Åse Marie Ommundsen (1972), Ph.D., is an Associate Professor in Faculty of Education at Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences, Norway. She has her Ph.D. on Children’s Literature, with the thesis Litterære grenseoverskridelser. Når grensene mellom barne- og voksenlitteraturen viskes ut [Literary Boundary Crossings. Erasing the borders between literature for children and adults] (2010). Her earlier publications include a book on religious magazines for children from 1875 to 1910, Djevelfrø og englebarn. Synet på barn i kristne barneblader i perioden 1875 til 1910 [Devil Seeds and Little Angels: The view upon children in Christian children’s magazines from 1875-1910](1998). Her current interest is in contemporary Scandinavian children’s literature, crossover picturebooks and picturebooks for adults, on which she has lectured and published several articles in Norwegian, English, French and Dutch. Some recent publications: Åse Marie Ommundsen (ed): Looking Out and Looking In: National Identity in Picturebooks of the New Millennium (2013), “Tales of the King: Building National Identity in Contemporary Norwegian Picturebooks about the King” (In:
Ommundsen 2013), “Picturebooks for Adults” In: Bettina Kümmerling-Meibauer (ed): Picturebooks: Representation and Narration (2014), “La crossover littérature scandinave” (2011), “A World of Permanent Change Transformed into Children’s Literature: The Post-Secular Age Reflected in Late Modern Norwegian Children’s Literature” (2011), “Childhood in a multicultural society? Globalization, childhood and cultural diversity in Norwegian children’s literature” (2011), “Avkolonisert barndom, koloniserende teori? Internasjonal barnelitterær teori i konflikt med kunstnerisk praksis i samtidens norske barnelitteratur”(2012) [“Decolonized childhood, colonizing theory? International literary theory in conflict with artistic practices in contemporary Norwegian children’s literature”].
Ommundsen has been a jury-member of the Norwegian Literature Award Brageprisen 2000-2003 and 2012. She has lectured in international conferences all around the world. Member of International Research Society for Children’s Literature (IRSCL) since 1997, of Nordic Network for Children’s Literature Research (Norchilnet) since 2002, representing Norway in the board since 2006. In 2011 she arranged The Child and the Book in Oslo, and has been a member of the board of The child and the book since then. She is a member of the Norwegian research group Barne- og ungdomslitteraturen i et medialisert tekstunivers, and the leader of the research group Barnespråk og barnelitteratur: mangfold og verdier. In 2013 Ommundsen was awarded The Kari Skjønsberg – award for her research on children’s literature.
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Title: Challenging and controversial crossover picturebooks: fracture, disruption and a question of audience
When reading contemporary Scandinavian picturebooks, one may often wonder who they are aimed at. The blurring of the boundaries between children’s and adult literature is one of the ways in which late modern literature reflects a society where limits are constantly challenged, and where the borders between childhood and adult life are changing and partly erased. However, as there still is a difference between being a child and being an adult, I suggest that there is a border for what is children’s literature, or rather what is literature also for children.
The two crossover picturebooks to be discussed in my keynote are the Danish book De skæve smil [The Crooked Smiles] (2008) by Oskar K. and Lilian Brøgger, and the Norwegian book Krigen [The War] (2013) by Gro Dahle and Kaia Dahle Nyhus. De skæve smil [The Crooked Smiles] is a challenging picturebook about aborted foetuses, “those who never were born”. Krigen [The War] uses war metaphors to refer to a different kind of war, the war between two divorcing parents.
Both books are existential picturebooks, complex multi-layered texts, illustrated in a naive drawing style. They are challenging both thematically and in terms of their verbal and visual narrative devices. But unlike many other challenging Scandinavian crossover picturebooks, they are also controversial and likely to offend their adult reader. What makes these picturebooks not only challenging but also highly controversial? And who are these picturebooks really for?