of the improvements I've seen: getting the issues out on time (not an easy task!), expanding Alice's Academy, and changing the design to reflect the new emphasis. David Beagley has ambitious plans for his tenure, which include switching to open source journal software with a much greater opportunity to include readers through blogs, etc. It's an exciting time for TLG. We've gone from Canada to the U.S. and now to Australia! I am absolutely thrilled that the modest online journal we founded ten years ago is not only alive and kicking, but absolutely thriving. Happy birthday, TLG!

Editorially yours,


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"Frame of Reference "
© Annette Goldsmith, 2007.
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The Looking Glass: new perspectives on children's literature

ISBN 1551-5680