Cathryn M. Mercier
Director for the Center for the Study of Children's Literature and Professor of English
As an undergraduate at Mount Holyoke College (BA '81) Cathie Mercier was drawn to the scientific emphasis and empiricism of experimental psychology. A psychology major, she did not take her first course in children's literature until her senior year. "Like Alice, I fell down the rabbit hole and I've yet to come up," said Mercier.
Cathie brought the taut writing style and analytical sensibility required of psychology to the study of literature for children and young adults. She completed her Master of Arts degree in Children's Literature in 1984; in 1993 she earned a Master of Philosophy in English at Simmons as a steppingstone to her doctoral studies. She pursued doctoral work in the University Professors Program at Boston University ('02) where she wrote about the confluence of social movements and images of the child in American picturebooks. She holds a PhD in Children's Literature.
Cathie was appointed to Simmons in 1985 and has been teaching in the graduate degree program in children's literature ever since. She teaches criticism, contemporary young adult realism, the child in fiction, and the undergraduate survey course. Her thesis, independent study, and internship advising embrace a wide range of topics, from a cultural analysis of Printz titles to an annotated bibliography of historical fiction for curricular use. "As advisor of a thesis that asked, 'What can queer theory tell children's literature?' I met regularly with the student to discuss ideas. We both learned from the books, and I hope she learned from me. But I consider it my best teaching experience because of how very much I learned from her," said Mercier, who was thrilled when part of her student's thesis was included in a book of new voices in children's literary criticism.
In the undergraduate curriculum, she taught children's literature as a key focus in her honors seminar titled "Stories of Childhood," a course that was part of a learning community that paired with Economics professor Niloufer Sohrabji's course "Stories of Democracy." She won the Dean's Award for Excellence in Academic Advising.
At Simmons, Cathie has served in a variety of administrative roles. Currently, she directs the Center for the Study of Children's Literature, which includes programs in the Master of Arts in Children's Literature, the Master of Fine Arts in Writing for Children (on-campus and at The Eric Carle Museum in Amherst, MA), and dual degree programs that combine the MA with degrees in library science, or teaching, or writing for children.
Cathie has been contributed to Children's Literature and to The Horn Book. Her skill at "close reading, an ability to talk about books so that others see the book at its most ambitious and complex, and a talent for collaboration" have made her a valuable member of national book award committees. Currently, she chairs the 2009 Laura Ingalls Wilder Award Committee.
Past award selection service includes the 1999 Newbery Award Committee (Holes), the 1994 Caldecott Award (Grandfather's Journey), and the inaugural 2000 Sibert Award Committee (Sir Walter Ralegh and the Quest for El Dorado). Cathie was honored to serve as Chair of the 2004 Sibert Award Committee (The American Plague). She has twice been a member (once chairing) the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award).
Cathie recently completed her third study of an important young adult author with co-writer Susan Bloom; it also marks their third book with editor Patty Campbell. Reading Russell Freedman will be published in 2009 by Scarecrow Press and will be the first book at Scarecrow to focus on nonfiction. Prior collaborations are Presenting Avi and Presenting Zibby Oneal. These books and their audience of teachers, librarians, and young adults fit perfectly into Cathie's driving belief that the "work of the critic is not to 'take apart' a book, but to read well and deeply enough to offer insight and illumination to the text and to oneself."
Russell Freedman (with Susan P. Bloom). New York: Scarecrow, 2009.
Presenting Avi, with Susan P. Bloom. New York: Macmillan/Twayne, 1997.
Presenting Zibby Oneal with Susan P. Bloom. New York: Macmillan/Twayne, 1991; full text on Twayne's Women Authors on CD-ROM, 1995.
Chapters and Parts of Books
"Realism" in Keywords in Children's Literature, Phillip Nel and Lissa Paul, editors. New York: New York University Press, 2011.
short essays on Avi, Molly Bang, Beverly Cleary, David Macaulay, Patricia and Fredrick McKissack, Milton Meltzer, and Richard Peck in Oxford Companion to Children's Literature. Ed. Jack Zipes. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006. 103-4; 119-20; 311-12 in volume 2; 10, 58, 65-66, and 228 in volume 3.
"The Problems with Reviewing," Essential Guide to Children's Books. Ed. Anita Silvey. Boston: Houghton, 2002. 380-3.
"Children's Literature" in Encyclopedia of Feminist Literary Theory. Ed. Beth Kowaleski-Wallace. New York: Garland, 1997. 73-74.
critical essay on Yoshiko Uchida in Writers of Multicultural Fiction for Young Adults. Ed. M. Daphne Kutzer. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1996. 423-35.
