Excitement is building in London, England as the city gets ready to host some once in a lifetime events this summer! Athletes from over 200 countries will converge in London July 27 – August 12 to take part in the 2012 Summer Olympics. Two weeks later (August 23 – 26) children’s literature enthusiasts from around the world will gather at London’s Imperial College for the 33rd IBBY (International Board on Books for Young People) International Congress. Here at PaperTigers excitement is also building as we have just learned our editor, Marjorie Coughlan, has been chosen to present her paper at the 33rd IBBY International Congress Parallel Sessions!
The main theme of the 2012 Congress is Crossing Boundaries: Translations and Migrations. Participants will explore how books and stories for children and young people can cross boundaries and migrate across different countries and cultures. The congress will look at issues such as globalisation, dual-language texts, cultural exchange and the art of translation. The programme outline has just been released and can be seen here.
Marjorie’s paper, Escaping Conflict, Seeking Peace: picture books that relate refugee stories, draws attention to picture books in English from around the world about children and young people who have been forced from their homes because of conflict. These are important stories that need to be told, whether they are biographical or fictionalised accounts, for understanding of the past, healing in the present, and hope for the future. Her paper arose in part from PaperTigers’ August 2010 issue that focused on Refugee Children and the abstract for her paper can be read here….
These days we hear statistics bandied about for every aspect of our lives. We have become inured to ever-larger numbers being thrown at us on both domestic and international news. It is often hard to envisage what these figures actually represent in real terms – and when they represent people caught up in a disaster somewhere far away on the other side of the globe, the sheer size of what we are hearing can be insidiously numbing. How, then, to make sense of them? And how do we help children to take on board their human significance, without inflicting on them their trauma-inducing enormity? The answer is books. Thankfully, there is an increasing availability of quality writing for children and young adults, which draws out individual stories of young people caught up in disasters not of their making. These books provide a well-researched background giving readers insight into events that can either be pinpointed in history or are a realistic representation of what it means to be a refugee. They promote empathy, a thirst to know more and an urge to do something. Picture books provide visual impact: illustrations often provide a link with the cultures represented, through the style or artistic techniques adopted and in some cases take the place of words. Picture books provide access to difficult stories, not only for young children but also for older children and teenagers: in recent years, there has been a noticeable growth in picture books aimed at teenagers, with high quality artwork that challenges and demands a reaction.
This paper will draw attention to both the narrative and artwork in picture books about children whose lives have been turned upside down by conflict. Examples will be given of books set in different cultures and countries around the world, and published in English in Australia, Canada, the UK and the US for young people of all ages. Some are fictional with a factual background; others are partly autobiographical or draw on personal experience. Some are historical; some are about the here and now. Some provide an almost overwhelming indictment of human suffering inflicted by adult fellow-humans – but, and it is a big but for the young readers of these stories, are also an inspiring testimony to the resourcefulness and resilience of children; and others focus on the equally important and relevant issues of welcome (or lack of it) and settling in to a new country/culture/community. One aspect all these stories have in common, however, regardless of varying degrees of bleakness through the course of the book, is that they sow a seed of hope for the future. Books provide a bridge of understanding across the world and they also create openings for empathy and understanding within communities. Stories help people step outside their own spheres and see the world through others eyes, even the world on their doorstep. A book can sow the seed for social justice even in very young children, on whom the future of our world depends.