Author Archives: mboylan

Rise of Rebellion: The Chocolate War and The Hunger Games Fight for Justice

By: Molly Boylan

In young adult novels, rebellion can come in the form of chocolate and berries. But are teens rebellious for more than just rebellion’s sake? Yes. More specifically, Robert Cormier and Suzanne Collins each use the hero/heroine of the young adult novel to advance the relationship between reader and reality. In this essay, build on the work of Tom Henthorne, Michael Cart and others who consider various aspects of young adult literature as a whole and each novel respectively. However unlike these scholars, I analyze how The Chocolate War (1974) and The Hunger Games (2008) leave readers with a disturbing awareness of the downfalls of societies in similar plot lines that promote social justice.

In order to look deeper at social justice issues in young adult novels, I use The Chocolate War as the foundational text and consider its influence on teen readers. Thirty-four years later, Suzanne Collins incorporated social action as a theme in The Hunger Games. Each author creates a connection to the readers by evoking empathy, acknowledging the disturbing elements of society, indicate tragic injustices, and demonstrate the social action each protagonist undertakes.

A comparison of these two texts leads to a better understanding how young adult novels motivate teens to consider social action in their own reality.

Works Cited

Collins, Suzanne. The Hunger Games. New York: Scholastic Press, 2008. Print.

Cormier, Robert.The Chocolate War. New York: Dell Laurel-Leaf, 1974. Print.

Cart, Michael. Young Adult Literature from Romance to Realism. Chicago: American Library Association, 2010. Print.

Henthorne, Tom. Approaching the Hunger Games Trilogy: a literary and cultural analysis. North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 2012. Print


Money – what is it good for?

By: Molly Boylan

Is MONEY what it is for?

I think as someone who is an English major and has interacted with other English majors the answer would be: No. Money obviously isn’t the drawing force of the major. But from what I am reading in various articles, essays, and books, it was never about the money. Unless if you are looking at the funding being put into academics. It all gets shoveled into the majors of math, science, and engineering. Now, I’m not here to tear down the other professions that are out there. Personally, I think we all need to work together and use the benefits of each person and/or major.

However, just like everything else in society, if you follow where people spend their money you can tell what they care about. They are putting their energies in buying clothes, shoes, makeup, and plastic surgery. This shows that they care most about their appearance or what people think of them.

On a larger scale, American’s can tell what we care about most by where we invest our money as a country. If we look to the white house website, we can see that the Obama Administration is focusing on schooling that provides “on-the-job” skills. The President of the United States is telling us we need to do and get a degree in something that will make us as a country money.

Does this not seem backwards or maybe just a little off? I don’t know maybe I’m being naïve, but so are all the other English majors out there to think that we should go to school for things that make us happy and engage our minds, and helps us think critically so we can then define who we are. No! We must want to make money instead. (the thought makes me cringe)

Mark Slouka in his article “Dehumanized” puts it this way: “By downsizing what is most dangerous (and most essential) about our education, namely the  deep civic function of the arts and the humanities, we’re well on the way to producing a nation of employees, not citizens.” And it may be bold for him to say this, but it really seems that most of what I read this past week would agree with his statements.

The humanities are always having to fight for their worth. It must get tiring to love something that doesn’t seem of any worth to the community you belong to. For example, we can look at Patricia Cohen’s article in the New York Times, “In Tough Times, the Humanities Must Justify Their Worth”, “With additional painful cuts across the board a near certainty even as millions of federal stimulus dollars may be funneled to education, the humanities are under greater pressure than ever to justify their existence to administrators, policy makers, students and parents.”

I was getting tired of reading the same things over and over, but then I thought… imagine living this life over and over. And constantly battling these accusations that what you are doing isn’t nearly as important as what someone else is doing.

Christopher Freeburg in his essay “Teaching Literature and the Bitter Truth about Starbuck” suggests that in order for the humanities to attain more worth in the eyes of citizens, they have to make their fields and courses vocational. Meaning “giving our students an awareness of what they are doing, why they are doing it, and what it offers them beyond the loose rhetoric of critical thinking and writing skills” (Profession 2012 26). And personally, I think that is a great idea. We will just have to show them why that is true even in the humanities. We will prove that the skills learned in the humanities will provide the nation and human population something worth investing in.

