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  • For the Record
  • Mavis Reimer

This year marks the fortieth anniversary of the inaugural publication of Canadian Children’s Literature / Littérature canadienne pour la jeunesse (CCL/LCJ), the predecessor journal to Jeunesse: Young People, Texts, Cultures. The number forty is used to signify a “common duration of critical situations” within traditions of symbolic and rhetorical uses of numbers, the successful completion of which marks a transition to a new phase for an individual or group (Buttrick et al. 565). This year also marks the end of my tenure as lead editor of Jeunesse. For both symbolic and personal reasons, then, this fortieth anniversary seems an appropriate time to look backward at where we have been as a journal and forward to where we can see ourselves going in the future.

An outline of the history of CCL/LCJ from its beginnings in 1975 at the University of Guelph to its move to the University of Winnipeg in 2005 is recorded on the archival website of that journal, located at <http://ccl-lcj.ca>. As long-serving CCL/LCJ co-editor Mary Henley Rubio notes there, the founding editors—John Robert Sorfleet, Elizabeth Waterston, Glenys Stow, and Rubio—understood themselves to be filling a major gap in the information available to Canadian readers: at the time, there was no “source for locating in-depth information about Canada’s literature for children,” with only occasional, “short, descriptive reviews of children’s books” available in two publications that were directed to the book trade and the library market (“History”). The new journal—known at first by its English title only—clearly represented itself as “meant to serve those who guide children’s reading in schools, in libraries, at home,” as Sorfleet put it in the editorial in the first issue (“Editorial” 5).

Like many of the intended readers of CCL/LCJ, several of the editors were interested in children’s reading as personal as well as professional projects. Rubio’s family, for example, had emigrated from the United States to Canada in 1967, and she was keen to ensure that her children learned about the culture in which they were living. It seemed, however, that all of their school books were produced in the United States. [End Page 1] She was startled one day to be asked by one of her daughters to explain “why America had all the heroes and Canada had none” (Message, 27 Nov. 2015). In a recent recollection of the early discussions about the mandate of CCL/LCJ, Rubio notes that the goal of their enterprise was “very simple”: “to stimulate the development of a contemporary Canadian literature for children” (Message, 7 Nov. 2015). The editors believed that the production of a vibrant industry was a circular process: with access to good information about Canadian books for young people, teachers, librarians, and parents would purchase these books; with evidence of a market for the books, Canadian publishers would publish children’s books; and with some confidence that books for children would be published, Canadian writers would create such books. In this view, a robust Canadian book industry began with lively conversations about books. An anonymous reviewer of a 1977 application from the journal for operational funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) concluded that the journal was succeeding in meeting this objective. In his final editorial in 1980, Sorfleet quoted the reviewer’s observation that the “unique contribution” of CCL/LCJ was that “it has gone far to create its own field of interest, and that is an important one for our country” (“Fantasy” 5).

While the goal of the founding editors does not seem “very simple” in retrospect, the context of Canada in the 1970s was hospitable to such a national project of cultural production. As Sheila Egoff and Judith Saltman note in their history of Canadian children’s literature in English, children’s literature became an established institution during the decade as a result both of official government policies and of popular political sentiment. The material conditions of possibility for the flourishing of the industry were put into place with the influx of federal and provincial government funding for book publication...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1920-261X
Print ISSN
1920-2601
Pages
pp. 1-15
Launched on MUSE
2016-02-28
Open Access
No
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