Archive for February, 2016

New book illustrated by Kitty Crowther

February 25, 2016

Cover of Het lied van de tijd by Jan Toorop, illustrated by Kitty Crowhter. Leopold 2016

Kitty Crowther collaborates with Jan Toorop in the new children’s book Het lied van de tijd which just have been published by Dutch publishing house Leopold. Here´s Kitty’s own words about the collaboration (published on our blog on January 7):

I am doing a book. Once a year, a museum in The Hague and the publisher Leopold publish a book about an artist. Not to explain the life of the artist, but just to catch a side of them that the author/illustrator sees. They’ve asked me to work on Jan Toorop.

I only knew one of his paintings. He was born in Java, Indonesia, and he left the island with his family to travel to Holland at the age of 11. He become a painter – most famous for his symbolist period. In fact, the more I learn about him the more I like him.

It’s a great challenging work; I have to be close to him but not ‘be him’ of course.

More information about the book (in Dutch) here.


Prestigious honour to Anna Höglund!

February 19, 2016

Anna Höglund. Photo: Stefan Tell

Congratulations Anna Höglund, whose picture book Att vara jag (To be me, our transl. Lilla Piratförlaget, 2015) has received a special mention by the Bologna Ragazzi Award as one out of four titles in the category Fiction.

Anna Höglund is an author and illustrator and member of the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award jury. She is considered one of Sweden’s leading illustrators, and has worked with many well-known writers such as Barbro Lindgren, Ulf Stark and Gunnar Lundkvist. She made her debut in 1982 with Sagan om pannkakan (The Pancake Story) and has since published over 20 books, many of which have been translated from Swedish into other languages.

The jury’s quotation reads as follows:

”The dilemmas and choices facing the young girl in this coming-of-age book are told with strongly evocative images. The passage from adolescence to adulthood is seen from the viewpoint of a contemporary woman. Told with great humanity, it never falls into the trap of stereotypes.”

The other categories in the Bologna Ragazzi Award are Non Fiction, New Horizons and Opera Prima. The prizes will be awarded during a ceremony at the Bologna Book Fair, which takes place April 4 to 7.


Cover of Att vara jag (To Be Me, our transl. Lilla Piratförlaget 2015)

“When something you have written deeply affects another person…” Ten years since Katherine Paterson received the ALMA

February 17, 2016

Katherine Paterson, laureate of the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award 2006. Photo: Stefan Tell

This year it´s ten years since US author Katherine Paterson received the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award. When we asked her to describe the meaning and power of art, this is what she replied:

Any writer will understand how miraculous it is when something you have written deeply affects another person. And we are all acutely aware of how much depends on the heart and mind of the reader. That being said, this story begins with a letter I received in the fall of 2004 that had been mailed the previous August. It had no stamp and the return address was an Army Post Office number. Now, I am a peace-loving children’s writer, so most of my mail comes from children, not soldiers. But as I read this letter, I was overwhelmed with awe and gratitude, as any writer would be.

Dear Ms. Paterson,

I apologize for not typing this letter, but I send you greetings from Farah City, Afghanistan where I am deployed with my Army National Guard unit in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. I am, consequently, without access to printers.

Yesterday, we were blessed with the very rare occasion of receiving mail at our remote desert outpost. With my letters was a copy of Bridge to Terabithia. I was unfamiliar with this book but the title sounded interesting and it had clearly won the Newbery, so I gave it a try. And on one of those very rare occasions where I have time between missions and guard duty, I read the entire novel.

I was mesmerized. You wrote an absolutely beautiful novel and I, like Jessie Aarons, fell in love with Leslie Burke. Maybe it was because you made it so easy to see things from Jessie’s perspective. Maybe it was because Leslie reminded me of a girl I once knew. Maybe it was because she was a spark of beauty in a land and a war where beauty is of so little importance.

That night, after finishing Bridge to Terabithia, my squad left our compound for a mission. Yet, even while I drove through a strange foreign city with body armor and a fully loaded M-16 assault rifle, all I could think about was the beauty and richness of your novel.

