ALSC Voices | May 2014

ALSC Profile

photo of Cathryn MercierCathryn M. Mercier
English Professor
Director, The Center for the Study of Children's Literature
Simmons College
Boston, Massachusetts

ALSC Membership: 27 years

Where did you attend university?
I completed my undergraduate BA degree with a major in psychology (and lots of specialized coursework in mathematics and philosophy) at Mount Holyoke College. I completed my Master of Arts in Children’s Literature at Simmons, where I also completed a Master of Philosophy in English. I pursued doctoral work in the University Professors Program at Boston University because I wanted a cross-disciplinary PhD that would allow me to focus on the images of the child in American children’s picture books across social movements in the United States.  My PhD is in Children’s Literature and involved a wide swath of courses from art, literature, history, sociology, and psychology, among others.

Of what accomplishment are you most proud?
In my years at Simmons, I am continually, endlessly, renewably, proud of my students. They seek out our MA or MFA degrees for the programs’ academic rigor, coherence, and challenge to synthesize theory and practice in individual ways. Every semester, when I see one of our alumnae at an ALA event receiving recognition for her editorial work on a major ALSC award-winning book or giving an ALA program for bringing books and children together, or spending time with the stream of booth visitors; when I see a student complete a doctoral program or give a paper at an academic conference; when I see a student’s first (or second or third or…) book get published, I simply swell with pride in that student’s accomplishment. And, admittedly, I feel rather humbled that I once had the opportunity to work closely with that student to interrogate children’s or young adult literature in our graduate seminars.
What is your favorite ALSC/ALA memory?
Maybe this is true for everyone, but I doubt I’ll forget my first Newbery-Caldecott Banquet. I was still new to ALSC and had secured funding to attend that annual ALA. Bill Morris, that kindly gentleman whose passion for children’s literature inspires me still, invited me to sit at a Harper table. I had no idea what the evening held. Heck, I had no idea what to wear. I arrived with the Harper entourage and saw sparkles everywhere as beads and rhinestones reflected the luminescence of the event. Women were in gowns, men in serious suits. I spied a long white glove here, a tuxedo there. Champagne was poured and the stars in my eyes were only matched by the stars I saw around me. Among those honored: Virginia Hamilton, Walter Dean Myers, Paul Fleischman, Allen Say, David Wiesner, Jerry Pinkney, Elizabeth George Speare.  
You’re marooned on a desert island; what three books and one food item do you need to survive?
On a desert island, I would  have Grandfather’s Journey by Allen Say, not only because it was the book that received the Caldecott Award my first time on the committee, but also because it captures significant movements in American art. I cannot imagine being stranded without art.   True to Alice’s question, “what good is a book without pictures and conversations,” I would want a book of letters of some sort – most likely E.B. White’s letters; if I cannot converse with someone else, at least the letters invite a considered response. I also would want a book with which I could carry on a lifetime of conversations.  For me, the text that I return to over and over again is Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson.  
What are your hobbies?
I have many nieces, nephews. and grand-nieces and nephews, so a favorite hobby is ‘aunting.’ I love to cook, though I probably cook less than I do read about cooking in cooking magazines, in cookbooks, in the daily food columns in my local newspaper. Yes, I’m a cooking show junkie – I  even ordered my 50th birthday cake from the local bakery “Truly Jorg’s” because I had seen the Jorg team compete so well on the “Food Network Challenge.” I also am a women’s roller derby fan-atic – Boston Roller Derby Dames rule!
What three words best describe you?
loyal, workaholic, (good) writer -- Sometimes, I wish that another three words could describe me, but these will have to do!