The NCSCL has had a busy spring semester covering visiting children’s literature scholars, and this highlight will be the first in our forthcoming series. We also had the chance to interview Canadian scholar, Dr. Derritt Mason, who went into greater detail on his upcoming project and also provided us with recommendations on Canadian authors who write for the Queer YA genre. Stay Tuned! 

In February, San Diego State University experienced a rare “cold snap” when an occluded front moved into the area. However, visiting scholar, Dr. Derritt Mason (Assistant Professor in English) from the University of Calgary was “really happy to be wearing short sleeves” on his first trip down south to San Diego. But, the weather wasn’t the only thing undergoing change at SDSU’s new Digital Humanities Center.

Dr. Mason, who specializes in Children’s and Young Adult literature, as well as queer theory and cultural studies, opened his lecture by historicizing the publishing industry’s approach to representations of queerness and diversity.  Specifically, the queer YA genre, once known for producing texts based on themes of “loneliness and isolation… (and containing a rather large amount of dead pets), were now “out and proud” and focused on generating “coming-out narratives” with “positive affects—like hope and happiness.”

In his talk to SDSU students and faculty members, Mason discussed how John Donovan’s I’ll Get There. It Better Be Worth the Trip (1969), often “hailed as the first North American novel to openly represent gay themes…sparked a renewed investment in queer visibility” in its 2010 re-release. But, he noted, the specific (meaning, visible) “forms of queerness being represented in these newer texts for young people” also encounter a “tangling or conflict with occluded or latent queerness” found in media and literature. Mason paired Donovan’s novel with Laika’s ParaNorman (2012) film, whose production and cinematic debut seemed to echo this response of a “renewed investment in queer visibility” inspired by Donovan’s re-release. He connected this moment to the character of Mitch from ParaNorman, who refers to his “boyfriend” in a conversation with Norman’s sister at the film’s conclusion. In this part, Mason elaborated on the “range of responses” from critics. He cited how conservatives like Victor Medina called this moment a “sucker punch” which put “parents in the awkward position of having to discuss sex, especially gay sex, with children who are not emotionally mature enough.”

Mason also illustrated how other critics lauded this moment—Mitch was the “first openly gay character in a mainstream children’s movie—paralleling representations of gay identity for the first time in literature or popular media.” But, Mason was quick to qualify this comment. Even though Mitch had a “boyfriend”, Mason proffered how he could also be bisexual or pansexual, since he didn’t explicitly affirm his sexual identity as gay in the film.  

The core of Mason’s lecture centered on “occluded or latent queerness” represented in young adult/children’s literature and media. He challenged critics “who call for sexual resolution in Queer YA” and believe these books are only “good if characters grow into a coherent gay or lesbian identity at the end”, while “sexually ambiguous characters are seen as homophobic.” Although Mason emphatically believes critics are right to “highlight the risks of continually representing homophobia, anti-queer violence, and characters that are conflicted about their queer desires on the pages of YA,” he asked his audience to “consider what omissions, invisibilities, incompleteness, ambiguities, allow and invite" and how these are the moments to invite readers and critics that the acts of reading and resisting growth into a coherent LGTBQ identity instead of only focusing on how QYA has thankfully grown out forms of unresolved visibility sexuality.”

What Mason comes to understand through the works of Alexander Doty and Kathryn Bond Stockton is that “queerness is produced through the way readers read texts.” More specifically, it “speaks to how audiences generate diverse often pleasurable and sometimes subversive modes of identification and counter-identification in texts through their own reading and relational practices, regardless of the overt non-heterosexual context in a given text or how its reader might otherwise identify.”

While Donovan’s novel, I’ll Get There. It Better Be Worth the Trip, overtly leaves the sexual identities of Davy and Altschuler unresolved, Mason urges his audience to consider that critics ignore Davy’s most provocative and queer moments…[like his] powerful desire for delay, stasis and dwelling throughout the novel which are represented by his impulse to befriend a stuffed coyote at the museum, repetitive circular structure of his dreams, the way the delay is built into the title itself and the ‘sideways’ [referring to Stockton’s theory on the queer child] relationship with his wiener dog.”