Before the army yanked me out of the real world for this war, I was a high school English teacher. Before that, I studied English at the University of Iowa. I have, therefore, read many novels. But of all those novels I have awarded only five books with my own personal five-star rating system. Bridge to Terabithia is unquestionably a five-star novel. It amazed me with its beauty.

Thank you, Ms. Paterson, for bringing such joy to this lonely teacher-made-soldier in this long tour in this bleak desert country. I have sent instructions home to my wife, asking her to secure a hardcover copy, and my future students will be highly encouraged to read your brilliant novel.

Once again, thank you for the joy you brought me. Thank you for Leslie Burke.

Corporal Trent D. Reedy
United States Army

After a couple of years of correspondence, I was able to meet Trent Reedy. He told me that Bridge to Terabithia saved his life. When I asked him what he meant by that, he said how important it was to him to be able to cling to something beautiful when the world about him was so ugly and terrifying. Since that time, many of his fellow soldiers have come back from the war so scarred that they haven’t been able to adjust to civilian life. But he had come to realise how vital art was. He believed that art literally saved his life. Since that time, Trent has become a writer himself. His powerful first book, Words in the Dust, tells in fiction the story of a young Afghan girl he met during his time there. It has been well received and was featured on the national TV programme, The Today Show. More importantly, the book has helped thousands of young Americans to understand the humanity of the Afghan people.

Katherine Paterson received the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award in 2006. More about Katherine Paterson here.

Hello there Roberta Chinni, Manager at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair

February 11, 2016
Fiera del Libro 2015 - Bologna

Masterclass Dust or Magic, Centro Servizi Blocco D. 29 Marzo Roberta Chinni. Photo: Bologna Children’s Book Fair

An entire hall devoted as digital space, huge exhibition featuring 50 artists with their masterpieces and Germany as the star of a very rich program. With two months to go before the opening of the Bologna Children’s Book Fair, the world’s largest international book fair for children’s literature, there are not so many quiet moments for the BCBF staff. Nevertheless, we decided to ask Manager Roberta Chinni how the work is progressing…

Two months to go before the opening of the BCBF, how is the work getting on?

The organization of the new edition of the Bologna Children’s Book Fair is already well underway.

About 10 days ago the panel of Jurors of the Illustrators Exhibition was here in Bologna to select the artwork we will present during the Fair. This year we invited Francine Bouchet, Nathan Fox, Klaus Humann, Taro Miura and Sergio Ruzzier: they have chosen 77 artists who will have the opportunity to be seen by all major children’s book publishers.

2016 will mark the 50th Anniversary of this Exhibition: we are preparing an additional exhibition featuring 50 artists with their masterpieces, 50 illustrators that have contributed to make this event significant and unique. This Exhibition will also be accompanied by a special catalogue.

The next steps will be the BolognaRagazzi Award and Digital Awards Jury: they will focus on the best books from the graphic and editorial design and on the most intellingent and innovative apps.

We are working also on several programmes: the traditional Cafés will host a number of talks covering very diverse subjects, from illustration to writing, from licensing to distribution.

Besides we are working on a complete restyling of the website and developing activities that will be finalized after the Fair in other venues…. Well, yes we are busy!

What´s new in this year’s Book Fair?

For the past few years, we have focused special attention on digital evolution in the publishing industry. For the 2016 edition, we decided to devote an entire hall (Hall 32) to an expanded digital space: Bologna Digital Media: a dynamic and vibrant new hub where publishers, developers, TV and cinema producers, animation studios, artists and authors will take part in an exciting programme that will mix startups with established brands to take advantage of the many opportunities offered by the ever expanding digital world.

This year’s Guest of Honor is Germany, can you say anything about the program?

“Look!” is the title chosen by Germany to present itself as the 2016 Guest of honor country. The logo, created for participation and features three colorful birds, is the work of the famous and award-winning illustrator Ole Könnecke. Germany will be the star of a very rich program: they will present an exhibition of 30 young illustrators over a surface of around 300 square meters. Also there will be an additional section including books of the most talented and internationally recognized German Illustrators.

