Reviews 2016

Kinder- und Jugendliteraturforschung international [International Children’s- and Youth Literature Research]. Festschrift für Hans-Heino Ewers [Festschrift for Hans-Heino Ewers]

Kinder- und Jugendliteraturforschung international [International Children’s- and Youth Literature Research]. Festschrift für Hans-Heino Ewers [Festschrift for Hans-Heino Ewers]. Ed. Gabriele von Glasenapp, Ute Dettmer, and Bernd Dolle-Weinkauff. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 2014. 474 pages. $97.95 (hardback).

Hans-Heino Ewers is one of the most influential scholars in the field of children’s and youth literature in Germany and beyond. One of his outstanding achievements is his collaboration with colleagues from other countries and cultures all over the world in the field of children’s and young adult criticism. Therefore, it is not at all surprising that this collection of essays, which is dedicated to him and his work, is clearly focusing on the international field of children’s and youth literature, which is mirrored by essays written in German, English, and French. As the editors point out in the foreword, this collection of various topics and perspectives honors Ewers’s long lasting contacts with scholars worldwide. Read in this way, this collection becomes first and foremost a work that shows inter- and transcultural weavings of children’s and youth literature within different cultural backgrounds. It also includes literature from marginalized and non-western cultures and countries, which makes this book an important contribution to contemporary criticism.

While the lion’s share of essays comes from German scholars, colleagues from outside Germany—namely from the United Kingdom, Israel, Brazil, Denmark, France, Egypt, Spain, Hungary, Canada, India, South Korea, Japan, Austria, Indonesia, and the Netherlands—have also contributed articles to this diverse collection. Under the wide umbrella of international connections, the 32 essays address very different topics, theories, genres, and media. The variety of perspectives coming from this broad approach is grouped in four main parts within the book: Part I: Theory, Part II: Translations and Reception in Different countries, Part III: Individual Subjects, and Part IV: Media. While many different theoretical perspectives are brought together, the connections between most of the contributions are the different cultural perspectives on German literature and culture—just a few articles focus on the more general field of children’s and youth literature theory. This is why this collection is not so much about international perspectives in general, but rather about individual connections of German children’s and youth literature with other cultures and countries as well as translations of German children’s and youth literature to other languages. Moreover, some articles look into comparative studies, as Emer O’Sullivan's, for example. Finally, there are also important essays which focus on German children’s and youth literature from a native perspective.

As mentioned before, a few essays present perspectives on theory, such as Maria Nikolajeva’s discussion of literary canons in children’s and youth literature, or Peter Hunt’s profound article on the progress of English-Language children’s literature theory. In particular the first section on theory highlights aspects of general theory and is likely to capture the interest of readers from different backgrounds. To those readers who have a special interest in the reception of German children’s literature into various cultures and in world literature, the second part on translations and reception will broaden their knowledge and understanding of the development of literature for young readers. This part contains historical perspectives, such as analyses on the influences of German 18th-century children’s literature in Denmark, or insights into the historical development of children’s literature in countries such as Spain, Hungary, or even on the African continent, with its local development of post-colonial children’s and youth literature. In particular those essays which highlight cultures that are marginalized by the western world appear as highly valuable contributions to this collection, in particular Hoda Lotfy’s article on Egyptian-Arabic children’s song, Kodjo Attikpoé’s essay on identity development in and cultural functions of African children’s and youth literature, and Anto Thomas Chakramakkil’s article on Indian children’s literature. Noteworthy is also Veljka Ruzicka Kenfel’s article on Spanish children’s and youth literature at it includes a discussion of Catalan and Castilian culture.

Regarding German children’s and youth literature from a native perspective, the collection proves to offer diverse insights by including articles on cross-literature, drama, film and other genres. It is worth mentioning two articles—by Karin Richter and Gerd Taube—that draw attention to the past of a divided Germany with two different political systems and quite different literary fields, traditions and ideologies for young readers within East and West Germany. By focusing on diversity within Germany as well as on outer diversity, this book certainly mirrors the plurality that characterizes the field of literature, media, and culture for the young around the globe.

The variety of essays in this collection is with no doubt highly valuable. Following the idea of an international approach, the volume contains English papers as well as German ones, and even one paper written in French. Thinking of readers all over the world, one cannot help finding the multi-lingual setting problematic, especially since translating the foreword into English would have been useful. Also, there is no guidance through the different articles and sections. The lack of abstracts in English for articles by international scholars is also a disadvantage. The collection is no doubt published bilingually, leaning heavily towards German articles due to the fact that the book was published in Germany, and many German colleagues contributed (fair enough!) in their mother tongue. As a result, what on the one hand appears as a very interesting bilingual combination of German and international research is on the other hand of a limited value for international readers, who are not able to read contributions in German or French and therefore might miss an understanding of the German research, in which Hans-Heino Ewers was so successful. As a result, the main goal of the editors to highlight Ewers’s international connections comes up short and the chance to map out these interesting and important results from Germany to a bigger audience fizzles out. Certainly, this mirrors a reality in many non-English-speaking countries, and therefore the collection is mainly addressed to a German audience in the first place, and only partly to an international one. However, for those who can take advantage of this multilingual setting, and even more to all readers of German, this book certainly opens up new knowledge about the international character of children’s and youth literature.

Ada Bieber
University of Sydney, Australia