The Child and the Book: Endnotes

By Debbie

Final conference roundup; normal service will be resumed next week.

Conferences are odd things. You put up a call for papers on a website, send round a few exhortatory emails, and then people from all over the globe book plane tickets, pack their bags and descend on you for the weekend. And you have no idea who is going to turn up. On Friday I spoke to a day visitor who said she'd had thoroughly enjoyable and satisfying afternoon. She turned out to be a retired physicist, who was visiting Cambridge for the weekend and thought she would enhance the whole experience by sampling a conference. Conference tourism – now there’s an interesting concept. Next time you plan a holiday, why not take in a poster session on particle physics?
Among the people who came to say thank you at the end was someone from the field of Applied Linguistics. Actually she did have a professional interest in that she was using picturebooks for language learning purposes. And she observed that the atmosphere was different from the conferences she was used to; she thought the children’s literature community seemed to be a very supportive, welcoming one.  Actually, since it was an interdisciplinary conference we were quite a mixed lot: not only did we have papers from Children’s Literature scholars but also from researchers in Philosophy, English, History and Education. But there was a lovely atmosphere. There are undoubtedly all sorts of reasons for this, but here are some of the things that probably contributed, in no particular order:

It was brilliant that throughout the weekend real books were the backdrop. Whenever we were gathered together, for keynotes or coffee, we were surrounded by books of all kinds: picturebooks, children’s fiction and poetry, young adult novels and academic volumes. And we were so lucky to have the Norfolk Children’s Book Centre with the wonderful Marilyn Brocklehurst, who always insists that the success of her weekend is gauged by levels of enthusiasm rather than takings. 

Friday 2pm; it was never so quiet or tidy again

Having a dining hall that looks like Hogwarts probably helps.

Candles and everything

Backup (aka Support Owls)
A team of support helpers, identified in this case by shiny owly badges, hence ‘Support Owls’. Or, it might have been owing to the way they swooped in whenever help was needed and offered wise words to anyone in need of advice. Basically, they ran the show, taking care of registration, conference packs, room set-up, signage, badges, water for speakers, computer support… Most of these extraordinary individuals moderated sessions and gave their own papers as well. 

A Support Owl, being supportive
Same Support Owl, being an owl


One of the goodies in the party bag, or Conference Pack. No ordinary pen, this, but a lovely silver and grey Cambridge University one: more insightful notes guaranteed, or your money back.

Official conference pen
(notebook not included)

Birthday cake 
An absolute must; improves the mood of any conference. Everyone always likes a birthday cake. Plus, it means you can get everybody joining in with ‘Happy Birthday to you ...’, thus kicking things off with a spot of choral singing – the physical, psychological and sociological benefits of which are well-documented. And of course this creation continues the tradition started at our Children’s Literature Centre open days, where the possibilities of children’s literature and new media were taken into new territory by Zoe Jaques. Followers of Jaques' work will recognise this as her interpretation of the conference logo

Cake for Nigel Warburton,
at the Friday night wine reception


Blue sky
So glad we remembered this in our planning.


Persuading more than 100 people out of coffee and conversation and into parallel sessions is not easy. Enter the trusty triangle of timekeeping.

This is not a bell.
This being a philosophy conference,
it might not be a triangle either.