5 Highlights of the 2018 IBBY Congress

Kathy Goes to Greece - A Slideshow

What made me decide to attend the 2018 IBBY Congress?

  • It was in Greece.
  • Canadian Deborah Ellis was delivering a keynote.
  • Having been recently researching the life and work of Jella Lepman, I wanted to experience firsthand how such a conference would express the ideals that underpinned the work she did.

What made me glad I went? My 5 top reasons…

  • Greece itself is, as expected, beautiful — the colours of the sea, the texture of the mountains, the vibrancy of its cities (especially Heraklion. After the conference in Athens, Peter and I had the luxury of visiting the spectacularly gorgeous island of Crete.)
  • Deborah Ellis’s keynote, “Before they give the order” — about books and her interactions with children in various parts of the world, some refugees, some not. Her talk earned a well-deserved standing ovation and was later referenced by several other speakers. The 21 Canadians attending the conference (a record number) couldn’t have been more proud. One especially moving moment for me was Deb talking about a non-refugee child’s comment after reading about refugees, “This could happen to anyone.” International understanding through children’s books.
  • Dr. Leila (Roya) Maktabi Fard’s keynote, “Two women, two continents, one aspiration” — in which she drew parallels between Tooran Mirhadi (Iranian) and Jella Lepman (German), and the impact of their shared belief that hope for world peace lies with children and children’s books. Mirhadi founded The Children’s Book Council of Iran which became the Iranian National Section of IBBY, the organization that Jella Lepman founded. Dr. Fard knew Tooran Mirhadi and is currently working at the International Youth Library (also founded by Jella Lepman), making her talk not only informative but welcomingly personal.
  • Having the chance to examine the best children’s books from countries all over the world. Even though I couldn’t read most of them, simply holding them and reading the descriptions of what they were about, somehow gave me a feeling for the impact the books would have in the hands of children who could read them, or understand them when read aloud.
  • Seeing many of this year’s IBBY Honor List authors, illustrators, and translators from all over the world, all being recognized on stage together, was surprisingly moving. As was listening to the winners of this year’s Hans Christian Anderson Awards (another initiative of Jella Lepman’s) in their respective languages. (The Russian illustrator’s talk was translated in English on screen and the Japanese author’s was translated orally.)

493 people attended the conference from 73 different countries. (Including Katherine Paterson. Fun to see her again and recall our time in England with mutual friend Jean Little, 29 years ago.) Paradoxically perhaps, the children’s book community I’m part of feels wonderfully bigger for having attended the conference, and the world I live in wonderfully smaller. I couldn’t help thinking that Jella Lepman would have loved it.

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