“When everyone had eaten as much as they could, the remains of the food faded from the plates, leaving them sparkling clean as before. A moment later the puddings appeared. Blocks of ice-cream in every flavor you could think of, apple pies, treacle tarts, chocolate éclairs and jam doughnuts, trifle, strawberries, jelly, rice pudding...” (Rowling 2000 , 137). It is perhaps obvious that this quote was taken from one of J.K. Rowling’s series of Harry Potter-novels, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2000 ). But whilst their appearance may be magical, the sweets presented here are most likely perfectly familiar to readers. They also demonstrate that the term ‘sweets’ encompasses a variety of sweet dishes, and is not limited to a one particular product. Rowling describes other ‘sweets’, too, but these ones will sound much less familiar to the reader: “What she did have were Bertie Bott’s Every-Flavour Beans, Droobles Best Blowing Gum, Chocolate Frogs, Pumpkin Pasties, Cauldron Cakes, Liquorice Wands and a number of other strange things Harry had never seen in his life” (Rowling 2000 , 112). The ‘sweets’ and ‘candies’ she describes – sweets which, like Berti Bott’s Every-Flavour Beans, may not even be linked to sugary sweetness (see Das/Laik 2019) – function to introduce Harry (and by extension the reader) to another world, and to a very special food culture. It is not only food in general that characterizes the world of wizards and witches: it is the sweets and candies that give Rowling’s novels a special touch.
Extraordinary sweets are often and in various ways integrated in children’s novels and other media like films and computer games – and their functions differ, too. Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (originally published in 1964) is another prominent example. Dahl’s protagonists have a sweet tooth for special candies – especially chocolate – but in the novel, they will experience food in a special way: once in the “Chocolate Room” of Willy Wonka’s factory, they are confronted with a valley that is made out of chocolate and sugar and therefore completely edible. Moreover, the factory is developing several strange new kinds of gum: one can be chewed for years, another one makes hair grow, and another one includes a whole three-course dinner. Like the sweets in Rowling’s Harry Potter-novels, which signify the magical world, Dahl has given sweets and candies a twofold symbolic meaning: they (1) characterize the heterotopian world into which the children are invited, and (2) they are conceptualized as temptations – as tests for the children – a trope that can also be seen various fairy tales, such as Hansel & Gretel (1812) and The Nutcracker and the Mouse King (1816).
Whilst these works by Rowling and Dahl are famous, and their use of food has already been analyzed in general terms, there are lots of other media – some famous, some less so – that have escaped attention. Thus, sweets are omnipresent in the symbolic systems of children’s literature and media, and as Jacqueline Corinth remarks of literary representations of food in general, they are often used to evoke “sensuous descriptions that allow authors to douse their readers in delicious descriptive adjectives that rivet their attentions to the text despite their growling stomachs” (Corinth 2008, 260). The symbolic meaning of sweets varies enormously in children’s media, and we can distinguish between the overarching meaning of sweets in various ways. Single sweets might include a special flavour of ice cream, or an ingredient like honey or sugar. Sweets can be connected to single cultural traditions (connected, for example, to a religious background), or to cultures of remembrance (beloved but missing people are connected to special sweets, but sweets and candies may also be linked to special places and events). Sweets can express specific preferences: while Winnie-the-Pooh has a sweet tooth for honey, Paddington Bear likes marmalade sandwiches, and Pippi Longstocking loves baking delicious pancakes and wonderful gingerbread at Christmas time. The term ‘sweet’ itself can additionally often be used to describe feelings and emotions (sweet kisses, or a bitter atmosphere etc.).
While food in general has often been part of various scientific studies on children’s literature (e.g. Das/Laik (2019); Carrington/Harding (2014)), specific analyses of sweets, candies, ‘bonbons’, ‘confiserie’, and ‘caramelles’ in children’s literature are difficult to find (see for example the study from Honeyman on gingerbread (2007)). Often the analyses of sweets are subsumed in general food studies.
The planned essay collection aims, therefore, to focus specifically on sweets in children’s literature and media using various perspectives and theoretical approaches.
Possible topics are:
- sweets in fairy tales
- sweets in picture books / children’s novels / youth novels
- sweets in various media for children and young adults
- symbolic meanings of sweets / sweets as references
- sweets and culture
- sweets and religion
- sweets and remembrance
- sweets and ecocriticism
- sweets and pedagogy
- sweets and health discourses
- single sweets /sweet ingredients
- single book/film/media analyses
Topics other than the ones stated above are very welcome and will be considered!
The timetable for the volume is as follows:
- Deadline for abstracts: March 31, 2023
- Feedback: end of April 2023 (at the latest)
- Submission for articles (first drafts): September 30, 2023
- Review process and feedback: beginning of October 2023 (at the latest)
- Publication is planned for summer 2024.
Chapters may explore different media (literature, films, television, computer games etc.) and address topics on sweets. If you are interested in proposing a chapter, please e-mail
an abstract of 500 words (maximum) and a short CV (maximum one page) to Dr. Sabine Planka (
Your abstract should outline your hypothesis and briefly sketch the theoretical framework(s) within which your chapter will be situated. All submissions will be acknowledged. If you do not receive confirmation of receipt within 48 hours, you may assume that your email was lost in the depths of cyberspace. In that case, please re-submit. Please note that we will not include previously published essays in the collection. And please note that the acceptance of your abstract does not guarantee the publication of your essay.
- Carrington, Bridget/Harding, Jennifer (Eds.): Feast or Famine? Food and Children’s Literature. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholar Publishing 2014.
- Corinth, Jacqueline: “Food Symbolism in Three Children’s Literature Texts: Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows, Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Rowling’s Harry Potter Novels”, in: Magid, Annette M.: You are What You Eat. Literary Probes into the Plate. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholar Publishing 2008, pp. 260-283.
- Dahl, Roald: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Ill. by Quentin Blake. [1st ed. 1964]. Edition with 50th anniversary golden cover. London: Puffin 2014.
- Das, Ahona/Laik, Shreya: “Eating Sugar: Gastronomical Narratives in Children's Literature”. 2019. Online. URL: http://heb-nic.in/cass/admin/freePDF/xdwngqo47gr8oelcko6e.pdf (February 13, 2021).
- Honeyman, Susan: “Gingerbread Wishes and Candy(land) Dreams: The Lure of Food in Cautionary Tales of Consumpion”, in: Marvels & Tales, Vol. 21, No. 2 (2007), pp. 195-215.
- Rowling, Joanne K.: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. London: Bloomsbury 2000 .
[Quelle: Call for Papers]