CFP: Children’s Literature in Education – Special Issue Aesthetic Approaches to Baby Books

Aside from Perry Nodelman’s landmark article “The Mirror Staged: Looking at Pictures of Babies in Baby Books” (Jeunesse, 2010) and chapters in Emergent Literacy (edited by Bettina Kümmerling-Meibauer, 2011), few studies have paid attention to the aesthetics of books for infants up to three years old.

While, to some extent, baby books can be examined and analysed using the usual tools of picture book analysis and general narrative, stylistic and critical theories, it is puzzling that this huge and varied category of texts has not yet been granted its own theorisation. This may be, in part, because academic interest in the infant, who etymologically – as we are told ad nauseam – “does not speak”, is less obvious in literary fields than in the fields of neuropsychology or medicine, for which babies are an almost obsessive focus. Yet babies’ incommensurable differences in size, perception, literacy, comprehension, motricity, status, etc., to their peers even a couple of years older, warrant special examination, too, of the aesthetics of texts dedicated to them.

In this special issue, we want to consider the literariness and the artistic aspects of books intended for that very specific audience. We are looking for contributions on topics such as – though not limited to:

  • The poetics of books for babies
  • Theorising baby books
  • Genre, format and medium
  • Visual, sensory and tactile aspects of baby books
  • Bath books, pushchair books, toy-books and other object-books
  • Books for newborns
  • Characters in baby books
  • Baby books of colours, shapes, numbers, letters, etc.
  • Pop-up books for babies
  • Wordless baby books
  • Musical books and sound books for babies
  • Classic baby books and baby books as presents
  • Ideological or political approaches to baby books
  • Cognitive poetics and the baby book
  • Historical studies of baby books
  • Baby books in translation

Please send a 400-word abstract to Clémentine Beauvais, clementine.beauvais@york.ac.uk, before February 1st, 2022.

Authors of selected abstracts will be notified by February 15th, 2022 and a first draft of the article will be due on October 1st, 2022, for publication in 2023.

Selective bibliography

Bernstein, R. (2020). “You Do It!”: Going-to-Bed Books and the Scripts of Children’s Literature. PMLA, 135(5), 877-894.

Beveridge, L. (2017). Chewing on Baby Books as a Form of Infant Literacy: Books are for Biting. In More Words about Pictures, ed. P. Nodelman, M. Reimer & N. Hamer (pp. 18-29). Routledge.

Kümmerling-Meibauer, B. (Ed.). (2011). Emergent literacy: children’s books from 0 to 3 (Vol. 13). John Benjamins Publishing.

Nodelman, P. (2010). The Mirror Staged: Images of Babies in Baby Books. Jeunesse: Young People, Texts, Cultures, 2(2), 13-39.

Pereira, D. (2019). Bedtime books, the bedtime story ritual, and goodnight moon. Children’s Literature Association Quarterly, 44(2), 156-172.

Sundmark, B. (2018). The Visual, the Verbal, and the Very Young: A Metacognitive Approach to Picturebooks. Acta Didactica Norge, 12(2), Art. 12, 17 sider. https://doi.org/10.5617/adno.5642