Jessica Followell is the 2017 master's student recipient of the Graduate Student Essay Award from the Children's Literature Association. Followell won the award for her essay, "Miracle Cures and Moral Lessons: Victorian Legacies in Contemporary Representations of Children with Disabilities," which examines two plot devices that emerged in children's literature during the Victoria era to discuss disabilities—the miracle cure and the moral lesson.
"In the essay, I consider disability in contemporary children's literature as an extension of these Victorian lessons, established in such novels like What Katy Did (1872), The Secret Garden (1911), and Pollyanna (1913)," Followell explained.
"I argue that the Victorian influence can still be seen in today's disability literature for children. Specifically, remnants of the Victorian moral lesson on positivity can be seen in children's biography books. While today’s literature may not promote the miraculous cure, there is still a heavy emphasis on telling stories in which people 'overcome' their disabilities and the limits placed on them."
Originally from Champaign, Followell worked in the museum field before enrolling in the iSchool for her MS degree in library and information science (LIS).
"The LIS program at the iSchool was a perfect fit for me, as its curriculum focuses on the intersections between libraries, archives, and museums. I wanted a program that would help expand my skills in archival management and also expose me to current issues surrounding digital preservation," she said.
In the future, Followell would like to continue to work in the museum or archives sector, with focus on community outreach and engagement.