Yes, it may sound like a lot to accomplish, but hey, we have degrees in the humanities – we can deal with whatever is thrown at us.

More Than Meets the Eye: Studies in Children’s Literature

By: Molly Boylan

The Children’s Literature Association (ChLA)  is in its 40th year of promoting scholarship in children’s and young adult literature through its conferences.

ChLA provides a meeting point for scholars, critics, professors, librarians, teachers and institutions to discuss their academic studies in children’s literature. This non-profit association focuses on children’s literature which includes books, film, and media created for children and young adults all over the world.

The Association also rewards outstanding research and scholarship in the children’s literature field by giving scholarships and awards the undergraduates, graduates, and faculty.


Starting in 1973, ChLA has been sponsoring annual Conferences that have been held all over the United States, Canada, and France. This year, the 40th annual conference will commence in June 13-15, 2013 in Biloxi, Mississippi. The 2013 Conference is “Play and Risk in Children’s and Young Adult Literature” which addresses the way authors have included children at play in order to promote education. Also, the conference concentrates on risk in children’s and young adult literature and culture. The Associations website (ChLA)  argues that “Many classic and contemporary works for young people represent children or young adults entertaining themselves or taking chances,” such as Little Women, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and Peter Pan.

The call for papers suggests members submit presentations and papers with topics such as: children’s games at text, how children’s and young adult (YA) literature or culture put children at risk, Linguistic, stylistic, or formal play in children’s and YA literature and much more.

The 39th conference in 2012 focused on the “Literary Slipstream.”  The Association used the term coined by Bruce Sterlings to mean “fiction of strangeness” and “a parody of mainstream.” Mainly the conference was interested in looking at the ways children’s and young adult literature has crossed, confused, and redefines the genre lines.

Underneath this umbrella of “slipstreams”, there were certain trends that stood out more than others. The overall theme scholars focused on was retellings, re-visioning, and adapting children’s and young adult literature today. However, the sub-trends that arose out of this conference dealt heavily with race and gender.

Numerous panels during the 2012 conference  dealt with race.

For example, the titles of some of the panels were: Slipstreams of Race: Whiteness and Children’s Literature, The African Diaspora as Literary Slipstreams: African and African American Children’s Literature, Retell Me a Story: Re-visionings in African American Children’s Picture Books. Furthermore, the topics of the papers are just as interesting as their panel titles: “Stranger Than Fiction: Depicting Trauma in African American Picture Books” by Zetta Elliott, Borough of Manhattan Community College, “Don’t Judge a Book by Its Color: Whitewashing, Race, and Resistance” by Philip Nel, Kansas State University, and “Hybridity of Form: Re-reading African American Realistic Young Adult Novels” by Amy E. Cherrix, Simmons College just to name a few. It is interesting that books that are commonly thought of as unintelligent or not at the same level as other literature by today’s society deal with some of the most difficult subjects that not even adults want to deal with. We are still struggling today to comprehend and control the stereotypes of certain races that are ingrained in our culture. However, children and young adult literature is now the vehicle to start these conversations with children and with people in general. From a young age we can learn from books the differences of race that promote successful relationships versus negativity. We no longer have to wait until we are older to confront the subject of race.

Another subtopic under the umbrella of slipstreams is gender. From different research that I have done it seems like this is a topic that is continually researched in children’s and YA literature. So is the case with the ChLA Conferece on “Literary Slipstreams”. However, I found that this conference has also included topics of female and male gender. From what I have noticed, the main topics are usually centered on girls in children’s literature; so it is intriguing to see papers dedicated to male gender.

