Alice's Academy

Caroline Jones, editor


Caroline Jones

As we go to press (or the digital equivalent) with the second issue of our fifteenth volume, I have just returned from the thirty-eighth annual conference of the Children’s Literature Association, aptly themed “Revolt! Rebellion! Protest! Change and Insurrection in Children’s Literature”. Children’s literature is, in many ways, inherently a literature of rebellion, and The Looking Glass itself explores the revolutionary aspects of children, adolescents, and their literatures. As the four-hundred thirty or so of us gathered in Roanoke, Virginia, we explored many avenues of rebellion open to young readers through their literatures—and considered the many ways those readers find their own modes of protest and insurrection.

Recurring texts among presenters were Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games trilogy, with no fewer than three dedicated panels and a great many papers that explored the series through other lenses.  Harry Potter was, of course, well-represented, as were the novels of Virgina Euwer Wolff.  Wolff’s The Mozart Season, published in 1991, received the 2011 Phoenix Award. This award recognizes books that won no major awards upon initial publication, for “high literary merit” and its ability to “touch the imaginations and enrich the lives of those who read them” even twenty years later. 

For more information on Wolff's citation and the the Children’s Literature Association Phoenix Award, go to the award pages at the ChLA website.

The provocative Francelia Butler lecture, “Radical Children’s Literature Now!,” offered by Julia Mickenberg and Philip Nel, reminded us that even seemingly innocuous texts (for instance, the Rebecca novels in the American Girls Collection) provide young readers with seeds of radicalism and opportunities to sow change in their worlds—and similarly awoke us with shocking statistics about the states of literacy, reading, and education in the United States today. Their imperative, Radical Children’s Literature Now!, reminds us that in many ways those of us who read, study, write about, and teach children’s literature are, indeed, radicals in our own rights, advocating for literature that challenges and provokes young readers, and that encourages them to critically engage the people, ideas, and systems around them. The Children’s Literature Association will post a video of the lecture to their website within the next few weeks—I encourage you to sit down with it. See for a link, as well as for links to the 2011 conference program and featured speakers and highlights from the 2010 conference (including Margaret Mackey’s Francelia Butler lecture).

This issue’s contribution to Alice’s Academy, Jennifer Geer’s “Purposeful Dreams on Film: Building Alice’s Self-Esteem in Nick Willing’s Alice In Wonderland,” explores an antithetical re-framing of Lewis Carroll’s insurrective Alice texts. Rather than highlighting the novels’ fundamentally subversive messages, film versions often try to channel Carroll’s chaotic impulses into more orderly narrative arcs.  Geer focuses on Willing’s domestication of Alice from Carroll’s curious child eager to explore the possibilities both within and around her, to a stereotypical late-twentieth century child who needs adults to shape her identity and build her self-esteem.  Geer pointedly reminds us that children’s media, like children’s novels, often are designed less for children’s delight than for the comfort of the adults who function as their gatekeepers and protectors.

Please, join all of us at The Looking Glass in considering the profits and perils of revolution and repression, reframing and re-reading.

Volume 15, Issue 2, The Looking Glass, May/June 2011

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"Introduction" © Caroline Jones, 2011.

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The Looking Glass: new perspectives on children's literature

ISBN 1551-5680