Panel Bios

Aishwarya Subramanian, O.P. Jindal Global University​

Dr Aishwarya Subramanian is an Assistant Professor at O.P. Jindal Global University in India, and researches children's literature, fantasy, spatiality and post-imperial Britain. Her PhD thesis (Newcastle University, 2017) examined the effects of decolonisation upon narrative spatiality in mid-twentieth-century British children’s literature. Her recent postdoctoral project “Networked Voices: Connecting BAME Activism in Children’s Literature,” the recipient of a Creative Economy Engagement Fellowship funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, investigated and visualised networks of antiracist activism in contemporary British children’s literature and was undertaken in partnership with Newcastle University and Seven Stories, Britain’s National Centre for Children’s books. She is co-editor of a forthcoming special issue of International Research in Children's Literature on “Curating National Histories” (2019).

Karen Sands-O'Connor, SUNY Buffalo State College

Karen Sands-O’Connor is professor of English at SUNY Buffalo State, and an emeritus Leverhulme Visiting Professor at Newcastle University in the UK where she worked at Seven Stories (the UK’s National Centre for the Children’s Book). She focuses on Black British and Caribbean children’s literature as well as global migration, most notably in her two monographs, Soon Come Home to this Island: West Indians in British Children’s Literature (Routledge 2008) and Children’s Publishing and Black Britain, 1965-2015 (Palgrave Macmillan 2017), and her edited (with Marietta Frank) collection, Internationalism in Children’s Series (Palgrave Macmillan 2014). She regularly mentors international students and scholars, is a twenty-year member of the International Society for Research in Children’s Literature, and has published in international journals, including Bookbird, Interjuli, and Papers: Explorations into Children’s Literature.

Ikram Belaid, University College London

Ikram Belaid is a PhD student at University College London. She researches Young Adult fantasy fiction and publishing. Her research centres on YA tropes, diversity, and inclusivity, with a specific interest for Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse world. She is currently working in the Foreign Editions department at Usborne Publishing, and she is also a member of the YA literature, culture, and media association. She tweets @ikram_reads.   

Karin Westman, Kansas State University

Dr. Karin E. Westman serves as Associate Professor and Department Head of English at Kansas State University, where she teaches and conducts research on 20th and 21st century British literature, including children's / young adult literatures and women's literature. She has presented and published on Virginia Woolf, A.S. Byatt, Pat Barker, Georgette Heyer, Helen Fielding, Jeanette Winterson, Zadie Smith, Meg Rosoff, Philip Pullman, Terry Pratchett, Noel Streatfeild, and J. K. Rowling as well as genre studies, digital humanities, and modernism. For the past ten years she has served as co-editor of the journal The Lion and the Unicorn (Johns Hopkins UP). Her next book will be J.K. Rowling’s Library: Harry Potter in Context.

Parinita Shetty, University of Leeds

Parinita Shetty is an early career researcher from Mumbai. She has worked with young people and books in India in various ways - as an author of three children’s books, a bookseller and editor in a children’s bookshop, a reading programme developer, and a coordinator of a children’s literature festival. She completed her M.Ed in Children’s Literature and Literacies from the University of Glasgow in 2017. She is currently a first year PhD candidate at the University of Leeds. Her research interests include children’s literature, young people’s culture in digital and social media, and online fan communities, specifically their potential to develop critical literacies and their role in providing space for marginalised cultures and transcultural perspectives. She studies fan communities as a scholar-fan, and identifies as both a Ravenclaw and a Hufflepuff. She should currently be writing but is probably watching Doctor Who.

Stephanie Toliver, The University of Georgia

S.R. Toliver is pursuing a Ph.D. in Language and Literacy Education at The University of Georgia. Her current research is based in the critical tradition, analyzing young adult speculative fiction in an effort to promote social justice and equity in the English classroom. Within this research area, she focuses on representations of and responses to people of color in speculative fiction texts to discuss the implications of erasing youth of color from futuristic and imaginative contexts. Toliver’s research interests include speculative fiction, narrative analysis, Afrofuturism, and Black girl literacies.

Jewel Davis, Appalachian State University

Jewel Davis is an Education Librarian in a PreK-12 Curriculum Materials Center at Appalachian State University’s Belk Library and Information Commons. She works with pre-service teachers and practicing K-12 teachers on selecting and evaluating youth literature, using instructional technologies, and developing practitioner-based research skills. Many of her workshops and classes have focused on building inclusive classroom libraries and text sets by examining representation in youth literature. As a former high school English teacher, Jewel is devoted to advocating for youth and promoting the use of authentic texts. Jewel writes book reviews for Voice of Youth Advocates, serves as Chair of the North Carolina Library Association’s Round Table for Ethnic Minority Concerns, is a judge for the We Need Diverse Books author mentorship program, and is a member of the 2020 Coretta Scott King Book Awards Jury.

Elizabeth Leung, University of British Columbia      

Elizabeth Leung is a graduate student in the Master of Arts in Children’s Literature Program at the University of British Columbia. Her interdisciplinary research interests include disability studies, genre studies, posthumanism, and creative writing for children and young adults.