One of the most insightful connections Mason makes is about the ambiguity reinforced in Donovan’s novel through Davy and Altschuler’s production of Julius Caesar, and how “it actually ends halfway so you never get the whole conclusion to the play.” Mason interprets this moment as an instruction manual for a queer reading because so many critics put emphasis on how people can interpret the end of the book, but the books itself actually contains a text where the characters choose to disregard the ending --so what does it mean to actually read Donavon’s novel as an instruction manual for disregarding endings when endings are the only thing that critics seems to care about where that book is concerned.”

Mason ties this moment in with ParaNorman and how “Norman’s way of seeing the world, his queer “spectator”ship is an integral part of coded queerness.” Norman, a young boy who can see ghosts, is alienated from his family and peers, and because of this Mason cites how the film invites its viewers “to consider how Norman himself is a ‘queer reader.’” “He literally sees the world differently than everyone else, interpreting and relating to it in ways that exceed the normative—‘paranormal’ in all senses of the word,” claims Mason in his talk. The crux of the movie centers on Norman finding Agatha, the ghost of a young dead girl, who was persecuted by Puritans for having powers similar to Norman. Norman’s task is to read a fairy tale to Agatha to lull her vengeful spirit back to sleep, but Mason offers that Norman “provides a queer reading with the fairy tale of ‘Sleeping Beauty’ and reworks the narrative into how it feels to “be an outsider.” Mason describes how Agatha “initially reacts violently and then asks ‘how does it end?’’ When Norman replies, “I think that’s up to you’, Mason analyzes this to be a gesture to the “malleability or queerability of stories” similar to Donovan’s use of Julius Caesar and the ambiguity of the conclusion in his novel.

In a beautiful turn, Mason remarks on the noteworthiness of Norman’s answer. He claims that when Norman “delivers this ‘it’s up to you’ reply in an over the shoulder shot with Agatha’s back to the camera”, Mason observes, “while Norman is facing Agatha” he’s also looking to the audience—“the ‘you’ includes both Agatha and viewers—reminding us spectators of our role and participation in the reading and interpretation of stories including the film currently unfolding before us.”  

Mason argues that ParaNorman first places “queerness at its fringe, then its center” and the film “spends most of its running time using Norman to set up a suggestive, connotatively queer story, and then the film lays bare the Mitch punchline at its conclusion, rendering explicit the film’s more camouflaged queerness.” But, Mason suggests that although “Mitch might be a defiant character in his potential subversion of audiences’ heteronormative assumptions, there is also something benign about his sexuality. The punchline through which Mitch outs himself at the end of the movie, indeed, relies on the banality of his gayness: he was dating another guy all along, but it wasn’t significant enough for him or the other characters to mention.”

Dr. Mason left his audience to ponder on these questions: “Does the imminent explosion of overtly queer media for young people mark the dwindling of those spectral, subversive queernesses that we queers have found so inspirational? Or can we still look forward to years of watching films, reading books, and, like Norman himself, searching for ghosts on the screen and page?”

 Profs. Phillip Serrato, Michael Borgstrom, 
Angel Daniel Matos, Derritt Mason, and Tishna Asim

Thank you to everyone who attended and made this lecture possible, especially Dr. Angel Daniel Matos who introduced Dr. Mason to SDSU. If you are interested in learning more about about Dr. Derritt Mason's research into queer visibility and occlusion in media, than check out his forthcoming book from University Press of Mississippi, Sites of Anxiety in Queer Young Adult Literature and Culture. 

You can also follow Dr. Mason on Twitter or email him at


Let’s be honest – toddlers are cute, curious and funny but they can also be challenging and highly erratic. Prone to tantrums, making a mess and not listening, often it can feel like they’re deliberately testing your patience and your sanity.

When it happens over and over again, it’s easy to slip into a negative mindset about their ‘misbehaviour’ and start taking it personally as parents. Because despite your best effort and guidance, your child is choosing to defy you and ‘make things difficult’, or so it seems.

