Call for Papers: A Special Issue of The Lion and the Unicorn Twenty-First-Century Religion and Culture in Youth Literature

  • Deadline for submissions of proposals: July 15, 202

Call for Papers

From its earliest moments in medieval Britain and colonial America, Anglophone children’s literature was built on a foundation of religion. Even when not positioned as explicitly religious, the dominant British and colonial religion of Christianity infused children’s books with church-based morals, and references to Christmas and Jesus were taken for granted. Since then, religion has continued to be an important aspect of children’s literature, but the relationships between religion, culture, children’s literature, education, and libraries has changed several times. Now, in the twenty-first century, Anglophone children’s literature is often more conscious of religious and international diversity, influenced by movements like We Need Diverse Books and grassroots organizations serving religious and cultural minorities. At the same time, increasing social and political polarization affects the production of children’s literature, especially when controversial topics are so often tied to religious ideologies. Due in part to recent developments – like religious nationalism, the rise of antisemitism and Islamophobia, the splintering of the Methodist church, Pope Francis allowing Catholic clergy to bless same-sex relationships, the growing rate of young adults leaving religious communities, and differentiation within a variety of indigenous and diasporic religions – the time is ripe for reconsideration of academic discussions about the role of religion and belief in children’s literature.

This special issue aims to revive and expand long-standing conversations about the roots and continued presence of religion in children’s literature beyond consideration of early Christian influences. For example, children’s literature has been shaped by many developments including:

  • fundamental changes in religious institutions;
  • cross-cultural influences within and between religions;
  • secularization and resistance to secularization;
  • grappling with and/or reconciliation of creationism and evolution;
  • movements intersecting with religion (ongoing civil rights struggles, feminism, LGBTQ+ advocacy, abortion access, environmental activism, decolonial movements, Black Lives Matter, etc.). 

Invite submissions of proposals for this special issue of The Lion and the Unicorn to be published in Spring 2026. Please submit abstracts of 400-500 words for full-length essays (8,000-10,000 words) addressing, challenging, and/or developing ideas about the current state of religion and culture, broadly defined, in texts for children and young adults in a variety of religious and cultural contexts. We especially encourage papers considering non-Western and non-Abrahamic religious traditions, papers engaging with intersectionality, and papers considering old ideas in a new light.
Possible topics include, but are not limited to

  • Does religion still matter in twenty-first-century youth literature?
  • How does the post-secular and/or post-humanist age affect religious content in youth literature, and vice versa?
  • How does the current state of religion in children’s literature and the relationship between religious cultures and children’s literature fit within the longer history of children’s publishing?
  • What is the legacy of canonical authors or enduring representations of religious practice in children’s literature?
  • What has happened to the “Christmas chapter,” especially in series fiction? What role have those episodes, so long a staple of Anglophone children’s texts, played in shaping youth literature, national religious consciousness, politics, etc.?
  • What does children’s literature still lack in the realm of religion and culture? Why are those elements important, and what prevents them from being represented?
  • How are the many voices within individual religious or cultural communities
  • represented? What are some of the internal debates, and how do they affect either niche or mainstream publishing?
  • Are there significant differences in religious representations between books published for a mainstream audience and ones published for an internal religious or cultural community? Between books distributed in a single country versus books distributed globally?
  • How does the religious or cultural affiliation of the perceived or intended audience affect the narratives of children’s texts?
  • What are the functions of youth libraries in religious cultural centers like mosques, synagogues, churches, or temples? What kinds of book-centered
  • programming happens in these centers, and what role do they play in the representation of religion and culture in children’s literature?
  • How do public libraries and/or public schools use materials with overt or subtle religious messaging? What kinds of book-centered religious programming do public libraries and/or public schools plan? How does this vary based on community demographics?
  • How do local or national standards of education in subjects like “world religions” influence which books make their way into the curriculum? How are these books utilized in lesson plans?
  • At a time when librarianship, children’s literature scholarship, and publishing have committed to diversifying representation, what role does the age-old question of quality in children’s texts play in various contexts including religious communities, professional educators, scholars, etc.?
  • How does religious content in youth literature shape the cultural consciousness of youth in all religious traditions (including none), of the publishing industry, and/or of professional organizations?
  • What role do children’s editions of sacred texts and/or study guides play in the broader market of youth literature?
  • Is there a significant difference between religion as represented in fantasy and religion as presented in contemporary or historical realism? What are the effects of those differences on readers?
  • Do books about contemporary youth and religion differ in any significant ways from books drawing on religious pasts or legends?
  • Does age matter? How do picture books, early readers, middle grade books, and/or young adult books differ in their engagement with or representation of religious and cultural content?
  • How does youth literature with religious content address or engage with often- controversial themes like social justice, the environment, etc.? How does a religious lens influence the messaging around these topics? What are the differences between various religions’ and denominations’ approaches to these topics?
  • How does religion function in any or all aspects of youth literature and youth media more broadly?

Submit via Google Form: Click Here

Contact: Sara Schwebel (,

Suzan Alteri, (

Dainy Bernstein (

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *