In early September, I attended the IBBY conference in Copenhagen. To be honest, I was disappointed by this conference, though on paper it sounded really interesting (not to mention the fact that the social events, such as dinner at Tivoli and a buffet at Copenhagen’s city hall, were fun).
IBBY is the International Board on Books for Young People, with chapters in 72 countries. Every two years, it has a large conference, at which there are many presentations, and the H.C. Andersen Prize is awarded to one living author and one living illustrator (this year, Queen Margrethe of Denmark gave the prizes to the winners, Swiss author Jürg Schubiger and Italian illustrator Roberto Innocenti), and the IBBY Honour List of good books and translations for children is announced, and the IBBY-Asahi Awards for reading promotion are presented (this year to Editions Bakame of Rwanda and Action with Lao Children). Incidentally, regarding the H.C. Andersen award nominees, as I was reading through the detailed list, which was given in Bookbird magazine, I was surprised, and a little frustrated, to see that a not insignificant number of writers felt that writing for children was easier than writing for adults. I would definitely disagree with that.
One of the keynote speeches was by a Norwegian woman (note: not a Jewish Norwegian) who wrote children's books based on her own experience as a Norwegian child during the German invasion in Norway in WW2 and another keynote speech was by a Danish writer, who had published children's books based on her mother's experiences during the war (her mother was Jewish and left Hungary for Denmark, but the author herself was baptized and raised Lutheran). Another speaker, who presented children’s books on the Holocaust, was criticized for not discussing Palestinians, even though that was not her area of expertise and there was not enough time to discuss every possible issue. Also, there was a keynote speaker who discussed Palestinian children’s books. So something that made the conference leave a bad taste in my mouth, so to speak, was that quite a few people complained about all this attention being paid to Jews at the conference. That an academic conference – especially one on children’s literature, which should be a field that is open and accepting – is expected to be politically correct is not news to me, but it is disappointing.
The next post will discuss more on ideology and children’s literature.
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