Kit Kavanagh-Ryan, Deakin University

Kit Kavanagh-Ryan is a librarian, writer, and academic based in Melbourne, Australia. She holds a Masters of Information Management from RMIT University and is completing a PhD at Deakin University, specialising in children’s fiction, disability and secondary worlds. She teaches Literacy, Literature and Community Programs for Children and Youth at RMIT University. Her poetry and essays can be found in Southerly Journal, Kill Your Darlings, and Cordite Poetry Review.


Anna Purkiss, University of Cambridge

Anna Purkiss is a second-year PhD student at the Centre for Research in Children’s Literature at Cambridge, researching children’s responses to representations of disability in contemporary children’s fiction. She is supervised by Prof. Maria Nikolajeva and Dr Kristine Black-Hawkins and is funded by the Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge.

Élodie Mandala, Independent Scholar                      

Élodie Mandala received her PhD from the UniversitéSorbonne Nouvelle (Paris, France) in 2017. She has worked as a script doctor and screen writer and as a dancer. She’s also been blogging about creative ways to deal with cancer. She now works at the International Youth Library in Munich, where she is responsible for the educational projects. Her book about the pitfalls of good intentions in children’s and youth novels about Africa has been published in France(HonoréChampion) in July 2019. 


Shushu Li, University of Glasgow

Shushu Li is a second year PhD researcher at the University of Glasgow, School of Education, Children Literature Division. She obtained the full funding from the University and the Chinese Government to carry out her PhD research about children in the late 20th century British and Chinese Literature. She obtained her Master Degree in the University College London (UCL), Comparative Literature in 2016 and Bachelor Degree in the Contemporary English Language and Literature from the Hong Kong Baptist University (Zhu Hai). Her research interests are young adult literature, children literature, Asian diaspora literature, utopian/dystopian literature and trauma writing. Her academic article 'Utopia or Dystopia? The Representation of Humanity in Lois Lowry's The Giver (1993), J.M Coetzee's The Childhood of Jesus (2013) and Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go (2005)' was published in the British Fantasy Society Journal in 2018. She presented her research about American Chinese Diaspora Literature in the London Intercollegiate Network for Comparative Studies (LINKS Conference) in 2016 and the Historical Perspective Conference in Glasgow. Besides academic research, since undergraduate, she started English creative writing, her works such as Dream Recorder, Time Capsule and Biking Adventure were finished and she would like to find chances to publish both in English and Chinese. Her online travel writings were popular and received more than 120000 views in 2017, and some of them were used by the social media of Tourist Administration in the UK such as Bath.​


Sara Van Den Bossche, Tilburg University

Sara Van den Bossche is Assistant Professor of Children’s Literature Studies at Tilburg University (the Netherlands). In her doctoral dissertation (Ghent University, Belgium, 2015), she scrutinised the reception and canonisation of Astrid Lindgren’s works in Flanders and the Netherlands. Her main teaching and research topics are ethnic and cultural diversity, literary competence, canonisation, adaptation, picture books, and crossover literature. As from September 2019, she will be teaching in the Erasmus Mundus International Master “Children’s Literature, Media, and Culture” (CLMC). She co-edited the well-received volume Never-ending Stories. Adaptation, Canonisation and Ideology in Children’s Literature (2014). Her recent publications include articles in Children’s Literature Association Quarterly, DiGeSt – Journal of Diversity and Gender Studies, The Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth, and Diggit Magazine, as well as the co-written research report Beyond the Mirror? Children’s Literature through the Lens of Ethnic and Cultural Diversity (Stichting Lezen, 2019). She serves on the editorial board of the journal Literatuur zonder leeftijd and on the advisory board of Barnboken. Currently, she is guest editing special issues of Children’s Literature Association Quarterly and Barnboken. She has served on the jury of the Jenny Smelik-IBBY prize for cultural diversity (2016/2018), the Charlotte Köhler Stipend (2017), and the Theo Thijssen Prize (2018).

Nicole Kennedy, University of Newcastle, Australia

Nicole Kennedy is a PhD candidate at the University of Newcastle, Australia, writing a critical thesis exploring the development of post-apocalyptic worlds in young adult dystopian fiction, and what role these physical, non-human environments play in the development of young adult human identity. Nicole is interested in how the physical environment becomes embedded on, and embodied by, the human subject, and how an understanding of the physical non-human world impacts the development of adolescent female agency. Nicole has been awarded a Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Arts Honours from the University of Newcastle, as well as a Master of Arts with a specialisation in Children's Literature from Macquarie University.​

Patricia Kennon, Maynooth University, Ireland

Dr Patricia Kennon is a lecturer in children's and young-adult literature in the School of Education, Maynooth University, Ireland. She is the President of the Irish Society for the Study of Children’s Literature, a former Editor in Chief and Features Editor of Inis: The Children’s Books Magazine, and a former President of iBbY Ireland, the Irish national section of IBBY. Her research interests include gender in youth literature and popular culture, intercultural education, and young-adult science fiction.​

Rachel Skrlac Lo, Villanova University

Dr. Rachel Skrlac Lo is an assistant professor at Villanova University, where she teaches graduate and undergraduate courses on diversity and inclusion in education, literacy and English Language Learning, philosophy of education, and a newly designed course on childhood. Her research concentrations are critical discourses analyses of children’s literacy events and critical content analyses of children’s and YA literature. Rachel Sorrentino is a graduate student in counseling at Villanova University.​