The first winner of the Jacqueline Wilson Award in Children’s Literature Research was recently announced at Homerton College, University of Cambridge. Professor Maria Nikolajeva, former member of The Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award jury, presented the award to Clémentine Beauvais for her master thesis Training the philosopher-king: Platonic ideology in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series.
The award has been made possible through a donation by one of Britain’s most loved children’s book authors, Jacqueline Wilson. It shall be given annually to the best masters thesis in children’s literature submitted at the Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge, within each academic year.
Here’s an excerpt from Jacqueline Wilson’s speech, read at the ceremony:
It’s wonderful that studying Children’s Literature is now a perfectly viable and respectable academic option. All of us grey-haired surviving practitioners of Children’s Literature remember the strange attitudes of the past. Even though the 1960s are considered the Golden Age of Children’s Literature, somehow those brilliant writers were considered to be indulging in some decorous harmless hobby – like knitting woolly animals or constructing miniature buildings out of matchsticks.
I had my first children’s novel published in the early eighties. Let us say the reception was under-whelming. For many subsequent years I worked hard producing at least two children’s novels a year. I had good reviews but very modest sales. I lost count of the number of well-meaning friends who said in an encouraging manner, “Perhaps you’ll be able to get an adult novel published one day.”
It was my friend Philip Pullman who remarked that no-one ever tells a Paediatrician that they might be able to work with adults one day. But Philip, and Michael Morpurgo and Anne Fine and many others kept on writing specially for children – and at last we’re all recognised as participators in our chosen genre. The wondrous Harry Potter phenomenon has changed the way Children’s Literature is perceived. You can now become rich and famous if you are a children’s writer, so inevitably you are taken more seriously by the general public. And at last there are brilliant further degree courses in Children’s Literature where students can study the subject seriously.”
The full speech can be read here.