For example, the panel titles consisted of: No Such Thing as Mainstream Girlhood: Girlish Childhoods in Children’s Literature, Stepping into the FairyTale Slipstream: Re-reading Mermaids, Monsters, and Beasts in Fairy Tales and Fairy Tale Revisions, and Child is Father of The Man. Along with these panels, the papers focused on various gender issues with titles like: “Slippery Heroines: The Backfisch and the Ideal(s) of Female Adolescence” by Julie Pfeiffer, Hollins University, “To Prepare or to Protect: Early 20th Century Girls’ Books and the Paradox of Childhood” by Laine Perez, University of Texas at Austin, “Slipstreams and Riptides: Souls and Soullessness in ‘Undine,’ ‘The Little Mermaid,’ ‘The Light Princess,’ and ‘The Fisherman and His Soul’” by Naomi Wood, Kansas State University, “Walt Disney’s Boyhood Responses to Stories: The Origins of Disney’s Narrative Playfulness” by Mark I. West, University of North Carolina at Charlotte and “Slipping through the Past to Find the Future: The Quest for Manhood in Stoneheart” by Tammy L. Gant, United States Air Force Academy. Many of these papers are taking a look at various ideals or lessons these books are teaching and where they came from. I do believe gender will always be a topic of study in literature in general, but in children’s and young adult literature as well.

By looking deeper into the topic of the conference I have learned that: children’s and young adult literature is more than what is on the surface. Not that I have been oblivious to this (I am taking a Young Adult Literature course this semester) however, it reinforces that what people (children and young adults) read affects their understanding of the world. In order for us to promote children to be accepting and tolerant of others, I find it fitting for scholars to look at the ways in which literature does the same things.  It is important for these topics to be explored in depth at conferences because it is important to understand what the children and young adults are reading and embracing in their literary choices. Also, it shows that the topics adults find important in politics and their own lives like race and gender also have an effect on children and young adults. So pretty much, what the kids are reading is bigger than them; what they are reading is part of a larger conversation that they and we might not know about.

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Justice for Juniors: Trends in Children’s Literature

By: Molly Boylan

No longer can children just cuddle up with a nice novel without being infiltrated with double meanings and hidden statements. Nope, there is always a double meaning attached to these materials. For many years, the Journal of Children’s Literature has been decoding and exploring the different genres and themes of children’s and young adult literature with the help of scholars, teachers, librarians and students submitting their papers and research. In turn, this is the same audience for the journal. The articles that are commonly accepted in the journal are ones dealing with “research, theory, content analysis, instruction, and critical issues in children’s literature,” (Albright). The main trends among the most recent issues are children’s involvement in reading, social justice, and multiculturalism.

Foremost, a theme that I noticed to be throughout the journal is children’s involvement with the texts and in the journal articles. It seems as though some of the articles have acquired and synthesized what children are saying about the texts given to them.  By looking at the titles we can see this pattern: “In Search of the Ideal reader for Nonfiction Children’s Books about Dia de los Muertes” and “Becoming Characters: Deepening Young Children’s Literary Understanding through Drama,” (Journal of Children’s Literature Vols. 37-38). These articles seem to be asking the question: how can I get the students involved? Here, we can see the large emphasis put on understanding the readers. No longer is the child just reading the book, but they are becoming an active member in the discussions. There is great stress on having the children be able to analyze and read into the text. This would cultivate active learners rather than passive learners. Getting the children involved in the reading and implementation of the materials could be a reason why the following trends have also come about.

In the most recent issue of the Journal of Children’s Literature from Fall 2012, the most noticeable trend is social justice. Evidence of this trend can be seen in the titles of the various published articles: “Developing Understandings of Social Justice: Critical Thinking in Action Literature Discussion Group”, “Injustice and Irony: Student’s Respond to Japanese American Internment Picturebooks”, “Freedom Riders: A National Geographic Journey in Social Justice through Imagery”, and a poem entitled “The Activist” (Journal of Children’s Literature Vol.38). This trend can be derived from the recent social changes that are going on. For example, in movies such as The Hunger Games and The Batman series the main protagonist is pitted against a powerful source of injustice. For Katniss, it is the strongly unjust Capital making children fight to the death. For Batman, he is forcefully fighting against whatever villain is trying to take over Gotham. While watching the movie, the audience is silently cheering for justice to prevail over the antagonist. Thus, when goodness prevails the crowd is pleased. In the same way, novels and children’s books can be the source of this morality and activism being found in today’s generation.

