Tuesday 15 December 2009

And the Winner Is...? by Dianne Hofmeyr

Last week I was at an IBBY (International Board on Books for Young People) event that celebrated the nomination of author, David Almond, and author/illustrator, Michael Foreman, for next year’s top prize in international children’s literature – the Hans Christian Andersen Award. Winners will be announced at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair in March 2010 and the Awards will be presented at the IBBY World Congress in Santiago de Compostela.

It’s given biennially by IBBY to a living author and illustrator whose complete works have made a lasting contribution to children’s literature. David Almond and Michael Foreman, nominated by the British Section of IBBY, are amongst nominees from more than 50 other national sections. So the competition is tough! Winners are the grandads and grandes dames of the industry. The only time since it’s inception in 1956, that it’s been won by the UK was when Anthony Browne won it for Illustration in 2000 and when Aiden Chambers and Quentin Blake won Author and Illustrator titles respectively in 2002.
The pictures above show Michael Foreman's son, Jack, who is the author of the book Say Hello which his dad illustrated, and David Almond standing with Jane Winterbotham, his editor from Walker.

It was compelling to listen to both David Almond and Michael Foreman. David spoke of how the idea of Skellig grew from his Mum feeling under the ridges of his shoulder blades and telling him these were the bumps from which his angel wings grew. That’s powerful stuff… a few words from a mother to a receptive child and years later a story of such magnitude. It made me wonder if I’d sprinkled enough stardust over my own sons.

David is a true author’s author. He loves pages, full stops, comma’s, shapes of paragraphs, shapes of sentence – and has been known to reduce his pages to a size where the print is merely a grey outline for the sheer pleasure of looking at the shape and physicality of the print on the page. All this is quite childish he says. ‘But that’s why we write for children because we retain the childishness in us.’ He believes… ‘writing is about having and communicating visions. Children are quite comfortable with this.’

Michael Foreman has written and illustrated more than 50 of his own books, in addition to illustrating more than 150 books by other writers. He grew up during the Second World War which had a lasting and creative influence on his work most notably in his autobiographical War Boy and After the War Was Over and his latest book A Child’s Garden. His illustrations reminded me that in the picture book, a child has access to entire galleries of art on their own bookshelves.

This resonated with me when I went to Cally Poplak’s brilliant talk at the Soc of Authors on ebooks. Cally was upbeat about how authors can encompass ebooks but I have a nagging doubt when it comes to e picture books. How on a handheld screen the size of an iPhone is a child going to ‘find’ that tiny, tiny spider lurking under that very small leaf, or ‘see’ the very gradual grades of shading or texture? What will the e picture book do for visual literacy? Will it do what the printing press did for oral story telling? In order to encompass the small screen will we come to accept that visual literacy will be different in years to come and picture book illustration will change? And the winner is…?


Stroppy Author said...

Let's hope for a British win - at least one of them!

I don't agree with Cally, by the way - all kinds of factors will lead to e-books taking over from paper books, including economic, environmental, social and the fact that children can't learn to read on a screen the size of an iPhone so they will have to start with something larger format at least. