Graduate Student Essay Awards

Established by the ChLA Board in 2005 to parallel the Carol Gay Award for undergraduate essays, the Graduate Student Essay Awards recognize outstanding papers written on the graduate level in the field of children’s literature. They are considered annually and awarded as warranted. In 2008, the ChLA Board approved giving two separate awards each year, one for an essay written at the master’s level and one for an essay written at the doctoral level.

Submission Period:

December 15 - February 1

Submission Guidelines:

  • Submissions should demonstrate familiarity with previous scholarship and should contain original, distinctive ideas.

  • They should be at least 3000 words in length and should not exceed 7500 words, including notes and works cited.

  • They should conform to MLA style.

  • Work should not have been published at time of submission.

  • Nominations should be submitted electronically on behalf of the graduate student by a faculty member and must be accompanied by a cover letter from that faculty member. Only two submissions per year per faculty member will be accepted. The graduate level of the nominee should be noted in the cover letter so that the essay can be evaluated with the proper peer group.  This award may only be won once by an individual student at each level (Master’s, PhD); previous winners will not be eligible.

  • Names and contact information (street address and email address) for both the student and the sponsor should appear in the cover letter only. Submissions will be forwarded from the ChLA office to the members of the ChLA Graduate Student Essay Awards Committee and read blind (without the accompanying cover letter).

Past Graduate Student Essay Award Winners:

2022 Graduate Student Essay Award Winners
MA Winner: Valerie Longo for “peak Softly and Wear a Gentle Mask: Vulnerability as Part-Survival, Part-Resistance”, sponsored by Dr. Sarah Minslow (California State University – Los Angeles) 

MA Honor: Hai Nin Yeoh for " What Do the Children Say?: Children’s Voices on Gender Stereotyping in the Literature for Malaysian Classrooms ", sponsored by Dr. Huey Fen Cheong (University of Malaysia) 

2021 Graduate Student Essay Award Winners
Ph.D. Winner: Dawn Copeland for "Reclaiming Space by Stepping Out of Time: Coming-of-Age in Postcolonial India in The Room on the Roof and Udaan", sponsored by Poushali Bhadury (Middle Tennessee State University)

MA Winner: Amanda Becker for "A Story in Fragments: An Analysis of Poetry and Perspective in October Mourning", sponsored by Lisa Rowe Fraustino (Hollins University)

MA Honor: Hannah Mummert for "Little Bodies, Little People: Conflating the Child and the Dwarf in The History of Sir Thomas Thumb", sponsored by Eric L. Tribunella (University of Southern Mississippi)

2020 Graduate Student Essay Award Winners
Ph.D. Winner: Stephen Dudas for "A Girl Verses the World: Belonging and the Poetics of Asian American Childhood in Thanhha Lai’s Inside Out and Back Again", sponsored by Sara Austin (Miami University)

MA Winner: Dustin Vann for “'Sissy that walk!': RuPaul’s Drag Race and the Mainstreaming of Drag Culture in Children’s and Young adult Literature", sponsored by Anne K. Phillips (Kansas State University)

2019 Graduate Student Essay Award Winners
Ph.D. Winner: Adam Szetela for “An (Anti)Neoliberal Christmas”, sponsored by Angela E. Hubler (Kansas State University)

Ph.D. Honor: Minjin Park for "The Passage to Body in Story: A Cognitive Approach to the Formal Aspects of Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book", sponsored by Claudia Nelson (Texas A&M University)

Ph.D. Honor: Corinne Matthews for “Contraception, Consent, and Community in Kristin Cashore’s Graceling Trilogy”, sponsored by Kenneth B. Kidd (University of Florida)

MA Winner: Gema Ludisaca for "Bumps in the Night and The Dark: How Fear can Promote Agency in Children’s Picture Books", sponsored by Jackie Stallcup (California State University)

MA Honor: Molly Burt for "“Perfectly Normal, Thank You Very Much”: An Examination of Dichotomous Hybridity as a Tool in Harry Potter", sponsored by Karin Westman (Kansas State University)

MA Honor: Kathryn Hampshire for “The Spaces Between Us: Magic, Myth, and Memory in Laura Ruby’s Bone Gap”, sponsored by Megan Musgrave (IUPUI)

2018 Graduate Student Essay Award Winners
Ph.D. Winner: Elsa Hardy for “"Illustrating Incarceration: Visual Representations of the State in Children’s Literature on Familial Incarceration", sponsored by Robin Bernstein (Harvard University)

Ph.D. Honor award: Lettycia Terrones for “"Pedagogies of the Home in the Art and Narrative of Chicanx Picturebooks", sponsored by Elizabeth M. Hoiem (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)

MA Winner: Mandy Moore for “Her Dark Materials: Milton, Pullman, Fanfiction, and the Anxiety of Author(ity)”, sponsored by Naomi J. Wood (Kansas State University) 

MA Honor award: Sophia Martinez for “Cosmopolitan Masculinity and Empire as Child’s Play in Treasure Island”, sponsored by Claudia Nelson (Texas A&M University) 

2017 Graduate Student Essay Award Winners
Ph.D. Winner: Amanda Greenwell for “Jessie Willcox Smith's Critique of Teleological Girlhood in The Seven Ages of Childhood," sponsored by Victoria Ford Smith (University of Connecticut).

