Sunday, June 11, 2006

Recap: The Children's Literature Association Conference

I had a great time at the Children's Literature Association conference this week. This is the first one I've attended and I definitely plan on going next year as well. The papers were all very interesting and the question/answer sessions even better. I gave a paper on the Russian children's book, Tanya Grotter and the Magic Double-Bass, which looks, as you can see from the image, just a little bit like another book we all know quite well.

Here's a few things I learned while at the conference.

  • Mulan in Disney's Mulan and Mulan II is really just an American girl in a Chinese story. (I've never seen Mulan, but I've always suspected this. It was nice to hear a young scholar who knows Chinese and the original story well confirm this fact.)
  • The His Dark Materials series has the most sophisticated treatment of death in all of children's fantasy series.
  • The most common pairing in Harry Potter slash fan fiction is Harry/Draco, followed by Snape/Draco!
  • The Little White Horse, by Elizabeth Goudge, was an extremely influential work for J.K. Rowling (which she has admitted). You can see traces of The Little White Horse especially in The Prisoner of Azkaban with the patronus.
  • One scholar found that the most common adjective by far used to describe witches in the Grimm Fairy Tales--more than evil, cunning, ugly--is "old." And, this scholar found Disney to be very conservative in its treatment of witches. (I agree, but Disney does something even more stereotypical--Disney's witches are middle-aged, glamorous, powerful gals who won't give their power up to the younger, more beautiful princess.)