Colin Ray writes:
The article by Alison Leonard about IBBY (BfK No.77, Nov 92) must not pass without comment lest there are readers as naive as the author. I am glad she enjoyed the IBBY Congress, where she was able to listen innocently to the stories from other countries and retail them as examples to us. So IBBY groups in Germany take books to children in hospital; has she noticed that librarians and others do the same here? The South Africans are ‘bridging the gulf between black and white (and) between urban and rural children’; great, but has she had a look at most inner-city area children’s library services here?
Her answer is a revival of the British section of IBBY. For nearly 20 years a small group of members struggled, usually at their own expense, to keep the section going. I don’t recall Ms Leonard at any of its functions: was she a member? Time, energy and funds were the major problems, but the biggest drain was the annual, and increasing, demand of IBBY’s international office in Switzerland, calling now for around £2,000. And for what? Not for the biennial IBBY Congress (was Ms Leonard there when we held it 10 years ago in Britain?), because this is the host country’s problem. Not for the Hans Andersen awards, the list of diploma books: great publicity – can she name a few winners offhand? Not for supplying books to developing countries – the only move on that was the fund set up by the British. Not for seminars and day courses of the kind the British held for several years. And not for translation of children’s books; Bookbird, IBBY’s journal, recommends books for translation, but ask any publisher what the demand is – are they to be charitable organisations?
I am pleased to see that the Children’s Book Foundation is keen to be involved. In the early days of the British section, there was active support from the then head of the NBL children’s section. This gradually dwindled under pressure of other work, but if Ms Leonard’s enthusiasms bear fruit, one hopes the Foundation will not merely concur, but take a lead. But, the question remains: who’s going to finance IBBY’s international ‘activity’?
(Editor of Bookchat) writes:
Greetings from the bottom end of Africa! Thank you for allocating an entire page to Alison Leonard’s pleas for the restoration of British IBBY. So few people seem to CARE! 1 myself played a part in the acceptance (this year) of South Africa into IBBY, which is exciting for writers out here. But for heaven’s sake – I am British! I was born in Somerset amongst the cider apples.
It’s high time that book people in England realised (a) that a country which is the birthplace of most of the world’s children’s literature (and adult literature, too) has a duty to belong and share its expertise; and (b) that exclusion means NO British IBBY Honour Books, NO Hans Andersen nomination, NO nuffin.
So thanks again for giving space to the matter. Please pursue it.
(Chair of FCBG) writes:
I was pleased to read Alison Leonard’s forceful article decrying the disappearance of the British branch of IBBY. Although I share Ms Leonard’s sense of indignation at this course of events, I feel that to label the Children’s Book Foundation, the School Library Association and the Federation of Children’s Book Groups as ‘insular’ is beside the point as well as being untrue. Each organization plays a different but complementary role in bringing children and books together.
As Chair of the Federation, I feel I can speak with some assurance about our long tradition of taking an interest in the children’s book world outside this country. In the 70s we sent books to Zambia; many of our branches have supported UNESCO’s Books For All project for many years. In 1990 we launched ‘Story Aid’, a major project which has, to date, sent a number approaching 100,000 books to the Third World. A number of other charities, such as Oxfam, seem to have followed our lead.
In addition, National Tell-a-Story Week, an annual event organized by the Federation in schools, libraries and Children’s Book Groups all over the country, had as its theme last year ‘All Together Now’, with a booklist and suggested activities on an international theme. Finally, our jubilee Conference in Birmingham early this year and our 1994 Conference in Edinburgh both focus on trans-cultural themes.
Can we do more? No doubt we can. We have been long-time members of IBBY and would be anxious to support any initiative to ‘rekindle the flame’. Perhaps IBBY itself might look again at its fee structure so that membership is not a financial impossibility for us.