Another trend that I found in the journal was an emphasis on the readers acceptance of multiculturalism. For example, titles like: “Some People Do Things Different Than Us: Exploring Personal and Global Cultures in the First Grade Classroom,” “My Story, Your Story, Our Story: Cultural Connections and Issues on Children’s Literature” and “I Have a Dream Too!: The American Dream in Coretta Scott King Award-Winning Books,” all have to deal with different cultures other than what the reader may be used to (Journal of Children’s Literature Vols. 37-38). These titles were taken from the 2011 and 2012 issues of the Journal of Children’s Literature. I theorize that this trend is in conjunction with the political debates and social debates of today. Furthermore, at the time, the acceptance of people “different than me” seems to be reigning in the newspaper headlines. Everyone has been calling for acceptance of other people beliefs, sexuality, religion, skin color and others, which is still happening today. By the children’s book being able to start this conversation, children will be able to grow up learning about acceptance and how there are different stories in life other than their own.

In closing, noticing the trends of young reader’s involvement, social justice, and acceptance of culture, will bring about a new understanding of the power of literature for children. There is a grand influence in the books children are reading. We need to accept it, step into the conversation, and act on it; just like the young readers are doing.



Works Cited

Albright, Lettie K.1. “Call For Manuscripts.” Journal Of Children’s Literature 38.2 (2012): 3-4. Education Full Text (H.W. Wilson). Web. 25 Feb. 2013.

The Journal of Children’s Literature 38.1 (2012): n. pag. Education Full Text. Web. 25 Feb. 2012.

The Journal of Children’s Literature 38.2 (2012): n. pag. Education Full Text. Web. 25 Feb. 2012.

The Journal of Children’s Literature 37.1 (2011): n. pag. Education Full Text. Web. 25 Feb. 2012.

The Journal of Children’s Literature 37.2 (2011): n. pag. Education Full Text. Web. 25 Feb. 2012.

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There is No “i” in English Major

by: Molly Boylan

After a discussion in class, I was taken aback to think about what kind of English major I am. In Marjorie Garber’s Use and Abuse of Literature, she gives examples of two different options of how someone should involve reading in their life.

Option one: spend all the time reading become pale and socially awkward being looked at as “out of place” at parties. (Alberti)

Option two: enjoying reading as it applies to life- not letting it “substitute for living” (42). (Birkett)

Automatically, I sided with option two thinking it sounded more practical. But after thinking more about it and then comparing it to my life, the truth hit me that I, indeed, embody option one. GASP!

I have spent the majority of my college life snuggled up with books rather than out living life. (Disclaimer: I do have friends and go out of the house) Yes, there are instances when I’ve skipped a reading or two, but they tend to be rare. This is what the life of an English major is.

BUT, what I noticed is when I do spend time reading I am then able to add to a larger conversation that is already taking place in time and throughout history. Being able to think and talk with people about what I have read and internalized makes it seem like not such a bad thing. We create this community of people who are constantly learning and discussing different topics which makes it an unselfish activity.

Thus, leading me to another wise point Garber makes: the use of allusion in texts. When there is the moment (the glorious moment) when I hear a comment about something I have read or studied, I automatically want to chime in and give my take on the matter.  This is the “in crowd” Garber was referencing. When we recognize an allusion in a text by a well-known author, it feels good to have read, laid eyes on, even encountered the same words as the author. There is automatically a feeling of being a part of the group. See what I’m saying? The more you spend time learning from texts; you do strangely become part of a group.

So, even though I may spend my time reading and studying alone, I am part of a group. The time that I spend reading is not just for me, but also so I can add to the conversation that is already out there. Therefore, there is no “I” in English major.

(Disclaimer: because I am an English major, I do know that there is indeed an “i” in English major)

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