Contemporary Concerns in Children's and Young Adult Literature and Media

Rosemarie MillerMCRo

The question of how young subjectivities are represented in relation to social and cultural forces is central to the study of children’s and young adult literature and media, for as Robyn McCallum explains, ‘identity is formed in dialogue with the social discourses, practices and ideologies constituting the culture which an individual inhabits.’ The contributors to this panel will therefore address three concerns which are current in western culture and influence child and young adult readers i.e. environmental crisis; the representation of disability and migration. The papers in this panel address such questions in various ways as in the following abstracts.

Speculative Futures and Strategies for Survival in John Marsden’s Tomorrow When the War Began (Dr Rosemarie Miller)

Rose Miller has published on the Australian Gothic and works within the International Forum for Research in Children’s Literature at the University of Worcester. 

Narratives concerning the white child, who wanders into the Australian bush and becomes lost, were used in the construction of a national imagination in which child and nation are symbolically associated. In John Marsden’s novel Tomorrow When the War Began (1993), the bush is re-drawn as a protective environment for young adult protagonists at a time of cultural upheaval and environmental crisis. The reliance on knowledge of the bush for survival reflects the cultural desire to address collective forgetting through the process of reconciliation with the land and the implied racial Other.

Disability → Ability: changing representation of disability in fiction for children (Prof Jean Webb)

Jean Webb is Professor of International Children’s Literature at the University of Worcester. She has published on health and disability in children’s literature.

Attitudes toward disability and the representation of disability in fiction for children have changed considerably over the past century to appreciation of the abilities and special talents of children with impairment and a greater understanding of their lives. Jacqueline Wilson’s Katy (2015) revises nineteenth century representation of disability as typified in Susan Coolidge’s What Katy Did (1872). This paper will discuss the changing attitudes and consider the innovative development in children’s literature concerning such representation.

MIGRATIONS - Open Hearts Open Borders: Challenging Mass Media Representations of a Humanitarian Crisis Through the Use of Metaphor and Authentic Testimony (Tobias Hickey)

Tobias Hickey’s editorial illustrations have been published widely. He is a founder member of the International Centre for the Picture Book in Society based at the University of Worcester. See for more information on the MIGRATIONS project.

MIGRATIONS Open Hearts Open Borders is a distillation of an international postcard call out to question whether illustration is able to respond and instigate change in response to a sociopolitical crisis. The 50 selected images, sent from 28 countries (some by migrant and asylum artists), provide a wide-ranging, international response, and serve as a counterpoint and alternative testimony to the popular mass media vision of a humanitarian crisis evident in news and media outlets. The metaphor of the bird is used to present migrants in a positive light and to challenge the accepted tropes of the life jacket/capsized boat/aerial images of mass human suffering. The postcard format offers an inclusive and universal means of communication, mirroring the bureaucratic and sometimes unsuccessful/perilous passage taken by the migrant. MIGRATIONS promotes illustrators from outside of the Anglophone environment such as Roger Mello and Isol, and has been selected by the CLPE (Centre for Literacy in Primary Education) for their Power of Reading program which seeks to raise engagement and attainment in reading and writing for all children.

Fri 2:00 pm - 3:15 pm