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Helen King

Helen King

Doctoral Student in Literature.



Dr Lucy Pearson and Dr Kyle Grayson, Kris McKie (non-academic supervisor at Seven Stories)

Research project

‘These children are people like us’: agency, belonging and the ethics of representing displaced children in the work of Beverley Naidoo

This project is the outcome of a Collaborative Doctoral Partnership with Seven Stories: the National Centre for Children’s Books. Children’s literature has the potential to both contribute to and provide a powerful counternarrative to dehumanising popular discourses about displaced people. A writer of children’s fiction, depicting displaced children in West African, apartheid South Africa and the UK, Beverley Naidoo is in ideal subject for a case study examining this potential. Using Naidoo’s children’s fiction and her archive held by Seven Stories, I use a postcolonial critical approach to interrogate the tensions between belonging and alienation for displaced children. Exploring the ethics of representing minority voices as an outsider, I examine how Naidoo constructs children as a political actors and situates children’s literature and education within the political sphere.  In so doing, I show how Naidoo’s work can contribute to current discussions around diversity and inclusion within the field of children’s literature. This research will create opportunities for public engagement alongside the Seven Stories CLE team.


Helen King’s subject area is Children’s Literature. Her PhD title is ‘These children are people like us’: agency, belonging and the ethics of representing displaced children in the work of Beverley Naidoo.

Research Interests:

  • Postcolonial approaches to children’s literature
  • diversity in children’s literature
  • anti-racist education
  • child agency
  • child activism
  • narratives of migration, displacement, and diaspora
  • reader responses

Research Activities:

Please provide a summary of any additional research activities including, but not limited to publications, placements and funding, awards, conferences, research groups, memberships and outreach projects.


‘Seeking asylum, speaking silence: speech, silence and psychosocial trauma in Beverley Naidoo’s The Other Side of Truth, Barnboken, Vol. 43 (2020), DOI:

‘‘Books that change your way of thinking’: political engagement with an anti-apartheid novel,’ in Changing Childhoods, 27 October 2020,

Placements and Funding

Northern Bridge AHRC Doctoral Funding Award


‘“How could she ever put those terrible pictures into words?”  The paradox of silence in Beverley Naidoo’s The Other Side of Truth (2000)’, IRSCL Congress 2019

'Children’s literature and activism at Seven Stories: exploring the Beverley Naidoo archive', Joseph Cowen Lifelong Learning Centre PhD to Public 2020

‘Framing, narrative perspective and the possibility of interracial friendship in Beverley Naidoo’s Burn my Heart’, NU-University of Antwerp Children's Literature Virtual Exchange, August 2020

‘Actual events, movingly told: communicating and controlling pain in Beverley Naidoo’s Chain of Fire’, Thinking Internationally about Social Justice in Children’s Literature and Culture, NU-Pitt Colloquium, November 2020.

 Research Groups

  • Newcastle Postcolonial Research Group
  • Children’s Literature Graduate Group


  • International Research Society for Children’s Literature
  • Children’s History Society UK

Academic Background:

  • MLitt in English Literary Studies, University of Aberdeen
  • MA in English Literature, University of Aberdeen