IN 2016, I attended a children’s literature conference in Wrocław, Poland, to deliver a paper to an international audience. On the first day, I heard the voices of two other Australians – our accent, to my ears, coming through flat and obvious from the auditorium seats. My paper was about lollies in children’s fiction, so of course I had brought with me bags of lollies to share with my audience and, hopefully, make my talk more appealing. Having spent four years writing about lollies, I figured my confectionery choices needed to be popular and tasty and say something about my central thesis. I’d taken ages in a Brisbane supermarket aisle, finally settling on bags of Allen’s Pineapples, Allen’s Strawberries & Creams and Allen’s Chicos: small, brown, chocolate-flavoured jubes that are shaped like babies. I was very nervous about my presentation, but I had no idea that it was this mundane act of choosing confectionery I should have worried about the most.
Picture a typical, modern tertiary classroom with a few rows of chairs facing a screen and whiteboard, and high windows looking out on to a university square. Two dozen researchers had chosen my session, called ‘Sweet objects of play: how confectionery is more than food in children’s literature’. In the case of fiction for children, I argued, the significance of lollies goes beyond food. The endurance and primacy of lollies in children’s fiction articulate a self-creation: the sweets affect the child character beyond the physical. I presented my paper and enjoyed the satisfaction that comes when your niche ideas about an unusual topic find an audience, even for twenty minutes.
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