series event

​Emergency Children’s Literature and COVID-19​

​In this seminar, Gabriel Duckels analyses the emergence of what he calls “emergency children’s literature” in the first nine months of the COVID-19 pandemic.​

LSHTM Event panel

Children’s literature is an important pedagogical arena in which young people are encouraged to learn about pressing issues and social concerns in a safe and pleasurable way.  

Emergency children’s literature describes the sudden production and circulation of children’s texts about COVID-19 during the first government-mandated lockdowns. Dozens, and then hundreds, of stories and picture books such as these, worked to inform and entertain young people during a distressing period in which traditional access to education and books was disrupted – and in which accurate information was unstable and constantly changing. As an archive, these texts provide a fascinating inventory of the ways in which COVID-19 was constructed in children’s culture; they can be seen as a comparable pandemic ritual to “clap for carers” and children drawing pictures of rainbows in windows. Looked at from the vantage point of late 2022, the surprisingly utopian thinking of some titles is a reminder that the first months of COVID-19 were initially conceptualized as a respite from neoliberal late capitalism. Other titles show how the cultural politics of COVID-19 emphasised an at times contradictory combination of national sovereignty, civic duty, local identity, and international solidarity. Finally, as an artefact of the very recent past, this emergency children’s literature provides a glimpse of a unique biblio-techno-social moment in which a diverse range of unprofessional, ad hoc creators were able – thanks to lockdowns and free online distribution – to take a lead in educating young people about the individual and collective experience of COVID-19. 


Gabriel Duckels, Harding Distinguished Postgraduate Scholar at the University of Cambridge 


Follow webinar link. Free and open to all. No registration required.