College of Education & Human Development Assistant Professor Thomas Crisp has been chosen for the International Youth Library Fellowship program, which promotes research on international children’s and youth literature and illustration.
Germany’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs offers these fellowships for up to 15 individuals around the world each year, and a person can only receive one in a lifetime. Recipients are invited to spend between six weeks and three months at the library to use its international collection of books for children and young adults for a specific research project.
Crisp’s professional work in children’s and young adult literature relates primarily to issues of social justice and representations of traditionally marginalized populations. He is concerned specifically with literature by and/or about people who self-identify as LGBT or queer. His professional writing can be found in journals like the Journal of Children’s Literature, Children’s Literature in Education, English Journal, Language Arts and Children’s Literature Association Quarterly, among others.
For this fellowship, he will spend three months at the library to develop an analysis of gender and sexual identity in the work of artists who have received the Hans Christian Andersen Award for Illustration. This biannual award recognizes “one living illustrator whose work has had a lasting, global influence on the field of children’s literature,” according to the International Board on Books for Young People, which coordinates the Hans Christian Andersen Awards.
“My project brings together two strands of research that I’ve been pursuing throughout my career: depictions and constructions of gender and depictions and constructions of sexual identity,” he explained. “I am also determined to find time to explore the holdings of the library more generally. It would be unacceptable for me to spend three months in the largest children’s library in the world, surrounded by more than 600,000 children’s books published across four and a half centuries and not take some time to look at original versions of books I have only read about or seen in photographs.”
Crisp believes it’s important for researchers to study children’s and youth literature to show how those works can do more than simply entertain readers.
“Children’s books are cultural artifacts, objects with the potential to profoundly shape and influence the lives of young readers. Children’s books provide us with images of who we are now and who we can become in the future,” he said. “And by representing and promoting particular values, forms of knowledge, worldviews and ways of thinking, children’s books also present us with models for understanding the world in which we live. In other words, children’s literature provides readers with both depictions and possibilities.”
For more information on the fellowship, visit https://www.ijb.de/en/fellowship-programme.html.