Introducing toddler expert Anthony Semann

Anthony Semann sees things differently. A former early childcare educator who’s now a well-respected researcher and keynote speaker on the topic, he knows what really makes toddlers tick. He’s also a strong advocate for young children, who warns against using derogatory labels like ‘terrible twos’ and ‘three-nager’ and much prefers to present them in a refreshingly positive light.

At Babyology’s recent Tackling The Toddler Years workshop, he celebrated toddlers as “energetic explorers” and “tireless experimenters” while also acknowledging the tendencies they’re (in)famous for.

“As a toddler, I was not built to sit still, to keep my hands to myself, to take turns, to stand in line and to keep quiet all the time. I need motion, I need novelty, I need adventure, I need to engage in this world with my whole body, and I need to play.”

Then he shared this game-changer – a key to simultaneously understanding your little one and making parenting a lot less stressful:

“See the world through their eyes.”

A fresh perspective on toddlers

It’s a simple shift of focus, but it’s one he says can drastically change how you view your toddler’s behaviour. Seeing things from their point-of-view will help you understand their feelings and unravel the method in their madness. It will grant you more patience and empathy, which will dissolve any ‘us versus them’ animosity that’s been building.  

So when they crack it in the car in a traffic jam, it’s not because they’re being ‘emotional’ or want to make things worse, they’re just bored and want to get out (probably like you do).

“We just assume that children are born knowing how to behave and they [aren’t],” says Anthony. “They’re trying to figure out the behaviour of others and they’re trying to figure out the world around them. They may not behave in ways that we think are appropriate, but it is appropriate for someone who we still count their age in months.”

Reframed through this gentle lens, their behaviour becomes less about being deliberately disobedient or clumsy, and more about them slowly learning and navigating their brand new world.  With that in mind, some of toddlers’ most ‘annoying’ habits – like spilling food or drinks – can be seen more as developmental growing pains than them consciously trying to ruin your day.

“[They’re] moving from dependence to independence and again that can be really challenging when your toddler wants to feed themselves and you see half the food is actually on the ground, not in their mouth,” explains Anthony.

“They are going to drop things because they’re learning to take care of themselves … we sometimes think toddlers are out to get us but actually developing some coordination of your muscles takes a while and you fumble through it as a [young] human being.”

Sharing can be another pain point for toddlers but seen through their eyes, Anthony says it’s easy to see why they can struggle. Of course, they don’t want to give up their beloved toys with those random kids in the park no matter how much you insist on them being ‘nice’ – they’re their toys, after all! 

In this case, Anthony suggests parents lead by example and help show them the way.

“How am I going to teach a child to share? Well number one, I’m going to demonstrate sharing with them,” he explains. “So I’m going to sit at this dinner table with some pencils and some paper and I’m going to start colouring in. They’re going to be like ‘what?’ and I’ll say ‘I’d like to share with you’. That’s what I would do – intervene by teaching it.”

Above all, Anthony urges parents to celebrate their little ones, to be patient and understanding. They might be a handful but that’s because they’re learning, growing and blooming on a daily basis. Soon they’ll be bigger and onto the next phase, so enjoy this cheeky trip while it lasts.

This post is brought to you by NAN® Toddler, an event partner for the Tackling The Toddler Years workshop.


Lots of words can be used to describe my uncle  - a joiner, soldier, Dunkirk survivor, a skilled do-it-yourselfer, productive gardener, keen photographer, sailor  - and ballroom dancer. 

This week's prompt photograph from Sepia Saturday features a little lad, c. early 20th century, making a salute.  It    I immediately brought to mind the first photograph | have  of Harry.
Harry Rawcliffe  Danson (1912-2001) was the middle child of five, born to my grandparents William Danson and Alice English in Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire. His middle name came from his grandmother Maria Danson, nee Rawcliffe. The photograph above is the only one  I have of him as a child, and is part of a group photograph of the family, taken in 1916, as my grandfather set out to war.

