Children’s Literature

ENG 383, Section 1, CRN 87047
Children’s Literature: The Young-Adult Cultural Fantasy Novel
Fall 2018
Instructor: Ida Yoshinaga (

Tuesday & Thursday 0900-1015a KUY 406

We will use the young-adult (YA) fantasy novel, especially that written by and for members of diverse cultural and regional communities, as a gateway for exploring major curricular and pedagogical issues within the exciting fields of children’s literature and children’s digital media.

Through reading several highly gendered and ethnic YA fantasy novels, we will evaluate story themes of what it’s like to grow up human while entangled in the sociocultural dynamics of heterosexism and gender identity, racism and ethnicity, colonialism and language hierarchies, religion and spirituality, and classism and capitalistic economy. We’ll also inquire into how the developing minds of children, teens, and young adults engage the family of fantastic genres: How can fabulist storytelling conventions such as myth, legend, folklore, fable, and commercial-fantasy tales (the ghost story; the monster-and-his-creator tale; the superhero narrative; the paranormal romance; etc.) serve as comfortable “cultural containers” through which to transport difficult societal topics into the imagination of young people–often more effectively than straight-dramatic, realistic “coming of age” stories that tend to receive many, if not most, children’s and YA literature awards?

As media scholars, we will also debate the politics of textual creation and production; YA authors’ (and fans’) agential roles in challenging the dominant structures of symbolic representation; readers’ interpretive strategies and story-decoding contexts, including the classroom teaching of such texts; and community members’ transmedia responses (for instance, home-made blogs, fan fiction, reading/study guides).

Bring your folkloric and mythical imagination; your critical sociological mind; your loving remembrance of what it felt like to encounter fantastical storytelling as a child, teen, or young adult; and your passion for great tales from all communities.

Course requirements:

– Reading Diversity in Youth Literature: Opening Doors Through Reading, by Jaime Campbell Naidoo & Sarah Park Dahlen.

3 short, 3-5 double-spaced page papers, each analyzing 2 of these required novels which we will review & discuss during the semester:
** Ash, by Malinda Lo
** Labyrinth Lost, by Melinda Cordova
** Children of Blood and Bone, by Tomi Adeyemi
** Written in the Sky, by Matthew Kaopio
** Telesa, The Covenant Keeper, by Lani Wendt Young
**Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley (free online courtesy of Project Gutenberg)

– Regular, informal responses in the Laulima Discussion Boards to topics raised by the above novels and other children’s/YA literary or media tales, usually started within class sessions after the instructor’s lectures
– Midterm “Halloween” creative-media project designed by a group of 2-3 students that advocates tweens or teens from a specific minority cultural, class, colonial, gender, or regional community read a specific YA novel, (narrative) media (such as graphic novel), or other fictional (made-up story) text. [This text can be of speculative/fantastic genre or not.] The group should address, cite, and engage particular issues, problems, examples, and quotes from at least 2 articles in the Diversity in Youth Literature textbook. Selection of media for presenting this project to the class is key. The group should marshal one or more information and communication technology (ICT) platforms such as streaming video, social media, web-based discussion or talk formats, or other expressive ICTs (digital-era or older technologies), to reflect both critical approaches to YA pedagogy and awareness of diverse cultural responses to YA literature including speculative/fantastic literatures. Near the end of October, use the classroom or Laulima ICTs to share your media project with everyone; see Ida so that she can set up that technology in advance for your talk.
– End of semester 15-minute oral presentation, accompanied with 15-20 PowerPoint slides, that constitute a critical version of a “book talk” or “book trailer,” which “sells” to librarians and to middle- or high-school teachers a widely published (or otherwise broadly distributed) fantastical story for tweens, teens, or young adults, which includes credible, thoughtful representations of a minority or marginalized community; the select text can be a novel or another scripted story form other than print literature, such as a comic-book series, a web-based video/s, a participatory “app” or videogame, or other non-traditional ICT for delivering fictional narratives.