Friday, 2 May 2014

LONDON BOOK FAIR 2014 and a tribute to Korean picture books – Dianne Hofmeyr

Pam Dix from the IBBY committee UK with the President of IBBY Korea, Su-Jung Kim and writer Sang-Hee Lee.

I remember my first London Book Fair in 1998... I wandered aimlessly about wondering what on earth I was doing there. Everyone seemed to be rushing with purpose, while I trundled about feeling distinctly insignificant and redundant. It’s odd how the actual creators of books, can feel so inconsequential at a Book Fair. But over the years I've realised that most of the best encounters take place without planning, in the corridors between the stands, or in the numerous seminar sessions – even if it’s just to put a face to an editor you’ve never met, or meet one new person who will be a springboard to other projects, or just one new author or illustrator who has similar interests.

The most striking children’s book stand this year goes to Egmont. Not only did they have the best sweets in their jars and a balloon-floating Pooh bear... but alongside an earnest table discussion, I spotted a pram! So authors with babies do manage to get appointments! 
The Artworks also made a child-friendly statement with open tables and chairs. 
Some of the larger publishing house stands with their 'gate-keepers', protect their editors and rights people as well as the books from anyone who might want to browse a book. A few get around this this with digital posters of new books on their hoarding. Daughters of Time, the History Girls anthology showed up well on one of these massive digital screens. But there are others, where one is hard pressed to know they actually publish a thing called a book. 

The most thought-provoking stand was Book Aid International, where I met Judith Henderson, the project manager. It was a shack built of bits of wood with tin-plate, a hand-painted library sign, empty shelves and a single locked cupboard showing how books are so precious and few in Africa, that they are literally locked up. Figuratively locked away too as so few people have access to books in Africa. Book Aid works in partnership with libraries in Africa providing new books and resources and training. They were the LBF's Charity of the Year and to mark their 60th anniversary they plan 60 new child friendly library spaces. The ABBA blog isn’t about fund-raising but if you are interested in donating visit:

The seminars and workshops were many and varied with accomplished speakers in their fields – Julia Eccleshare leading the panel on What the judges are looking for, Sophie Hallam from Booktrust and Ben O'Donell speaking on Children’s reading habits, Lynn Taylor from the Reading Agency facilitating a talk on Chatterbox Groups and Mike Jolley, Chris Wormell and Tom Cole on The Spectrum of Experience – from first time picture book to lasting career. The Authors Hub was crowded and noisy and too small.

Malorie Blackman with her huge enthusiasm and energy, was Author of the Day on the final day.

Korea was the guest country of this year’s Fair and the Korea IBBY stand had a magnificent display of Award Winning Korean picture books. What struck me is they often dealt with children with difficulties and disabilities but because many were wordless, could easily be enjoyed not just by Korean children but children across all cultures. So here we are... an IBBY UK and KIBBY gathering on the last day of the Fair.
Pam Dix, Ferelith Hordon and me with some members from KBBY including the President, Su-Jung Kim
Many of the Korean books on display had won the Bologna Ragazzi Award, which is given to picture books prominent in technical expression and stories with great creativity, educational values and artistic design. The foreign Bologna Ragazzi books are often picked up by other publishers like the Tate. The Lion in Paris translated from French, being a good example of this.

Here are four picture books with Korean artwork to enjoy:
The images in Last Night by Hyewon Yum which won the 2009 Bologna Raggazi Award, are full of playfulness and beautifully rendered in textured print with bold shapes and a striking way of showing light and shadow. It's a wordless picture book that tells of a grumpy child going out at night with her bedtime bear who has been transformed.

A day at the beach by Kim Su-yeon, is about a blind fisherman who has no one to help him in his advanced years. The text in its entirety only amounts to five lines, but the illustrations show how the old man leads a full life. It was one of the winning entries in the student category of the V&A Illustration Awards 2006.

Readers follow the blind man as he goes fishing with his dog. He is mending his nets when a seagull snatches a line out of his hands and the dog, chasing the seagull, suddenly morphs into the seagull. The dog-seagull returns the line to the old man. In the meantime the old man is reeling in a big white fish. The white fish swims off with the newly returned line and the old man, turning into a black fish, pursues it. The dog-seagull follows him under the sea, and turns into a large boulder when a shark threatens to gobble up the black fish. Then the boulder turns into the old man, and the black fish turns into the dog. Coming back to the surface, the old man and the dog go home with the big fish in their basket. The story finishes with the line, “Tomorrow they will repeat their life of today.” 

A runs across every page of the book suggesting that the old man, even though blind and isolated, is not abandoned by the world but is always connected to something – his dog, seagulls, fish, and by extension to nature itself. Powerful and imaginative. 

The Story of Ppibi by Jin-Heon Song reflects the childhood memories of the author. Ppibi is an autistic child who comes to play in the forest, the neighborhood playground, but is shunned by other children. The narrator befriends Ppibi and the two boys explore the forest together. The forest is shown in fine pointillistic pencil marks, shadowy at times and at other times like a nebula of light dust, giving the sense of a cloud around the characters which suggests perhaps the autism.
Wave by Suzy Lee published in 2009 made the IBBY Silent books Lampedusa Project Honour List.  A little girl visits the beach and overcomes her fear of the ocean. No words, just the sky and the sea, the seagulls and a girl – very fluid and immediate – done in only two colours. One can almost hear the waves and seagulls squawking and smell the sea. Simple and wonderful.
Zeraffa Giraffa illustrated by Jane Ray, published by Frances Lincoln, was chosen as Book of the Week by Nicolette Jones in the Sunday Times Culture on 20th April and given a 5 star review in Books for Keeps.

My 10 Best Giraffe Books has just gone online in The Guardian:


Sue Purkiss said...

This is a lovely post - I've often wondered hat's to be got out of the LBF for an author, and this tells me! I love the look of the last two picture books in particular.

Joanna said...

Thanks for this roundup. I too love the picture book illustrations at the end.

Dianne Hofmeyr said...

thanks Sue and Joanna. Korean illustration is so very different... very spare... but its the quality of the inkwork in the print that I think is so wonderful. Uncluttered and simple.

anna said...

Love the illustrations, thanks for the post :)

Jackie Marchant said...

A great post - absolutely agree about the Children's hub being far too small and noisy - and a silly shape! Agree that the Korean PB's are lovely. And it was nice to see you there!

Dianne Hofmeyr said...

Anna I went to your website... I love your work. That tiger is the VERY best! And the wolf and the snake (python?)... all marvellous!

David Thorpe said...

Thanks for the great roundup. You make me wish I had gone this year! I love the illustrations you posted.

Dianne Hofmeyr said...

Thanks David. I only booked my ticket through the Soc of Authors (to get the discount) at the very last minute... but it helps to make you feel you are part of the business of books!