Crossing Boundaries: Children’s Books, Translations and Migrations

I was delighted to be able to attend my first IBBY Congress this year. The International Board on Books for Young People is committed to promoting international understanding through children’s books. With this in mind, every two years it holds an international congress for writers, illustrators, educators, publishers, translators and others involved in the children’s book world. As this year’s congress was relatively nearby, in London, and had the theme of “Crossing Boundaries: Migrations and Translations”, I knew that I had to go.

What a list of speakers! The event kicked off with performances from not one Children’s Laureate, but three. And they really were performances. Michael Morpurgo told tales and sang a song from War Horse, Anthony Browne shared stories about his work and Julia Donaldson actually busked on-stage with her husband before getting some of the braver members of the audience up there with her to act the parts of a cow, a goat, a pig and a chicken.

Other highlights of the plenary sessions included Michael Rosen’s brilliant preentation and a very inspiring talk from Shaun Tan. There was plenty of translation-based entertainment too, including a translation duel between Daniel Hahn and Rosalind Harvey and an interview with Kai Meyer and veteran translator Anthea Bell. Saturday evening saw a gala reception at the Science Museum and the presentation of the 2012 Hans Christian Andersen Award to Peter Sís and María Terera Andruetto. Flemish author Bart Moeyaert was shortlisted for his “subtle depictions of strong characters by evoking poetical atmospheres using a language that combines both humour and seriousness” (phew!) and he was there to pick up his certificate – to loud applause, particularly from the Dutch-speaking contingent.

This was a great way to bring together people from all over the world who share an interest in literature for children, and a fantastic opportunity to meet up with old friends and new. Thanks to the organisers of IBBY London 2012. Now, will I make it to Mexico City in 2014 and Auckland in 2016?

A rather blurred Shaun Tan and his fabulous Eric

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