Ph.D. Honor award: James Joshua Coleman for “From Penguin Parents to Sissy Ducklings: Challenging the Homonormative Future of 21st Century LGBT-themed Picture Books,” sponsored by Ebony Elizabeth Thomas (University of Pennsylvania).

MA Winner: Jessica Followell for “Miracle Cures and Moral Lessons: Victorian Legacies in Contemporary Representations of Children with Disabilities," sponsored by Elizabeth Hoiem (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign).

2016 Graduate Student Essay Award Winners
Ph.D. Winner: Krystal Howard for “The Verse Novel for Young Readers: Collage, Confession, and Crisis in Jacqueline Woodson’s Brown Girl Dreaming,” sponsored by Gwen Athene Tarbox (Western Michigan University).

Ph.D. Honor award: Mary Stephens for “Judy Blume’s Big Fat Problem: Bullying, Femininity, and Weight in Blubber,” sponsored by Eric Tribunella (University of Southern Mississippi).

MA Winner: Rebecca Leigh Rowe for “’But Mother, I’m a Man Now’: Adapting Childhood in the Musical and Film Versions of Into the Woods,” sponsored by Anne Phillips (Kansas State University).

MA Honor award: Sierra Hale for “Soldering Together Young Adult Science Fiction: Implicit and Explicit Racial Spaces in Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles,” sponsored by Joe Sutliff Sanders (Kansas State University).

2015 Graduate Student Essay Award Winners
Ph.D. Winner: Clare Echterling for "Individualism, Environmentalism, and the Pastoral in the Children's Biographies of Wangari Maathai," sponsored by Giselle Anatol (The University of Kansas).

MA Winner: Meghan Radosevic for "Blood Money: The Commodification of Menstrual Education through American Girl's The Care and Keeping of You Series," sponsored by Ramona Caponegro (Eastern Michigan University).

MA Honor award: Holly Batty for "Picturing Animality in Emily Hughes' Wild," sponsored by Jackie Stallcup (California State University, Northridge).

2014 Graduate Student Essay Award Winners
Ph.D. Winner: Tyler Sasser for “The Snowy Day in the Civil Rights Era: Peter’s Political Innocence and Unpublished Letters from Langston Hughes, Ellen Tarry, Grace Nail Johnson, and Charlemae Hill Rollins,” sponsored by Jameela Lares (University of Southern Mississippi).

MA Winner: Rachel Rickard for “Are You An Artist Like Me?!: Critical Reading and Reader Interaction within the Worlds of Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Dork Diaries,” sponsored by Ramona Caponegro (Eastern Michigan University).

MA Winner: Chelsea Bromley for “New Picture Book, Old Cinema: The Invention of Hugo Cabret,” sponsored by Annette Wannamaker (Eastern Michigan University).

2013 Graduate Student Essay Award Winners

Ph.D. Winner: Marilyn Bloss Koester for "Pygmalion Revisited: Aesthetics and Agency in Louisa May Alcott’s An Old-Fashioned Girl," sponsored by Lorinda B. Cohoon (Memphis University).

Ph.D. Winner: Paige Gray for "The 'Not Unmusical Cries' of a 'Peculiar Class' in America: The 'Evolution' of Horatio Alger, Jr.’s Newsboys and Print Journalism in the Late Nineteenth Century," sponsored by Eric Tribunella (University of Southern Mississippi).

MA Winner: Rachel Rickard for "Some Writer, Some Friend: Charlotte and The Elements of Style," sponsored by Annette Wannamaker (Eastern Michigan University).

2012 Graduate Student Essay Award Winners
Ph.D. Winner: Amanda Phillips Chapman for "The Riddle of Peter Pan’s Existence: An Unselfconscious Stage Child," sponsored by Marah Gubar (University of Pittsburgh).

MA Winner: Jill Coste for "Coping with Compulsion Through Fantasy in Harriet the Spy, Dangerous Angels, and Wintergirls," sponsored by June Cummins (San Diego State University).

2011 Graduate Student Essay Award Winners
Ph.D. Winner: Pamela Swanigan for ""Much the Same on the Other Side"": The Boondocks and the Symbolic Frontier," sponsored by Kate Capshaw Smith (University of Connecticut).

MA Winner: Sandra Beals for "Look Who's Talking: Ideology and Narrative in S. E. Hinton's The Outsiders," sponsored by Annette Wannamaker (Eastern Michigan University).

MA Honor award: Jennifer Taylor for "Christian Tropes in Bridge to Terabithia," sponsored by Amanda Cockrell (Hollins University).