Harry  followed his grandfather into becoming a joiner. and I remember him making a miniature table and chairs for my doll’s house.  Not surprisingly he was skilled in  do-it yourself.  

My next knowledge of Harry was from his army photographs.

Young man around town - look at that  hairstyle! 
The reverse of the photograph indicates it was taken in Salisbury -
when Harry was undergoing Army training? 

A formal Army photograph.

I think there is an Errol Flynn look about him here! 


This signed menu of December 25th 1939,   written in French and typed on very flimsy paper,  was found after his death amongst Uncle Harry's papers.    He was in France with the British Expeditionary Force, 9/17th Field Battery.  In the Sergeant's Mess,  breakfast was cold ham with piccalilli, eggs, coffee and roll and butter;  for dinner  - turkey with chestnuts, pork with apple sauce, potatoes, and cauliflower followed by Christmas pudding, apples, oranges, and nuts, with cognac, rum and beer - a wonderful feast in difficult conditions and testimony to the skill of the catering corps!

Five months later Harry was one of the many men evacuated from Dunkirk, saved by the flotilla of small ships.  Sadly many of the men who were at this meal may not have survived.   My mother used  to tell how Harry arrived back home from Dunkirk  still in the uniform in which he entered the sea to be rescued.   He never talked about his wartime experiences, but seeing commemoration services or documentaries on TV could bring tears to his eyes, so the memories remained very strong.

Harry  later served in North Africa.

Harry had a short lived marriage in the 1940's and never remarried.   He returned to his joinery trade after the war and  continued to live in the home of his childhood, renovating the house, and taking pride in his  garden,

I recall him taking his sister out for a Sunday run in his motor cycle and side car.    He then progressed to a car, extending  the driveway, and  turning the former hen house into a garage. He also had a small yacht which he sailed off the Fleetwood coast.

Living in Blackpool the natural home of ballroom dancing in the UK, Harry enjoyed a lot of time on the dance floor at  the Winter Gardens or on the Tower Ballroom  - and he was never short of partners!

 With a good friend, neighbour & dance partner, c.1970's. 

Harry was a keen photographer, at one time having his own dark room to develop pictures. He took this photograph of St. Chad's Church, Poulton-le-Fylde, noted for its carpet of crocuses in Spring.  Dansons back to 1736 were baptised, married and buried here. 

Harry lived  to the age of 89,  remaining active to the end of his life - and he retained his good looks!

 Harry Rawcliffe Danson (1912-2001)

Based on a blog profile first published in 2012


Sepia Saturday give bloggers an opportunity 
to share their family history through photographs.



Have you guys heard of the North Texas Fair and Rodeo that takes place in Denton every year?  No worries if you haven't.  I hadn't either.  Until last week.

Tab switched jobs earlier in the year and went to work for a client, Darr Equipment, here in Dallas.  Darr had a vendor booth in the fair all week, so we decided to throw caution to the wind and by that I mean-forget about early bedtimes during the first week of school and head over to the fair on Wednesday night.

My friend, Brooke, and her family all went too.  Her hubby works there as well.  We made it a big ole party!  The place wasn't busy at all!  At times it felt like we had the entire place to ourselves.

Our first stop was the Darr booth, of course.  ;)

It looked pretty good!

Then it was time for THE RIDES!  I'm telling you...Wednesday must be the night to go.  There were no waits for any ride.

A group pic with all the "big kids".

And what happened two seconds after the picture.

Britt was channeling her country-girl self with that farm dress.

It didn't take them long to get in the spirit.  #alltherides

I was shocked Britt wanted to ride, but I buckled her in, stepped back, and she LOVED IT!  See her friend, Willow, cheesing back there?

The guys were hollering at us to come watch...the boys all decided to ride the ride behind them.  I think Nix felt peer pressured with friends there...on his own he NEVER would have ridden it, but they survived!

A fun house decorated The Greatest Showman-style, yes-please!

It's no secret we are fans of a fair AND we love a rodeo.  My kind of night!

Love this mama friend of mine!

Bowen's request...BUMPER CARS!

