In 1982, the Frances E. Russell Grant was established by the late Marjorie Russell, in memory of her sister, a long-time supporter of IBBY Canada. Since then, scholars and writers of fiction and non-fiction for young readers have received the award and published materials “to initiate and encourage research in young people’s literature in all its forms.”
The earliest recipients were Catherine Ross / Corrine Davies (1982), Shirley Wright (1983), Jacques La Mothe (1984), André Gagnon (1985), Judith Saltman (1986), Joan Weller (1987), Ronald A. Jobe (1988), David Jenkinson (1989), Judy Arter (1990), Linda Granfield (1991), Jean Stringam (1995), Suzanne Pouliot (1996), Carole Carpenter (1997), Mavis Reimer and Anne Rusnak (1999), Sydell Waxman (2000), Françoise Lepage (2001), Lynn Westerhout (2002), Joanna Emery (2003), Krista V. Johansen (2004), Michelle Cobban (2005), Michelle Mulder (2006), Gail Edwards and Judith Saltman (2007), and Vivian Howard (2009).
During the last decade there have been five recipients of the grant. I asked each them what directions their research in the area of Canadian children’s books have taken since they received the Russell Grant.
The recipient of the 2011 Russell Grant was Paulette Rothbauer for a proposal entitled “The Emergence and Promotion of English-Language Young Adult Literature in Canada.” The results of that project were published in Jeunesse: Young People, Texts, Cultures (2012) in an article, “Kevin Major’s Hold Fast and the Critical Reception of a Milestone Canadian Novel for Young Adults.” Dr. Rothbauer is now an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Information and Media Studies at Western University, where she teaches primarily in the graduate programs in Library and Information Science. Past studies have focused on the practices of queer young women and on rural and small-town teens in reading, identity, and libraries.
She writes that since receiving the grant, “my research continues to be anchored in empirical inquiry into the role of reading in the everyday lives of teens and young adults. In a hypermediated world, with multiple modes of media engagements competing for young people’s attention, the place of sustained, free, and pleasurable reading choices continues to yield important insights for our understanding of young adulthood and of the meanings that young people make through reading. A crucial element of my ongoing research concerns the place of specific texts read, especially in contexts of the ongoing international boom in young adult publishing.”
Beverley Brenna received the 2012 Russell Grant. She has published over a dozen books for young people and is currently a Professor at the College of Education, University of Saskatchewan where her research interests include Canadian children’s literature and literacy. Her YA novel The White Bicycle (Red Deer Press) was nominated for a Governor-General’s Award for Children’s Literature (2013), and her most recent title is Sapphire the Great and the Meaning of Life, middle-grade fiction written to include LGBTQ+ characters for a young audience. Dr. Brenna’s research for which the Russell Grant was awarded examined Canadian graphic novels to identify traits and commonalities across the genre. For more information about her work, including pdf’s of her graphic novel research, please see her “Archives” pages.
She writes that receiving the Russell Grant “has been a great springboard for related research and teaching activities,” and that since receiving the grant, she “has conducted further classroom studies utilizing graphic novels and also explored Canadian verse novels for patterns and themes.” She is currently conducting research on Canadian picture books published between 2017 – 2020, supported by a SSHRC Insight Grant. Intent upon filling perceived gaps in the content available for young readers in order to support social justice ideals, Dr. Brenna has a picture book and another middle-grade novel coming from Red Deer Press/Fitzhenry & Whiteside over the coming year.
Bonnie Tulloch, the 2013 Russell Grant recipient, is a PhD student and Vanier Scholar in the iSchool at the University of British Columbia. She is working in the area of children’s and young adult media/literature; her doctoral research examines the intersections between information, communication, and storytelling, specifically as they relate to youth engagement with internet memes. Other research interests include children’s nonsense poetry and children’s island fiction.
She received the Russell Grant for her work in Canadian children’s and young adult island novels, exploring the relationship between island imagery and female identity. Her current research builds on these themes: “I have continued to explore the relationship between adventure and domesticity in Canadian children’s island novels featuring female protagonists. Currently, I am examining how L.M. Montgomery and later Canadian authors (for example, Janet Lunn, Polly Horvath, Kit Pearson, and Deirdre Baker) use the island space to re-conceive the generic boundaries associated with conventional boys’ and girls’ stories, thus creating a different register through which to represent and understand human experience. An early output of this work received the 2018 inaugural L.M. Montgomery Institute’s Dr. Elizabeth R. Epperly Award for Outstanding Early Career Paper.”
The 2014 Russell Grant recipient, Erin Spring, is now an Assistant Professor in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary. Working within an interdisciplinary framework, her research has focused on the intersections of young adult fiction, place, and identity construction of Canadian youth.
The Russell Grant was presented to her for a project that built on previous work undertaken for her PhD at the University of Cambridge on Aboriginal young adult responses to contemporary Canadian young adult fiction. She disseminated her IBBY-funded work in various journals and edited collections including Young People Reading: Empirical Research Across International Contexts (edited by Evelyn Arizpe and Gabrielle Cliff Hodges). This edited collection was recently nominated for the Academic Book Prize through the United Kingdom Literacy Association. Dr. Spring is currently a collaborator on the project “Six Seasons of the Asiniskow Ithiniwak: Reclamation, Regeneration, and Reconciliation” based at the Centre for Research in Young People’s Texts and Cultures (CRYTC) at the University of Winnipeg. She also continues to work with urban Indigenous and non-Indigenous young people in Calgary.
Ruth Bradley-St-Cyr, recipient of the 2016 Russell Grant, has worked in Canadian publishing for thirty years in editorial, production, and marketing capacities and now runs her own writing, editing, and translation business, Bradley-St-Cyr & Associates. As a part-time professor at the University of Ottawa, where she received her PhD in English/Canadian Studies in 2014, she teaches essay writing and film. The Russell Grant helped support her research on the effects of the sale of the Ryerson Press, the findings of the Ontario Royal Commission on Book Publishing, and the development of children’s literature in Canada in the early 1970s.
Dr. Bradley-St-Cyr reports that since receiving the Russell Grant, she presented an academic paper, “Ontario’s Royal Commission on … Children’s Literature?” (2018), which is the basis of a chapter in her book-in-progress on the Ryerson Press and the Royal Commission. The book is scheduled to be published shortly after the fiftieth anniversary of the sale of the Press, which takes place in the fall of 2020.