Thursday, September 11, 2014

IBBY, Part One

The last international conference I attended, Forbidden Fruit in the U. K. in 2008, was very small, so I was surprised at the scale of the International Board on Books for Youn People biennial event. There are more than 500 elegates from 65 countries, including many Mexican nationals who are attending in conjunction with an effort to jump-start intensive reading promotion as part of extensive education reform.

We went to the National Library, a gorgeous space blending old and new, enclosing the colonial courtyard with a rather industrial ceiling, the darkening sky peeking out just between. Before dinner, we saw an exhibit about Jella Lipman and the founding of IBBY. It covered her personal history first as a pioneering editor, then her fleeing the Nazis, culminating in her work in rebuilding post-War German society. I hadn't thought about the rarity of pre-Reich twentieth century German children's literature -- much of it destroyed -- or the Reich-era literature, which Lipman was sure to include in her collection but designated for "adults only." The castle outside Munich which houses the collection she began is a place I now desperately want to go...

And I also learned about the role of German author Erich Kostner in founding IBBY, reminding me of the terrific book Lisa and Lotte (the basis for The Parent Trap), which in one of those wonderful coincidences, I possessed in an Apple paperback edition. Was it the first piece of translated literature I read? Perhaps. 

We had a lovely meal there, with cream of Camembert soup with raspberries a definite highlight. After dinner, we heard the Hans Christian Anderson award speeches -- Japanese fantasy author Nahoko Uehashi, cultural anthropologist by profession, who did Australian fieldwork on aboriginal storytelling. She spoke of "multicultural coexistence," a lovely way to embody the goals of the IBBY organization and its national affiliates. Then we heard from the amazing Brazilian illustrator Roger Mello, who was raised in utopian Brasilia, in an era when a book could get you "disappeared." Lots of food for thought already...

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