This girl thinks she's big...we rode the carousel and she really preferred me not touch her.  She was out of luck though because these horses didn't have straps so I was holding on!

We grabbed snow cones and then made our way over to the rodeo!

We watched for a bit and then it was time for the calf scramble...that time in the rodeo when they tie a ribbon to a calf's tail, let the calf loose, and the first kiddo to grab the ribbon wins.

And they were off...Aiden Brooke's oldest kiddo won!  In case you're wondering, the prize was a North Texas Fair and Rodeo hat.  #winner

Before we'd completely lost our minds, we decided we better head back to McKinney and get all our people to bed.

We took one last group picture.

A kid group pic :)

And took a spin on the mechanical bull.

THEN we called it a night.  :)

This is something we'll add to our fall even though it's August and still crazy hot outside-school has started so it's fall in my book calendar.

Brooke made a cute vlog all about our night.  You can see it on her YouTube channel here.

If you're in the mood for a funnel cake, a spin on the Tilt-a-Whirl, or some bull riding next August, you should check out this spot.  Slaughters gave it SIX thumbs up!  #andthatssayingsomething


No. 78

Note: You can do a Google search for "A Family History Mission James Tanner" to see all the previous posts in this ongoing series. You can also search for "James Tanner genealogy" and find them or click back through all the posts.

I seldom include people in my photos because of privacy concerns. But this one is me and I don't really have much privacy left to be concerned about, so here is a photo of the Washington, D.C. Metro and our "private" car on the train. 

Nine months of our twelve-month mission have now passed. We are seeing some more of the Senior Missionaries who work with us at the Maryland State Archives start to leave and hearing about new missionaries coming to help us digitize records. We have had an interesting time here in Annapolis, Maryland. You can guess from my posts that we are not having the usual "missionary" experience. I can not post baptismal photos or happy groups of young missionaries smiling at the camera. Five days a week our schedule is almost the same. 

Some of these observations will be a bit repetitious, but here are some of the salient issues and experiences of the past nine months. 

We do not generally look like missionaries. We work in a very dirty environment with old records that create a significant amount of dust, mold, and pieces of disintegrating paper. This has been very hard for some of the missionaries. Since I grew up through the Scouting program, I am not much bothered by dirt but that does not make it any easier to keep our work areas and ourselves clean. We were encouraged to wear washable clothes. That turned out to be one correct assessment of what we are called upon to do. 

Our work is physically difficult and sometimes exhausting. We are called upon to lift heavy books and boxes. We stand or sit for long periods of time. We use muscles we haven't used for a long time or ever. I sometimes get back to the apartment and simply have to go to sleep for a while. Turning pages in a book or moving paper would seem to be easy unless you do it for eight hours.

We see so many interesting and sometimes funny things on the documents we process. Personally, I have come to value the work even more than I did before I began processing all the documents first hand. The amount of genealogical information in these records is enormous. Since some of the records are literally falling apart, this work is vital for the preservation of this information. Some of the Senior Missionaries have no previous experience in family history or genealogy. Some have taken this opportunity to learn all that they can and spend considerable time both learning and researching and others have simply ignored the subject altogether. Whether to use the missionary time to learn or do research is left entirely up to the individual. I just kept doing what I have been doing for the past 36 years and did my own family history research and helped others as I was able to do so. 

I have an increased perspective of doing research in both the Library of Congress and the National Archives. We have had the opportunity to help lots of people find names to take to the Temples. We have enjoyed helping and working in the Spa Creek Branch (Spanish). We have had a wonderful time with the members and seen their struggles to maintain a small Spanish speaking branch. We have seen what the leaders of the Branch can do to promote family history. Simply by encouraging the members to work on their family history and providing a venue during Sunday School in the building's Family History Center, participation by the members has skyrocketed. 

We have adapted to living in Annapolis, Maryland. We have figured out how to park on the narrow, crowded streets. We have learned how to negotiate the freeways and ride the Metro and busses. We still think driving here is a major life-threatening challenge, but we have survived so far. We fully understand why Washington, D.C. is listed as one of the worst places in the US to drive. In fact, Forbes lists it as the worst. Our own former hometowns of Mesa and Scottsdale rank in the top ten best places to drive.

