Following the successful Irish tour of the Silent Books in 2017, IBBY Ireland has acquired a set of the wordless picture books. Selected from six continents and updated over the last year, the collection now includes the wonderful Owl Bat Bat Owl by Irish illustrator and author Marie Louise Fitzpatrick.
The fifty books tell stories that transcend language and strengthen intercultural understanding, a cornerstone of IBBY’s vision in its seventy-six member countries. Whimsical, profound and gorgeous to look at, the picture books are superb springboards for creativity among diverse groups: from immigrants to artists and from toddlers to youth groups; from children in mainstream education to adults with special learning needs.
Refugees have used the books in family workshops. In an empowering role reversal, Syrian primary pupils in County Clare told the stories depicted in the Silent Books to an audience of their parents in order to practise their oral skills and to teach English to the mothers and fathers who don’t have the benefit of school immersion in the new language. Primary school pupils have also used the books to explore different cultures, create their own stories and invent new worlds from the books.
For anyone interested in using the Silent Books, these superb creative and educational tools will be available from IBBY Ireland in the new year. More details to follow.
“A mental condition, present from early childhood, characterised by great difficulty in communicating and forming relationships with other people and in using language and abstract concepts.” Oxford English Dictionary
Loud and lively, playing with words and messing with metaphor, spontaneous, hilarious … children’s book festivals and school visits by authors, illustrators and other creative artists can be a thrilling break from the routine of lessons and lunchbreaks. But for the estimated 1 in 65 students in Ireland on the autistic spectrum, such events can trigger massive anxiety and fear. A workshop organised by Children’s Books Ireland and Poetry Ireland. Events for All, explored some of the challenges faced by children and adults with autism. Danny, a teenager on the spectrum, described his anxiety at the prospect of author visits to his school; he would sometimes opt out or stay at home because of the change in routine and unpredictability of the event. Adam Harris, the founder of AsIAm, compared autism to visiting a foreign country with nothing but a phrase book to negotiate the language and culture.
So how can organisers and facilitators of book festivals, school visits and other creative events help reduce stress and calm the environment for participants on the spectrum? There are many small changes that can make a huge difference. A few simple starters:
‘More and more clearly, I came to realise that I must not look backward, but to the future, and … begin with children.’
Jella Lepman’s faith in children to shape a more peaceful, tolerant world was borne out this week, more than fifty years after she wrote those words in A Bridge of Children’s Books. Two IBBY-inspired workshops in counties Mayo and Kerry saw children aged between seven and eleven founding new countries and exploring true heroism.
In Nation Creation, they mapped and named their ideal countries; laid down laws; wrote national anthems, and invented national sports and holidays. Laws included the banning of fossil fuels, compulsory kindness and the obligatory welcome of immigrants.
In the second workshop, My Handbook of Heroes, young participants imagined themselves as superheroes. As well as the usual powers – strength, speed and flying – one child boasted super-kindness and another super-listening. They founded a superschool where the subjects included Modesty and How to Handle Your Superpower for Good. And a list of their most heroic qualities featured honesty, forgiveness, humour and standing up for friends.
‘Something strange happens when you close your eyes. Suddenly you are in a totally different world, a place of endless breadth and depth … and there an ultimate and genuine freedom begins, transforming prisons into houses with open doors.’
We invite you to enjoy the presentation made at the 36th IBBY International Congress held in Athens, Greece.
The Hans Christian Andersen Award is the highest international distinction given to authors and illustrators of books for young people. Given every other year by IBBY, the Hans Christian Andersen Awards recognize lifelong achievement and are given to an author and an illustrator whose complete works have made an important and lasting contribution to literature for young people.
The following were selected to serve as members of the 2020 Hans Christian Andersen Award Jury under the guidance of Jury President Junko Yokota (Evanston, IL, USA):
Former IBBY Vice President Elda Nogueira (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) and IBBY Executive Director Liz Page (Basel, Switzerland) are ex officio Jury members.
For more information about the IBBY Hans Christian Andersen Award, the IBBY programme and current projects please visit the IBBY website at: http://www.ibby.org
Lots of noise around the Silent Books this week. In two workshops in County Clare, Syrian children brought their parents to explore the library’s set of wordless picture books from around the world. We started with a group story, using props to create characters and plots, including magic conkers that granted wishes and cats that jumped inside a book.
