Books! Children's Literature, Wednesday, February 22, noon CST, 6 p.m. GMT

Marian J. Barber's picture

Please join the program in British, Irish and Empire Studies (BIES) at the University of Texas at Austin Wednesday, February 22, at 12 noon CST, 6 p.m. GMT, for the next session in Books!, our virtual speaker series for Spring 2023. The topic this week is "Children's Literature."

Two United Kingdom-based scholars will discuss literature for and about children. Karen Sands-O’Connor of Newcastle University will address “Beyond Empire’s Secret Garden: Children’s Books and British History,” with a focus on the histories of Black people in Britain and its empire. In “Beastly Children,” Zoe Jaques of Cambridge University will explore the relationship of children and animals  in literature aimed at children and what it says about being human. UT-Austin's own expert on children's literature, Julia Mickenberg of American Studies, will chair.

Registration is required. Please use this link:

Sands-O’Connor sets the stage for her talk:

The British Empire used the power of print to control the narrative of its history, and this is particularly true with children's school histories and historical fiction. While stereotypical views of Black people (in Britain and the colonies) remained in white-authored texts through the twentieth century, Black British authors have consistently offered alternative histories that are beginning to change the narrative of empire in books for British children.

Karen Sands-O'Connor is the British Academy Global Professor of Children's Literature at Newcastle University.  Her recent publications include British Activist Authors Addressing Children of Colour (Bloomsbury 2022) and Diversity and Inclusion in Young Adult Publishing, 1960-1980 (Cambridge Elements 2022).  She works with British literacy organizations on issues of diversity, and recently curated "Listen to This Story! An exhibition about children's books and Black Britain."

Jaques explains her title and its significance:

A connection between children and animals is foundational to literature for the young. Yet in representing and emphasising this kinship, such fiction is also entangled in debates about what it means to be human. Some of the earliest works of children’s fantasy can thus be seen as potent sites for philosophical questions on the human-animal divide.

 Zoe Jaques is Professor of Children’s Literature at the University of Cambridge. She is the author of Children’s Literature and the Posthuman (Routledge, 2015) and co-author of Lewis Carroll’s Alice: A Publishing History (Ashgate, 2013). These books reflect her interests in the history of children’s books and illustration and the intersections of children’s literature with literary theory and philosophy. She is the general editor of the three-volume Cambridge History of Children’s Literature (forthcoming in 2024) and is currently working on a publishing history of moveable books for Cambridge University Press.

Questions? Please contact BIES staff at