Last summer, I had the extraordinary opportunity to co-direct a month-long University of Washington iSchool study abroad children’s literature course to New Zealand (also known by its Maori name, Aotearoa) and Australia with Michelle Martin. The course had an Indigenous focus – we met Maori and Aboriginal authors, publishers, librarians, storytellers, and more! Through this immersive experience, all of us — ten grad students, two undergrads, and the co-directors — developed a deep appreciation for the richness and breadth of the children’s literature scene Down Under. Needless to say, I was very happy to see Dr. Kasey Garrison’s JRLYA article, “What’s Going on Down Under? Part 1: Portrayals of Culture in Award-Winning Australian Young Adult Literature,” which brings more of these titles to the notice of readers in the US. You’ll find it in the March 2019 themed issue, “Movements That Affect Teens.”
Articles in JRLYA are wide-ranging in their concerns, and relevant to both practitioners and researchers. With this article, practitioners may focus more on the collection development implications. The two appendices work well for this purpose – librarians can see easily which themes (class, disability, gender, immigration, Indigenous Australians, language, the LGBTQIA community, race/ethnicity/nationality, and religion) may be found in each of the twenty-four book sample, and the article introduces readers to two major awards: the Children’s Book Council of Australia’s Book of the Year for Older Readers (chosen by adults) and the Centre for Youth Literature’s Gold Inky Award (selected by teens). Researchers may be as interested in the method – the article is a critical content analysis – as in the findings.
Looking at portrayals of culture in YA books is timely, considering the robust discussion around diverse books in this country, and the paper extends this important conversation beyond books first published in the US. I am looking forward to Part 2, in which Dr. Garrison will look at the implications of the relatively poor representation of Indigenous Australians in the sample.
Annette Y. Goldsmith
Member, JRYLA Advisory Board