SABAM, the biggest Belgian organisation of authors (representing 39 000 authors writing in every possible genre), organised a mini-conference in Antwerp (4 Nov. 2015) about the world of international children’s and youth literature in collaboration with IBBY President Wally De Doncker.
The IBBY President shed some light on the global workings of IBBY. He explained the important role of founder Jella Lepman. Astrid Lindgren and her publisher Hans Rabén (second IBBY-president) influenced the course of IBBY in the early years after its foundation. The driving role of ALMA within the current world of international youth literature was emphasized. Guest of honour during this mini-conference was ALMA-laureate Kitty Crowther. She told the audience that she considers herself both writer and illustrator. She claims that the divide is no longer clear to her. She illustrated this by referring to the inspiration she draws from photographs and classical portraits. For her book ‘Mama Medusa’, she deliberately went looking for drawings of Medusa and pictures of jellyfish. According to Crowther, everyone can tell stories.
Director Sylvie Dhaene announced a change of name for ‘Stichting Lezen’ (Reading Foundation). From now on, the Flemish organisation focused on promoting reading will be called ‘Iedereen Leest’ (Everybody Reads). During the next few years, the institute will focus on the key to a strong reading culture: reading pleasure. ‘Those who like to read, read more. Those who read more, read better.’
Eva De Vos, the newly elected president of IBBY Flanders, explained the new innovative project ‘O Mundo’ . The aim is to select excellent books from all over the world which enable migrant children to share something about themselves and their background and to open up the eyes of all children in the class to the value of a multicultural society. IBBY Flanders nominated the library of Lampedusa and the Silent Books project for the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award.
The mini-conference ended with a warm-hearted panel discussion. The panel consisted of well-known authors Marc De Bel, Do Van Ranst and Michael De Cock, literary critic Annemie Leysen, Els Aerts of the ‘Flemish Literature Fund’ and author and celebrity Sabine De Vos in the role of moderator. The discussion focused on the means by which Flemish children’s novels and picture books found their way abroad and the role of ‘Flemish Literature Fund’ in that process. The panel talked about the divide between popular and literary novels and tried to answer the question why certain books received a grant to be translated and others did not. Author Michaël De Cock closed the debate with a quote from Kitty Crowther: ‘In the end, every story chooses itself.’
A perfect end to a beautiful discussion.