International Children’s Books

At Wednesday’s meeting of Children’s Department Managers at the Suffolk Cooperative Library System, Doris Gebel told us that part of her role as president of USBBY will be planning for 2013’s International Children’s Book Day. This event will be “hosted” by the United States and Ashley Bryan, recent winner of the Coretta Scott King Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement, will be designing the poster. Doris also shared her concern that librarians, parents, and children may not gravitate to international books because the art or subject matter can be challenging to the sensibilities of our western culture. For example, a book like Duck, Death and Tulip by Wolf Erlbruch, translated by Catherine Chidgey, has been reviewed positively in four journals but is not making its way into many collections in Suffolk County. (We have this title in the SCLS office if you’d like to review it.)

Nonetheless, it’s a reality that if we do add these noteworthy titles, they may not fly off our shelves. (They might need a librarian like you to champion them!) If you find yourself forced to make a tough weeding decision over a book that was originally published in another country, please touch base with Doris at the Northport-East Northport library. She is looking into developing a deep collection of international books in her children’s department and may be able to accommodate a book that is not finding readers in your community.

Not sure how to find international books that your patrons may enjoy? Take a look at the recent SLJ article that highlights the Outstanding International Books of 2011.

After the meeting I opened my email and found the latest newsletter from Novelist featuring an interview with…can you guess? Doris Gebel! Take a look at the interview titled Best Practices: International Children’s Books.

Suffolk County Public Librarians!: Comment on this blog post by Friday and receive a free international book for your collection!

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Anne Pellowski Returns to the Suffolk Cooperative Library System

A wonderful confluence of events will bring a world-renowned storyteller to our doorstep this February. Anne Pellowski is in between visits to Ethiopia, where she taught families how to make their own cloth books, and Central America, where she will assist with the Bibliobus project. A native of Wisconsin and active member of the International Board on Books for Young People, Anne is truly a citizen of the world. Anne has kindly offered to present a program on storytelling for librarians on Friday, February 3rd at 10:00am in the SCLS auditorium. She will demonstrate how she makes cloth books and teach us storytelling techniques using our fingers, string, paper, and handkerchiefs.

Anne presented at SCLS about 18 years ago and it was a workshop Joanne K. of the Commack Public Library has never forgotten. “A librarian who attends Anne’s presentation on February 3rd will never forget it either,” Joanne said at the Dream Big meeting on January 17th.

If you work in a Suffolk County library, please register for Anne’s program online or by contacting SCLS Youth Services. If possible, please bring a handkerchief with you to the program. In the meantime, check out Anne’s books, which cover the whole spectrum of storytelling, from techniques and presentation ideas to history and research.

An Opportunity Too Good to Pass Up

The USBBY Bridge to Understanding Award Committee seeks to identify and honor innovative programs that use children’s literature as a way to promote international understanding, and libraries are eligible for this award. Does your library program promote “reading as a way to expand a child’s world”?

To learn more about the award, view information about past winners, and to access entry, criteria, and application forms, please visit the USBBY website. Or, you can contact Suffolk’s own Doris Gebel, president of USBBY, at the Northport-East Northport Library.

The award carries a monetary prize of $1000 and a certificate. The submission deadline for the next award is January 31, 2012.

Peace the World Together with Children’s Books

Nearly 250 librarians, authors, professors, publishers, and students gathered at California State University at Fresno for the 9th Regional IBBY (International Board on Books for Young People) Conference this past weekend. The United States Board on Books for Young People (USBBY) hosts the IBBY Regional Conference every other year at a site in the United States. USBBY Executive Director Ellis Vance reported that there were representatives from 30 states and 6 continents at this event celebrating international children’s literature. Fresno State – home of the Arne Nixon Center for the Study of Children’s Literature – made an ideal setting for the gathering. The Nixon Center’s special exhibit “Down the Rabbit Hole with Lewis Carroll and Leonard Weisgard: Literary, Visual, and Sculptural Translations of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” was the icing on the cake.

The theme of the conference was Peace the World Together with Children’s Books. Some of the featured speakers were Pam Muñoz Ryan, Margarita Engle, Grace Lin and her editor Alvina Ling, Adwoa Badoe (pictured right), David Diaz, Roger Mello (a talented and prolific illustrator from Brazil), and Dorothy Briley lecturer Beverley Naidoo. Mary Lois Nicholls, retired children’s librarian from Smithtown, Anne Pellowski, K.T. Horning, Nina Lindsay, and Michael Cart were just a few of the well-known participants present from our field.

