Sunday, 2 October 2016


This afternoon, I realised thanks to Sue’s reminder that I hadn’t out up a blog. Blame it on my ageing brain or the fact that I have been immersed in family activities, but it is the first time I’ve ‘forgotten’ since I joined this forum… will make it a short one.

A few months ago Alexis Deacon and I were hosted by IBBY UAE at their International Conference in Sharjah.

Here we are in suitable attire in the incredible red 'fire' desert outside Sharjah. I could post about all the myriad of experiences that made it so special and the friendliness and hospitality of our hosts and all the book people there, but to keep it quick and snappy I’m going to select one picture book published by KALIMAT that crossed borders and said more about the human condition than any I’ve seen recently. As I can’t read Arabic – the book became a wordless picture book for me and I had to look extra hard at what the artist was telling me. (apologies here for the very fast scans with slightly faded colours! The book in reality is far more jewel like0

Divorce or separation is not easily handled in a picture book story. Here you have the story of a boy experiencing his world separately with each parent. He shares his time with them travelling between the two houses. The mechanics of this separation are cleverly devised by the publisher in that the book cover splits down the middle along that black line you see in the middle of the pic below and opens to either side. So the rift or the separation or alienation is highlighted and you have the boy starng out of two very different windows.

Significantly he travels with his own ‘home’ on his back in the form of a 'snail' backpack.

We know the parents are heartsore. They put pictures up of him lying in his bed and at the dining room table in their own houses when he is not there.

The boy is taken on a dream journey by some dolphins where he lands on a foreign shore. 

But is it a foreign shore? It looks familiar to me. In fact its looks like the same walkway he took between his parents' homes.   

He creates his own home with a roof rather like his' snail' backpack and celebrates with a party We are all left expectant and hopeful when there is a knock on the door. Will it be his parents?

As an afterthought to this blog I've added this endpage as I've had librarians emailing to ask more details of the book. The ISBN is 9789948223320. It was published in 2014 by KALIMAT. The drawing on the endpaper made me smile. It seems to emphasis how precarious the boy's life appears as he cycles across the walkway.

If picture books intrigue you, make sure you book for:

IBBY / NCRCL Annual Conference
Roehampton University
5 November 2016

Marvellous Imaginations - Extending thinking through picture books

This year’s conference explores the ways in which picture books contribute to the development of the child through critical, imaginative, empathetic, creative or other responses. A glimpse at the international world of picture books, at trends and developments in creating picture books and publishing, and research into children’s interaction with picture books

We will hear from eminent illustrators, including Laura Carlin who will be presented with her medal for winning Biennale of Illustration, Bratislava, one of the oldest international honours for children's book illustrators, and about the new Klaus Flugge Prize for the most exciting newcomer to picture book illustration.

Here is the programme for the day:


Penny Dolan said...

That book sounds really special, Dianne - and thanks for the link to the 2016 IBBY Conference. (Oh, you lucky Londoners!)

Dianne Hofmeyr said...

Thanks Penny... 5 hours later after extensive tube delays and trains cancelled, I'm finally back at my desk and realised I left off the 'key' ppint of the story – the boy is taken on a dream journey by some dolphins and he creates his own home – on a foreign shore... yet is it a foreign shore? It looks familiar to me. Perhaps it's real or perhaps it's his imagination. I don' t know because I can't read the words.. But he creates a home with a roof rather like his 'snail' backpack where he plans the party on neutral grounds half way between his parents' homes and hopes they'll come. And then there is the knock on the door. And we all know how exciting it is when we hear that knock and the guests arrive.

Perhaps I'll have to add this addendum to my blog with the appropriate illustration!

Sharon Tregenza said...

Interesting post, Dianne. I used to live in Sharjah. :)

Ferelith Hordon said...

Sounds a brilliant and imaginative approach. Do you know if KALIMAT have managed to get iforeign rights for translation? It would travel well I think

Dianne Hofmeyr said...

Hi Ferelith, yes it would be a perfect translation. Perhaps I should try to track it down through KALIMATS connection with Quarto Kids Books. Must have been very different living in Sharjah Sharon. How long ago? The city is spreading right into the desert with incredible schools and universities down long boulevards.