We are working in close cooperation with the Frankfurt Book Fair and the Goethe-Institut in Italy to set up a line of interesting panels, featuring both young and well-established illustrators. The programme will also extend over the city, with activities and shows in the main libraries.

Besides the German collective booth will be especially rich in terms of publishers and proposals.


Bologna Children’s Book Fair

You’ve worked a long time at the Book Fair, how has the Bologna Children’s Book Fair developed during the last years?

I started working at the Fair in summer of the year 2000, taking over a group that had run the Fair for a very long time. The Fair has developed a lot since: it is now a more professional platform and it offers a much richer programme devoted to the key roles in children’s publishing: the Translators Centre has been created, the Illustrators Exhibition has grown a lot, the most important international Awards receive greater attention, a full programme on Licensing was started to offer more opportunities to publishers and we are also starting partnerships abroad to bring the Fair experience and contents into different countries.

In recent years we developed an important programme of events devoted to children and families: workshops and exhibitions and many books available for a real children’s book festival.

Another important issue is extending the reach of the Fair also abroad: the Illustrators Exhibition traditionally travels to Japan but we have also planned an additional tour that will bring it to China.

Besides this, we organized last December our first conference abroad, the Global Kids Connect Conference, hold in New York City, and presented in co-operation with Publishers Weekly: the results were very good and there was an interesting and passionate discussion on children’s literature and publishing under the auspices of the Bologna Children’s Book Fair in a completely different setting and timing.

What significance does the city of Bologna have for the book fair?

The city has definitely played an important role, even if until a few years ago Bologna was not very well know abroad outside the world of children’s publishing.

Nevertheless we have an ancient tradition of hospitality, a worldwide renown cuisine and a medieval city centre to visit and enjoy. During the Fair the city hosts an exciting programme of exhibitions, talks and meetings allowing all visitors and exhibitors to enjoy more art and culture while networking in a relax context.

The charms of the city combined with the mild Italian Spring have contributed to create a warm atmosphere which perfectly fits the really creative category of “children’s book professional”.

Finally, a more personal question – what’s your favorite part of the Bologna Children’s Book Fair?

It would be impossible to pick any! Each area, each initiative, each part really means something different: they offer the chance to meet incredibly creative people in the most diverse areas, people that quite often become friends over time…


Photo: Bologna Children’s Book Fair

Full house for the opening of exhibition The whole world’s on fire!

February 8, 2016
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Speech by Astrid Lindgren’s daughter Karin Nyman.

The exhibition room at county museum Upplandsmuseet was filled with visitors when The whole world’s on fire! opened  on Friday. Based on Astrid Lindgren’s diaries 1939-45, the exhibition put forward current issues such as Where does evil come from? How do we learn from history?

Speeches were given by Anneli Karlsson, exhibition curator at cultural centre Astrid Lindgren’s Näs and producer Annmari Kastrup among others, and Karin Nyman, Astrid Lindgren’s daughter, inaugurated the exhibition. Karin Nyman has been involved in the release of the War Diaries and transcribed Astrid Lindgren’s handwritten notes from the 17 oilcloth booklets.

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Woodchip basket were Astrid Lindgren kept her diaries.

Astrid Lindgren started writing a diary with the outbreak of the World War II. She was then living with her husband and two children in Stockholm. As yet she wasn’t a celebrated authoress. Her work describing the horrors of war in her diaries 1939–45 laid the foundation for her powerful civil courage and roll as opinion leader later in life. The so called War Diaries were published by Salikon Agency last year.

The exhibition also takes Astrid Lindgren’s values into our own time. Current social topics such as xenophobia, nationalism and individual’s responsibility are highlighted and discussed in an interactive form. Huge room is given to stories and testimonials from people who have come to Sweden because of the war. Their stories create, along with Astrid Lindgren’s diaries, a harrowing picture of how war and violence affect the individual.