On Saturday morning, the group broke out into book discussion sessions featuring the books of the guess speakers. I particularly enjoyed discussing Between Sisters by Adwoa Badoe. When storyteller Badoe addressed the group, she treated us to a tale about why fisherman always sing the same peculiar folk song. On Saturday afternoon I sat in on a session led by the previous and current chairs of the Outstanding International Books Committee, Elizabeth Poe and Kathy East. The two chairs book-talked twenty-two books from the 2010 and 2011 lists that pertained to five themes: fleeing oppression, surviving adversity, forging friendships, finding family, and creating peace.

USBBY President Elect Doris Gebel (pictured here with Beverley Naidoo) presided over the awards ceremony on Saturday evening. One of the many people she introduced was long-time supporter of USBBY John Mason (Scholastic), who chaired the committee that selected Beverley Naidoo to give the Dorothy Briley lecture. Naidoo delivered her remarks – which included an homage to editor and publisher Dorothy Briley – in an arresting, almost hypnotizing voice. It was an unforgettable evening.

When Doris asked what my favorite part of the conference was, I was hard-pressed to answer. Hearing Grace Lin read from the first chapter of Starry River of the Sky, the companion novel to Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, was certainly a high point, as was seeing the work of an illustrator as talented as Roger Mello (especially since his books are, regretfully, not available in the States). Margarita Engle’s story about her grandmother who lived her whole life believing she was “word blind” was heart-wrenching (Engle’s grandmother, who was dyslexic, is inspiration for the protagonist in Engle’s next book titled The Wild Book.) But my favorite part had to be hearing Kang Woo Hyon speak about the making of Peace Story, a collection of illustrated stories commissioned for NAMBOOK-010, the Nami Island Children’s Book Festival in Korea. Peace Story is available to Suffolk library staff from the SCLS Youth Services Review Collection.

The next USBBY conference will be in St. Louis, October 18-20, 2013. If you can’t wait that long, the next IBBY Congress is next August in London! To become a member, or for more information, visit the USBBY website or contact Doris at the Northport-East Northport Library.

(Photos taken by Junko Yokota)

USBBY Program Highlights Noteworthy International Books

At the ALA Annual Conference in New Orleans, the United States Board on Books for Young People (USBBY) presented a panel discussion called International Children’s Book Publishing: A Small Press Perspective. Representatives from Groundwood, Kane/Miller, Chronicle, and NorthSouth Books spoke about their line of children’s books as well as the history and characteristics of their publishing companies. There are many books I would like to highlight here today, but I’ve chosen two that made it home with me in my suitcase, allowing ample time for reading and relishing: Seasons by Anne Crausaz (Kane/Miller) and 999 Tadpoles (NorthSouth).

Everything is green. It must be springtime. With this simple statement of fact, author/illustrator Anne Crausaz begins her exploration of the seasons through a child’s five senses. Each two-page spread has an exquisite color palette that is never ordinary. The autumn leaves are especially striking in their subdued shades of grey-blue, burnt orange, and mustard. There’s a cool perfection to the images that is warmed by the rosy cheeks and freckled face of the young protagonist as she gathers tomatoes in her skirt or tastes the first blackberries of autumn. This title will make a lovely addition to preschool storytime collections – and your coffee table.

One warm spring day, 999 tadpoles were born. First published in Japan in 2003, this story begins in springtime as well. When the frog family grows too large for their pond, they embark on a journey to find a new home. When Father is grabbed by a hawk, the family grabs on, too, forming a long, froggy chain. The exhausted hawk eventually lets go, leaving the frogs (and the reader) dangling in suspense until a chorus of splashes announces the family’s arrival in their new home. Illustrator Yasunari Murakami’s tiny frogs are expressive in their simplicity and hilarious in their numbers. White space, green frogs, and round yellow eyes dominate the pages, making the appearance of cool blue at the end all the more satisfying.

Both of these titles are available for Suffolk County librarians to borrow from the SCLS Youth Services Review Collection. The 9th IBBY Regional Conference (sponsored by USBBY) is titled Peace the World Together with Children’s Books and takes place in Fresno in October.

International Children’s Book Day

April 2nd is International Children’s Book Day, and there’s still time to display books from around the world or take a book home to share with a child this weekend. The newly published 2nd edition of If the World Were A Village: A Book About the World’s People might make a great title for family reading and discussion (view the book trailer here or download the teacher’s guide.) Take advantage of the resources provided by USBBY and plan an activity introducing International Children’s Book Day to your family or community. These resources may also be useful for summer programs incorporating the theme One World, Many Stories.