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.