Upplandsmuseet has complemented the exhibition with sort strikes in wartime Uppsala showing future trends before World War II and how Jewish children and refugees from heighboring countries were given sanctuary in Uppsala.

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War perspective from Uppsala 1943.

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Karin Nyman and Karin Eliasson from cultural centre Astrid Lindgren’s Näs.

What does children’s literature in India look like?

February 4, 2016

Today, Indian titles attempt to rethink stereotypes with relevant story lines, inclusion of words from regional languages, and scenes set in the Indian milieu Photo: Monica Tiwari, The Hindu

Is the growing number of Indian titles in English for children reflective of reading choices, asks Apoorva Sripathi, journalist at the Hindu.

Have you revisited children’s books as an adult? How do you now relate to books that once evoked images of magic and sorting hats (Harry Potter), of cans of pineapple, cucumber sandwiches and éclairs in a picnic basket (Famous Five), of pranks and powers of telekinesis (Matilda), or of wardrobes that let us into a fantasy realm (The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe)?

For most, these books were prescribed childhood reading, and as we grew older, some of us switched to contemporary Indian writing in English as well. And, for a long time, the enduring names in children’s literature in the country were Ruskin Bond and R.K. Narayan — they even featured in school curriculum. Today, Indian titles such as Moin and the Monster, Granny’s Sari and The Pterodactyl’s Egg rub shoulders with the hugely popular Percy Jackson, Harry Potter, and the Captain Underpants series. Late last year, Good Earth (in collaboration with Puffin Books) launched its line of illustrated children’s books, with The Story of Babur.

Perhaps it’s cultural guilt. Many generations of Indian children devoured Western classics, German (and the occasional Russian) fairytales and Greek myths, with a smattering of Indian folktales on the side. For long, many have dreamt of being in boarding school learning Latin, playing lacrosse and having an English midnight feast.

Today, Indian titles attempt to rethink stereotypes with relevant story lines, inclusion of words from regional languages (example, amma and appa instead of Mum and Dad), and scenes set in the Indian milieu. It also owes a lot to the rising number of authors: Anushka Ravishankar, Annie Besant, Roopa Pai, Paro Anand, Samit Basu, Siddhartha Sarma are some well-known names.

It seems like there is no dearth of titles for the interested parent. Vidya Mani, managing editor of Goodbooks, a website that reviews and discusses books for Indian children, says that the trend could be due to parents “actively looking for books that can connect with children here. Indian books speak a lot more to children, and parents are recognising that”. However, she wishes that teachers and librarians take a little more effort to curate reading lists for children, apart from the ones put out by the CBSE. “For example, Classes III to X can study Salim Ali, especially Zai Whitaker’s Salim Ali for Schools, which would make academics quite easy.”

However, Sayoni Basu of Duckbill Books believes that the real achievement would be when children opt for books by Indian authors. “A lot of parents want books with Indian mythology and folktales; for which, there are no non-Indian substitutes. So, I’m not sure how much ‘opting’ it involves,” she says. And that may be because of parents who are partial to the ‘oldie but a goodie’ idiom — “Parents who enjoy reading Indian authors may want their kids to experience the same pleasure,” explains Sayoni.

With the number of publishing houses for children’s books increasing, the market looks relatively healthy. But is that the case? Yes, says Mala Kumar, editor of Pratham Books, citing the growing number of young readers today, despite popular opinion that millennials are hooked onto television and the Internet. “Many old and new publishing houses are widening their offerings for children. There is a larger supply to cater to the demand. It’s not just a trend, it’s here to stay.”

From a publisher’s point of view, a good children’s book, according to Mala, is one that contains a well-told story with contemporary themes and settings, lends itself well to illustration and translation and provides a fresh perspective. Pratham Books also recently launched a platform called StoryWeaver, a digital repository of multi-lingual stories (over 1,300 stories in 33 languages are available for free).

