Header image for iSchool’s Katy Comellas defends Master’s Thesis

iSchool’s Katy Comellas defends Master’s Thesis

IMG_2520Katy Comellas started her graduate degree in the School of Information in 2012. She had just finished her Bachelor’s at University of Central Florida and joined the MLIS program with the intention of studying children’s literature. “I’ve always found international children’s literature fascinating,” she shared.

In the iSchool, and many other graduate programs, a thesis is optional. “Most of our master’s students don’t select the thesis option,” shared Don Latham, Associate Professor in the School of Information. “They choose additional coursework instead.” Katy’s unusual route focuses on an unconventional topic – representation of death in award-winning picture books between the United States, England, Canada, and Australia. Katy examined each country’s most prestigious literary award and focused on representation of death from 1990-2013. “I was very interested to see if there  would be any noticeable difference on how multiple cultures, that are rather similar and share the same language, talk about death with their children,” said Comellas.

In the United States, the Randolph Caldecott Medal annually recognizes the preceding year’s “most distinguished American picture book for children.” Europe’s corresponding award is the Kate Greenaway medal, Canada has the Governor General’s Literacy Award for English-Language Children’s Illustration, and Australia awards the Best Picture Book of the Year.

What country do you think had most national recognition for children’s books about death?

“Australia, by far, had the most titles and the most varied depictions of death,” she said. There was a varied range of death, natural death by old age/illness and as a result of civil unrest/war. There was even death of a child by starvation in Africa. On the other end of the scale was the United States, “The Caldecott has not recognized a single title about death from 1990-2013.” Since the Caldecott award began in 1937, it has been awarded to two books about death, the 1967 winner Sam, Bangs, and Moonshine and the 1981 winner Fables.

Katy’s thesis delves into death education, why the subject is taboo for children, and benefits of death education. On November 4th, she successfully defended her thesis, “A Less than Perfect World: Representation of Death in Award-winning Picture Books.”  To find out more about the MLIS program, click here. Katy’s thesis is available in the Goldstein Library.