Alison Leonard replies:
I do apologise, especially to the Federation of Children’s Book Groups, of which I ‘m a constantly-stimulated member, if I implied that British children’s book enthusiasts don’t look beyond these shores, which of course they do. Colin Ray is right: I’m a naive newcomer to the IBBY scene; and, stuck away in my writer’s garret in the north, I’m not an expert in librarians’ initiatives or the history of IBBY-UK’s struggles.
But the fact remains: British IBBY died. Maybe a bit of naiveté might help it to be born again? Responses like Jay Heale’s show that it’s vital to our own and our children’s literary life. We have a duty to belong – and so much to gain, too. If a small group were keen to re-start, could they approach IBBY International to ask for financial patience; then, on that basis, approach the British Council and the Publishers’ Association for backing?
For those readers asking ‘What is IBBY?’ here’s the answer direct from their handbook:
‘The International Board on Books for Young People is a non-profit organization that was founded in Zurich, Switzerland, in 1953. It is an international network of people from all over the world who are committed to bringing books and children together. IBBY’s mission is:
* to promote international understanding through children’s books
* to give children everywhere the opportunity to have access to books with high literary and artistic standards
* to encourage the publication and distribution of quality children’s books, especially in developing countries
* to provide support and training for those involved with children and children’s literature
* to stimulate research and scholarly works in the field of children’s literature
IBBY is committed to the principles of the International Convention on the Rights of the Child, which was ratified by the United Nations in 1990. One of its main proclamations is the right of the child to a general education and to direct access to information. The resolution appeals to all nations to promote the production and distribution of children’s books.’
Enquiries about IBBY membership to Children’s Book Foundation, Book House, 45 East Hill, London SW18 2QZ; tel. 081 870 9055.
Robert Leeson writes :
Jean Ure is a rotten little twerp, picking holes in my composishun about School Stories. Bet she was swotting up the history while the other kids were snogging behind the bike sheds.Well serve her right if you asked her to write an essay on Recent School Stories. Only she’s got to do it in sixteen words for every year – like what I did in my piece. And when she’s written it, I’ll write a letter saying how many she’s missed out. So sucks,
Robert Leeson (Minor)
PS. You’d better print this. My brother’s bigger than you.
Hazel Townson writes:
I hope I’m not too late to join in the discussion about series books, which I think of as lifeboats thrown to readers drowning in a voluminous sea. Without series books many a potential reader-for-life would sink without trace.Children’s life-patterns are changing whether we like it or not. Their days are filling with more technological time-demands, so that there are fewer moments for curling up with a good book. But if there’s no time for a seven-course meal,one still needs sustenance, and quality sustenance at that. A well-written series book offers not only its own immediate pleasure but also the pleasure of further similar excitements to come. Watch the children in a public library and see how many of them search eagerly for the next book about their current hero or heroine. No genuine, committed writer with children’s needs at heart will be influenced by critics who look down on series writing, for these are the books which win readers, not prizes.
Editor’s Note: see page 11 of this issue for the first of Steve Rosson’s Series Round-Up.
Gordon Dennis writes :
I was sorry that Peter Thomas included in his valuable, enthusiastic and classroom-wise appraisal of Shakespeare: The Animated Tales (BfK No.77, Nov 92) his own unargued dogma. ‘Statutory Shakespeare erects an icon’; ‘a compulsory Shakespeare test for all will do nothing’? Well, it depends how he’s taught, how he’s regarded; neither prediction will be true, I’d bet, in Peter Thomas’s own classroom. And, he avers, it’s only ‘purists’ who’ll be offended at the Tales’s abridgement of the plays and the decision to lay the blank verse out as continuous prose. Why link those very different editorial practices? Real purists will know that Shakespeare himself for good reasons abridged his own plays, just as for good reasons he distinguished – stylistically, but also in layout – between prose and poetry. I can’t see how it will help KS3 students to hide from them a distinction Shakespeare felt significant, nor to let them up grow up thinking that he and Patience Strong share an undiscriminating prosody.