If we were to look beyond fables and fantasy, are there any topics off-limits to children? Author and parent Judy Balan has a candid rebuttal. “No. They’re going to find out about everything anyway. We might as well give them context while we can. Speaking of taboos, there were quite a few raised eyebrows over the single mother dating in my first book (How to Stop Your Grownup from Making Bad Decisions). I thought that was most interesting — just how many urban Indian parents in 2015 weren’t ready for a single-mother in a children’s book ‘having a boyfriend’.”

Conversely, Roopa is of the opinion that she would prefer children reading stories “full of laughter and hope and optimism”. She thinks these would give children the strength to believe that there is a kinder world out there. “I personally would not write stories involving egregious violence, foul language or too much despair and hopelessness. Maybe some children do experience or are exposed to these things in their daily lives. At worst, these stories will serve as a harmless but uplifting escape from the dreariness of their real life.”

Indian writing in English took time to find its feet in the international and the regional market. Likewise children’s books (that go beyond mere instructional and educational value) too, will take their own sweet time. Says Vidya, “Life’s best lessons come from books. A sea change is in how parents should see books — as necessities rather than luxuries.”

Published with permission from the author. Link to article here.

Reaching out through radio

February 2, 2016
Bok och Bibliotek 2015, Arabella Koopman. Foto: Anna von Bršmssen

Arabella Koopman, Content Manager for PRAESA’S Nal’ibali campaign. Photo: Anna von Brömssen

In 2013, Nal’ibali (the reading-for-enjoyment campaign founded by PRAESA) launched a regular radio programme on eleven SABC public radio stations. Each of these radio stations airs children’s stories in one of the country’s official languages three times a week, taking Nal’ibali to 2.3 million listeners across South Africa. In fact, radio is the entry point for many people who interface with the Nal’ibali campaign.

“Oral storytelling, apart from being entertaining, provides children with the richness of language and concepts they need for successful learning. The regular radio story slots create a fantastic counterpart to the bilingual bi-monthly term time reading-for-enjoyment newspaper supplements that appear in select Times Media newspapers or which are delivered direct to reading clubs, libraries and NGOs,” comments Dr Carole Bloch, director of PRAESA (Project for the Study of Alternative Education in South Africa).

One of the challenges of running a reading-for-enjoyment campaign in South Africa is that it is a large country and about one-third of its total population (54 million people*) live in rural areas, which are often difficult to access physically. So, getting newspaper supplements to people is often logistically difficult.

Given this reality, if is often suggested that mobile phones are the ‘ideal’ delivery mechanism. In a country which has over 48 million cellphone users (89% of the population**), you’d think that this would solve the problem of connecting children to stories and adults to information and practical help. Nal’ibali made good use of this campaign delivery platform by very early on creating a mobisite that both smartphone users (only 34% of all cellphone users**) and feature-phone users can access. But, the problem is that for most South Africans data costs are prohibitive and in most households there simply is not enough disposable income to allow for the buying of data to access reading material.

And that is where radio comes in. Everyone in the country has access to radio. Apart from the cost of your radio, radio is free. Whether you live in an urban or a rural area, whether you have access to electricity or not, and no matter which of the official languages you speak, you can listen to Nal’ibali stories with your children on the radio.

Nal’iabli began collecting stories suited to the medium of radio in 2013 – original stories, traditional South African stories, traditional stories from around the world that are retold in a South African setting and stories published by South African publishers. Each of the selected stories is translated into the other ten official languages and scripted for radio by the SABC. Season 3 of Nal’ibali Radio starts in the first quarter on 2016, and by the end of this year 234 stories in eleven languages will have been broadcast – that’s 2,574 stories in total. And because the same stories are heard by all children who tune in irrespective of which language they speak or where they live, the stories make a contribution to building a common literary heritage for all South Africa’s children.

Arabella Koopman
Content Manager for PRAESA’S Nal’ibali campaign, responsible for the development and management of reading materials.

*Source: Statistics South Africa

**Source: Spring 2014 Global Attitudes Survey, PEW Research Centre