Celebrating Children’s Literature23 March 2017
The London Book Fair is an annual publishing event welcoming over 25,000 visitors from across the globe. Authors, illustrators and publishing houses gather to promote their latest work, with seminars and interviews spanning a wealth of writing genres.
This was my second visit to the Book Fair and I was once again intrigued by the seminar content in the Children’s Hub. I was also excited to discover an array of new releases from the top publishing houses and look forward to acquiring some for our library shelves soon.
A highly anticipated collection of stories
On day one I attended a seminar on the launch of a collection of short stories for children, Quest, which will be published this Spring. The collection is the result of a European collaboration organised by the current Capital of Culture, Copenhagen. The initiative celebrates 39 emerging writers under 40. A competition was launched across Europe to write a short story on the theme of journeys.
Two of the selected writers, Sarah Crossan and Katherine Rundell, were interviewed in the seminar. Crossan, author of award winning One, tackles the theme of jealousy in her story about a young girl who sets out to harm her stepmother’s new baby. She said that in a world of Dork Diaries and Diary of a Wimpy Kid children are still willing to try something different. She spoke about how we underestimate children and how brave they are in their approach to literature. They are in fact hungry from something new. Rundell’s story is a modern fairytale about home and love. It sees a girl with a special coat which makes her fly up a mountain to discover a new world. She was fortunate to have her story illustrated by Children’s Laureate, Chris Riddell.
This collection really speaks to our international ethos at IIL and we’ll definitely be securing some copies for our libraries, with translations available in English and French.
A fresh perspective on illustration
Illustration was a key theme at this year’s fair. Three prominent author illustrators from the Baltic countries gave an interesting talk. Their work is extremely intricate and sophisticated compared to the illustrations we usually see in our library collection. They spoke about not following the rules in the creative process, to always remain true to yourself and ignore the advice on the internet.
A renowned Lithuanian illustrator confessed that he writes and illustrate books for himself, and it just so happens they are also loved by children.
Michael Morpurgo launches his new book
The highlight of the event for me was an interview with Michael Morpurgo, author of over 130 books including War Horse and The Butterfly Lion. He was promoting his latest book, an adaptation of the Wizard of Oz illustrated by Emma Chichester Clark. Morpurgo was approached by the illustrator to rework the classic Wizard of Oz. She wanted him to tell the tale from the point of view of Toto, inspired by her beloved terrier dog, Plum. Morpurgo told the audience how today’s children are not reading the classic texts. The language is often archaic and it is seen as more enjoyable to watch the Disney movie. He wants to bring children back to these favourite stories and has written several adaptations such as Pinocchio and Aesop’s Fables. Paired with beautiful illustration these books have a modern tone making them more appealing to children.
Morpurgo spoke about his early career as a primary school teacher. He would read to his Year 6 children at the end of each school day and soon he began to make his own stories up for them. Storytelling became a passion of his which led to the publication of his first fiction books. He firmly believes that literature and reading are at the heart of a good education as children learn empathy through stories.
Morpurgo’s adaptations of the classics are available in our English Primary Library and Year 3 are currently enjoying Pinocchio as part of the their weekly library lesson.
Inspiration for 2017
The publishing houses presented their new titles for 2017. We’re excited about Witch for a Week by Kaye Umansky, We’re all Wonders, a picture book based on the award winning Wonder by RJ Palacio, and The Book of Dust by Philip Pullman.
The fair also provided the opportunity to network with authors and illustrators. I met with children’s author, Dianne Hofmeyr, who came to IIL in 2015. She is releasing two new titles this year and we hope to invite her back again to continue our series of author/illustrator workshops.
Finally, if you’re looking for inspiration on children’s literature please refer to the Library section of the website www.clpe.org.uk where you’ll find booklists for different age groups and genres. The blog www.playingbythebook.net also offers interesting reviews on forthcoming titles.
English Primary Librarian
Photo : Michael Morpurgo at the 2017 London Book Fair