Each child then chose a silent book, explaining why the cover had caught their eye and guessing at the story inside. With their parents, whose English was more limited, they ‘read’ the book in a mixture of Arabic and English. Through questions and wonderings, everyone entered into the stories and beyond, imagining prequels and sequels, or using the illustrations to weave more strands into the story.
The children then took it in turns to sit on a ‘flying carpet’ in the middle of the group and tell their story to everyone. They drew pictures inspired by the books and the conversations around them.
A brilliant reminder of the unique delight and intimacy that a book unhindered by words can bring.
We had an unforgettable midnight tour of the new Greek National Library during the Athens Congress with our wonderful spontaneous tour guide Sofi Gilda of IBBY Greece. The Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Centre library was alive in the darkness with readers, browsers, students drinking coffee and chatting amid the halls and shelves and walkways of this state-of-the-art work of art.
There must be so many beautiful, creative libraries and library services in IBBY countries around the world. Two of Ireland’s treasures are the 18th Century Long Room at Trinity College Dublin and the Marsh Library a few blocks away. The Long Room is a Hogwarts-worthy wonder lined with marble busts of great philosophers and writers.
Marsh’s Library, beside St Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin is Ireland’s first public library dating from the 17th Century. The interior is beautifully preserved with oak shelves and three ‘cages’ in which scholars were locked to protect the books, complete with a skull on their desk to remind them of their mortality. A serious business, reading …
A warm welcome from IBBY Ireland to Europe’s new section, IBBY Albania.
Looking for books in a different language? The IBBY Europe website https://www.ibby-europe.org/ promotes books in European languages. To find out how to use the website to add new books and replace those out of print, contact Hasmig Chahinian at email@example.com).
The European Newsletter: October 15 is the deadline for sending your news and pictures for the next edition. For more details, contact Hasmig at the above email.
The IBBY European Conference: thanks to the support of the Bologna Children's Book Fair and IBBY Italy, the second regional Conference will be held in Bologna on 4 April 2019. The conference theme is Languages in Europe, supporting the right of every child to access books in his/her own language. As well as exploring theories of language learning, speakers and participants will share experiences and ways for national sections to increase the availability of books in different languages. All ideas and suggestions for speakers are welcome. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
The organising committee are: Doris Breitmoser, Hasmig Chahinian, Eva Devos, Pam Dix, Sabine Fuchs, Deborah Soria, David Tolin.
A powerful theme at this week’s IBBY Congress in Athens was the ability of children’s books to bring hope in chaotic, confusing and, for many, terrifying times. In her talk ‘Before they Give the Order’, author Deborah Ellis (The Breadwinner etc. http://deborahellis.com/) spoke of books as prevention not cure. Children brought up on stories about vastly different lives and perspectives will grow into global citizens - politicians, truck drivers, lawyers, parents, teachers, shopkeepers - full of empathy, compassionate curiosity and the ability to connect with other cultures. This generation of peace-lovers, she said, will be equipped to resist and drown out the voice of anyone who ‘gives the order’ to shoot, abuse, ethnically cleanse or hate in any other terribly human way.
Gregory Maguire (Wicked etc. http://gregorymaguire.com/) turned on ‘The Light Within the Story’. He celebrated fairy tales as beacons of ‘heroic generosity … small and intense like garlic’ that endure because they champion love, kindness, justice and mercy. (Of course they do a good line in sexism, ageism, ugly-ism etc. too, but his enchanting talk swept us above the isms and into their beauty.)
Inspiring, thrilling stuff – all made possible by the wonderful generosity and organisation of the hosts, IBBY Greece. Where better to light up the darkness than the birthplace of democracy? Go raibh míle maith agat from IBBY Ireland for a wonderful three days.
Talk about melting pot – East and West have met with a cheer at the 36th IBBY International Congress in Athens. On the first of the three-day conference, delegates and speakers from many of the 76 member countries presented papers and posters and shared ideas and stories to promote intercultural understanding through children’s books.
From fairy tale retellings to refugee experiences portrayed in literature, talks explored ways of bringing east and west together through books. Themes included the use of boats in stories, real and fictional, to act as bridges between cultures, and depictions of war in Greek literature from Herodotus to modern graphic novels.
And perhaps the highlight - a sung and spoken performance of parts of Homer’s Odyssey, accompanied variously by an Ancient Greek flute, harp and conch shell.