Seven Stories is the national home of children’s books in the UK, and a member of the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY). This Spring, the IBBY Honour List Collection came to Seven Stories – and students and staff from Newcastle University’s School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics had the chance to explore it, too!
IBBY describes the Honour List as ‘a biennial selection of outstanding, recently published books, honouring writers, illustrators and translator from IBBY member countries.’ IBBY sections from around the world recommend books for the Writing, Illustration and Translation Honour List categories.
Collections of the Honour List books are then circulated around the world, travelling between institutions, conferences and book fairs, which fulfils IBBY’s objective to ‘encourage international understanding through children’s literature’. And this year, Seven Stories were lucky enough to recently host the IBBY Honour List for Illustration!
Having such an amazing international collection in Newcastle also seemed like a great opportunity for Newcastle University’s Children’s Literature Unit, so I got in touch with colleagues there and organised opportunities for staff and students to explore the Honour List.
First, I took the collection up to the University to the Children’s Literature Unit Graduate Group. We spent around an hour looking at the different items and discussing which books we were particularly drawn to. Professor Kim Reynolds, who led the session, said: ‘I loved the way many of the authors and illustrators play with the idea of the book as an art form and the variety of shapes and ways of understanding “the book” they exhibited.’ MLitt student Jennifer Shelley said: ‘What really stuck me as a whole were the similarities (e.g. common themes such as empowered children) but also the differences: some books looked quite traditional and even old-fashioned, possibly because publishing of children’s books is at different stages in different countries.’
The same afternoon, Dr Helen Limon and the MA in Creative Writing students visited Seven Stories and explored the IBBY Honour List as part of their seminar. With this group, there was a lot of discussion about the different stories the books were telling. Student Caitlin Kendall said: ‘I thought the collection was really fascinating in that it seemed to highlight some universal themes for children such as belonging, identity, recognition and philosophy whilst at the same time highlighting some profound cultural differences in what is appropriate in literature for children in terms of narrative, illustration and message.’
I had two opportunities to explore the collection – my favourite item? So difficult to choose, but I particularly loved Zullo and Albertine’s Mon Tout Petit (La Joie De Lire), nominated by Switzerland. And with these charming illustrations, it’s not difficult to see why…