Thursday, 8 March 2018

Vilnius, London, Amsterdam by Keren David

I'm writing this quite late at night having just got home from Amsterdam. And tomorrow I am meeting American students, and need to make some sense (and wear clean clothes). So this month's post is going to be more pictures than words.

Would you like to come to the Vilnius book fair? This is the kind of question that doesn't  come my way very often, so when it did I said yes please, reckoning that a free trip to Lithuania's capital was worth accepting, as an interested author and (the reason they were asking me) as a journalist. 

Now, unfortunately, when it came to it, I developed a nasty fluey cold, complete with racking cough and fluctuating temperature on the very day we were flying to Vilnius (arriving at 2.15am local time, to an unusually cold snap which saw the city covered in sheet ice and a frosting of snow, and a wind chill factor of -23). 

I managed day one of the book fair, then took to my hotel bed for day two, recovering sufficiently do do some sightseeing on day 3. It wasn't ideal. But I did see that the book fair -  which is where many Eastern European publishers do their deals - was also very much open to the public and seen as an important cultural event in a way that book fairs in London and Frankfurt are not. And I noticed many children among the crowded halls. So I was keen to visit the children's publishing hall to see what they were up to.
There, the work of Lithuanian illustrators was displayed prominently (no names, I'm sorry to say, I was too ill to do my job properly and so failed dismally to get all the details that I should have). But I did take pictures: 

What's more there were several illustrators there, working with children to create their own art projects. And there were typewriters, pens and paper, and even braille machines for anyone who felt the urge to sit and write.

A little way out of the children's hall, there was an EU stall, which also included activities for children, who seemed to be fitting shapes together (in a remarkably harmonious and co operative fashion) 

If I had been less flu-ridden and more journalistic, I would have asked more questions, but as it is all I can offer are some fuzzy thoughts about how nice it was to see a culture actively encouraging young readers to think about how books are produced ad published, and to see the commercial side of the business acknowledging the creators and readers who make it all happen.

Anyway, I came back to London, where it snowed, and at work we celebrated the Jewish festival of Purim for which some of my colleagues dressed in fancy dress 

 and I tried to rid myself of the flu in time for a visit to Amsterdam with my husband. This was pure fun -  a pre-birthday treat - back to the city where we lived for eight years when our kids (now 18 and 21) were small. 

Walking round the city on Monday, I spotted several reminders of the work of Cutch illustrators who became part of my kids' childhood. Nijntje the rabbit -  better known as Miffy to English speakers  -  is Dick Bruna's iconic creation. If I could have brought one of these porcelain bunnies home, I would have...

Then there were these two, Jip and Janneke, who were the creations of Annie G Schmidt and illustrator Fiep Westerdorp, who created the distinctive  silhouettes to suit the newspaper strip in which they first appeared.My kids didn't read Jip and Janneke books, but the illustrations were everywhere -  on clothes, stationery, lunch boxes -  and just seeing this book took me back in time.

Then -  alas - I turned my ankle on a cobbled canalside and spent the rest of my visit hobbling around or sitting in cafes.  So I wasn't with my husband when he took this picture in the  Vondelpark...

This creature was picking up rubbish...and I'm glad he wasn't there when my kids were small, because I think he would have freaked them out. 

And now I must go and soak my sore foot...and hope that next time I venture abroad I will neither get ill, nor injured.

1 comment:

Mystica said...

It is nice and a bit unusual to see a focus on children's literature at a book fair. Way to go. You've done quite a bit despite the setbacks.