"Alternate Family Stories," Children's Books and Their Creators. Ed. Anita Silvey. Boston: Houghton, 1995, 231-34.
critical essays on Molly Bang, Beverly Cleary, Helen V. Griffith, and Mavis Jukes. Twentieth-Century Children's Writers. 4th ed. Ed. Laura S. Berger. Detroit, MI: St. James, 1995, 60-61; 215-18; 415-16; 499-500.
essays on Toshiko Uchida and Cynthia Voigt. American Women's Writers: From Colonial Times to the Present. Ed. Carol Hurd Green and Mary Grimley Mason. New York: Continuum, 1994. 455-57; 466-67.
essays on Brock Cole, Amy Ehrlich, Paula Fox, and Cynthia Grant. Twentieth-Century Young Adult Writers. Ed. Laura S. Berger. Detroit, MI: St. James, 1993. 140-41; 198-200; 219-21; 255-56.
essay on Grandma Moses: Painter of Rural America. Masterplots II: Juvenile and Young Adult Biography. Ed. Tracy Irons. Pasadena, CA: Salem, 1993. 780-83.
"Insights and Discoveries: Illuminating Textual Criticism." Evaluating Children's Books: A Critical Look. Ed. Betsy Hearne and Roger Sutton. Urbana-Champaign, IL: University of Illinois, 1993. 93-104. Translated into Spanish for publication by Banco de Libro, Venezuela.
"The Center for the Study of Children's Literature" with Susan P. Bloom. Teaching Children's Literature: Issues, Pedagogy, Resources. Ed. Glenn E. Sadler. New York: MLA, 1992. 207-11.
essay on Unleaving. Masterplots II: Juvenile and Young Adult Fiction. Ed. Frank N. Magill. Pasadena, CA: Salem, 1991. 1546-49.
essays on Beverly Cleary and Helen V. Griffith. Twentieth-Century Children's Writers. 3rd ed. Ed. Daniel Kirkpatrick. London: St. James, 1989. 209-10; 408-09.
"One Human Heart: A Conversation with Paula Fox." Innocence and Experience: Essays and Conversations in Children's Literature. Ed. Barbara Harrison and Gregory Maguire. New York: Lothrop, 1987. 250-58.
"Borderland Sentinels." Horn Book. 80.5 (2004): 545-52.
"Critical Connections: Professional Reading," Horn Book. 79.4 (2003): 487-92.
"Revision, (Re)membering, and Recursion: The Cultural Moorings of Jadine in Toni Morrison's Tar Baby." Abafazi. 11.2: (2002): 41-45.
"Critical Connections: Professional Reading from 2001." Horn Book. 78.3 (2002): 301-10.
"Professional Reading: 2000-2001." Horn Book. 77.3 (2001): 289-99.
"Hitty Overboard." Horn Book. 76.2 (2000): 107-09.
"Limitless Wonder of Story." Children's Literature. 24 (1996): 231-34.
"Bridges in Realistic Fiction: Reappraising Beverly Cleary's Young Adult Novels." Oregon English Journal. 17.1 (1995): 54-57.
"Is Androgyny Possible? A Look at Wuthering Heights." Essays and Studies 45.1 (1987): 11-13.
Selected Reviews of Professional Books
Welcome to Lizard Motel by Barbara Feinberg. Horn Book: 81:2 (2005): 219-220.
Kiddie Lit by Beverly Lyon Clark and The American Child: A Culture Studies Reader by Caroline F. Levander and Carol J. Singley. Horn Book: 80.4 (2004): 472-3.
Beyond the Pale: New Essays for a New Era by Marc Aronson. Horn Book,; 80.1 (2004): 107-8.
Professional Reading Column, Horn Book, 79.4 (2003): 487-91.
Inside Picture Books by Ellen Spitz. Journal of Youth Services. 14.1 (2000): 24-26.
Reading Otherways by Lissa Paul. Journal of Youth Services. 12.4 (1999): 38-9.
"Information Over Easy," Everyone's Guide to Children's Literature by Mark West. TALL. 7.3 (1998): 96-97.
Telling Time: Angels, Ancestors and other Stories by Nancy Willard. Journal of Youth Services. 8.1 (1994): 91-92.
The Seed and the Vision by Eleanor Cameron. Horn Book 75.4 (1994): 475.
Papers and Presentations
2009 Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal Presentation, Newbery/Caldecott/Wilder Banquet, American Library Association. Chicago, IL, 12 July 2009.
"Positionality: Teaching the Unspeakable in Literature for Children and Young Adults," with Amy Pattee. Children's Literature Association Conference, Charlotte, NC, 12 June 2009.
"Not Wild About Harry," Simmons College Presidential Inauguration. Boston, MA, 30 March 2007.
"Only the Relationships Change: Becoming a Dean," ANAC summer conference. Naperville, IL, 14-16 June 2006.
"The Critique of Informational Books," 2006 Robert F. Sibert Committee guest speaker, midwinter meeting of the American Library Association. Boston, MA, 16 January 2005.
Open Session with the 2006 Caldecott Committee, "Reading Pictures, Reading Books, Reading Picturebooks," midwinter meeting of the American Library Association. Boston, MA, 15 January 2005.
"2004 Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award Presentations," ALSC Awards Ceremony, annual meeting of the American Library Association, Boston, MA, 28 June 2004.
"Conversations with…Nancy Garden," Foundation for Children's Books, held at Boston
College, Boston, MA. 24 February 2004.
"Reviewers' Spectacles" at "Picturing Stories," with Susan P. Bloom, Illustrator's Day 2003,
Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, hosted by the Center for the Study of Children's Literature at Simmons College, 15 November 2003.
"Book Awards: An Insider's View," Society of School Librarians International, annual meeting.
Boston, MA, 07 November 2003.
"Breaking Out Beyond the Pale: Young Adult Literature," Massachusetts School and Media
Library Association Annual Meeting. Sturbridge, MA, 03 November 2003.
"Words and Pictures: The Power of Art and Poetry to Illuminate the African American Experience," A conversation with Marilyn Nelson, the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, 27 September 2003.
"Young Adult Literature--Capture the Call." Massachusetts School Media Library Association. Annual Conference. 28 October 2002.
"First-Year Course as a Site for Faculty Development." Lilly Atlantic Conference. Towson, MD. 13 April 2002.
"A Conversation with Ellen Wittlinger." Foundation for Children's Books. Boston College. Boston, MA. 12 February 2002.
"The Best of 2001 -- Children's Picturebooks of Note." Winchester Public Schools. Winchester Public Library. 14 November 2001; Barnes and Noble Bookstore, Walpole, MA. 17 October 2001.
"Children's Literature Today." Lake Placid Institute. Lake Placid, NY. 27 October 2001.
"Constructing Childhood in American Picturebooks." American Literature Association. Cambridge, MA. 26 May 2001.
"Angels and Wild Things: Award-Winning Picturebooks." Mount Holyoke College. South Hadley, MA. 25 May 2001; 01 June 2001.
"Wings of Story." Norfolk Parent-Teacher Association. Norfolk, MA. 22 May 2001.
"A Conversation with Robie Harris." Foundation for Children's Books. Boston College. Boston, MA. 16 January 2001.
"Children's Books of Note -- 2000." Winchester Public Schools. Winchester Library. Winchester, MA. 30 November 2000.
"A Conversation with Jack Gantos." Foundation for Children's Books. Boston College. Boston, MA 08 February 2000.
"Angels and Wild Things: Images of the Child in Children's Picturebooks." Simmons College. Boston, MA. 30 January 2000; Beebe Lyceum, 15 November 2001.
"A Showcase of 1999 Picturebooks." Foundation for Children's Books. Boston, MA. 30 October 1999.
"What a Pip! Great Expectations and Jack Maggs." Brookline Literature Program. Brookline Public Schools. Brookline, MA. 15 September 1999.
"If Piaget and Vygotsky were Literary Critics: Developmental Psychology Reads Frog and Toad are Friends." Third Biennial Conference on Modern Critical Approaches to Children's Literature. Nashville, TN. 25-27 March 1999.
"Trends and Titles in 1998 Children's Books." Foundation for Children's Books. Boston College. Boston, MA. 14 November 1998.
Moderator. "Whose Views? Who Decides?: The Struggle over 'Family Values' and Its Influence on Children's Books" P.E.N. New England. Radcliffe Institute. Cambridge, MA. 07 December 1997.
Moderator. "Gay and Lesbian Theory: Lenses for Re/viewing Literature for Young Adults." Second Biennial Conference on Modern Critical Approaches to Children's Literature. Nashville, TN. 10-12 April 1997.
"Virginia Woolf: The Seed of Eleanor Cameron's Vision." Second Biennial Conference on Modern Critical Approaches to Children's Literature. Nashville, TN. 10-12 April 1997.
"Pictures and Conversations." Keynote Speaker. Boston Chapter of the Women's National Book Association. Boston, MA. December 1995.
"Peter Hunt: Where are the Children in the Criticism of Children's Literature?" First Biennial Conference on Modern Critical Approaches to Children's Literature. Nashville, TN. 20-22 April 1995.
"Literature Study Groups: Collaborative Connections for Teachers, Parents, and Students." 39th Annual International Reading Association Convention. Toronto, Ontario. May 1994.
"Literature Study Groups for Teachers: A Celebration of Learning." 82nd Convention of the National Council of Teachers of English. November 1992.
"Insights and Discovering: Illuminating Textual Criticism." 34th Allerton Institute, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. October 1992.
"Echoes of Genius: Eleanor Cameron and Virginia Woolf." Modern Language Association. December 1991.
"For Adults, Too: The Wind in the Willows" 1987 Regional Scholar. "Not for Children Only," a program of the American Library Association.
American Association of University Professors
American Library Association
(division membership: Association of Library Services to Children)
Modern Language Association
Mount Holyoke College