Annapolis, Maryland is a very interesting town. We are surprised at how small it is. It has about a third the population of Provo, Utah. We appreciate the beautiful old buildings and houses. But old means almost inaccessible and difficult to negotiate. We are still learning and hope we don't get lost on our way out of town to return to Provo.

We love working with the other Senior Missionaries. They have all sacrificed a considerable part of their lives to come and do hard work at the Archives and the one couple assigned to the Naval Academy. They are fantastic in their dedication. We have enjoyed dinners together and even a barbeque. We have almost no contact with the other missionaries, either senior or young except the pair of young missionaries assigned to the Branch where we attend our Sunday meetings.

I am grateful for the opportunities we have had to help with conferences and presentations. We had one opportunity to go to a conference for FamilySearch and we enjoyed that. Everything we do with genealogy and FamilySearch seems to involve a lot of work.

We have enjoyed being near to Washington, D.C. and having the opportunity to visit so many of the museums and memorials. We are fortunate that both of us can still walk fairly long distances and have the health to do so. We have walked many miles in a single day. For example, yesterday we went to the Library of Congress National Book Festival and ended up walking about three and a half miles.

I will keep writing about our experiences until we return to Provo.


Everyone has gathered waiting for Pop to die. He has requested a party after he’s gone. So the family waits. He tells his granddaughter Ellie about the magical Button Box that has been kept under his bed for years and how it must be buried with him. And it is.

Pop’s lawyer knows the power of the Box from the Gleam country. He digs it up and steals away with it. Ellie sees him, but to avoid giving Oma more pain and suffering on this pain-filled day, she says nothing.

The Button Box carries a history of both good and bad happenings connected to its use. Nothing it could serve up or break apart could compare with the truths that Oma is forced to tell Ellie about her real identity. 

Ellie sets out to retrieve the Box and destroy it and all the bad luck it carries. Also to discover who she really is. On her way, she encounters Meridian, a future and past teller that recognizes the same gift in Ellie. She is the girl’s port in a storm.

Charged and interesting roles are played out in this novel. There is Nanny the talking goat with powers of her own, who protects Ellie and leads her to her destination. Luca, Meridian’s nephew, becomes the Lightning Boy after he discovers the hidden truths about his life. He too, sets out on a quest to find his roots.  He and Ellie have many things in common; they are strong, fearless, focused and courageous. Then there’s the mysterious ghostly old man that follows them, who neither eats, drinks or sleeps.

This is a mysterious magical quest for truth, identity, and reparation. It is designed to shine a light on the importance and necessity of stories handed down over time.  It is a movement of music in four parts. The story is made up of strands of the characters’ lives interwoven with the strongest strand being Ellie, in the middle, to hold it all together.   

Title: Shine Mountain
Author: Julie Hunt
Publisher: Allen & Unwin, $16.99
Publication Date: April 2018
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781760291501
For ages: 15+
Type: Young Adult Fiction


Author/Illustrator: Arree Chung

From the Book Jacket: In the beginning, there were three colors...Reds, Yellows, and Blues. All special in their own ways, all living in harmony - until one day, a Red says, "Reds are the best!" and starts a color kerfuffle. When the colors decide to separate, is there anything that can change their minds? A Yellow, a Blue, and a never-before-seen color might just save the day in this inspiring book about color, tolerance, and embracing differences. 

Why It's On My Bookshelf: My daughter has read this book about ten times since we got it. I cannot wait to share it with students. The message of kindness, getting along, and respecting one another is exactly how I would like kids to start their school year. Too many times our differences keep us apart and can sadly create an environment that does not feel inclusive or accepting. Building a positive school community is what matters most to me. Mixed - A Colorful Story supports that mission and will help children to be kind and caring towards one another. This one is a must for your home, classroom, and counseling curriculum!

A Link to This Book: