An Illinois State University Scholar has won one of the most prestigious awards in children's literature. Distinguished Professor Roberta Seelinger Trites is a Brothers Grimm honoree for her analysis and criticism in the field.
The International Institute for Children’s Literature, Osaka, Japan gives the award every couple years. This is the 16th award.
It recognizes research and development into children’s literature. Trites said she's overwhelmed and astounded.
"I never thought an award of this magnitude would come to me," said Trites.
She will accept it and make a presentation in Osaka, Japan, this fall.
The Brothers Grimm, for whom the award was named collected the tales of people, mainly women, and gave the stories structure and order. The Grimm’s goal was to create a sense of German nationalism at the time.
While the Grimm’s arranged these stories, they revealed tropes that Trites said we still see across the world in children’s literature today. An example is the child leaving home and then returning home, like in the story of Hansel and Gretel. Another is the magic number of three. Trites said this triadic approach is a narrative structure, and authors put them in their children stories to get the children to understand that structure.
Trites is an advocate for Transnational Literary criticism, which looks at stories for children across the globe. She described American literature as optimistic, upbeat, and happy. She said most American authors want to continue to protect a child’s innocence. Trites, however, believes if we protect them too much, they won’t be taught resilience.
“No one can make it through life without experiencing grief,” said Trites.
Other countries focus on darker themes to teach children, at a young age, about the toughness of life. Trites said the Scandinavian countries have literature focused on childhood darkness, and Japanese authors often bring up loss, grief, and recovery.
Roberta Trites also has a forthcoming book, 21st Century Feminisms in Children and Adolescent Literature. Within the book, she focuses on girls and feminism. She said she believes feminism has shifted its message from all boys and girls are equal to more on the embodiment of the female, and the importance of recognizing that. She concludes the book with what she believes to be the most important gesture that comes with embodiment.
“It is the recognition that we must all be interconnected through caring for a child’s body,” said Trites.
Trites served as the president of the Children’s Literature Association in 2006 and 2007, and as editor of the Children’s Literature Association Quarterly from 2000 to 2004. According to an ISU news release, she worked to shift the association’s focus from a primarily North American view to a more international perspective and to enhance its academic rigor.
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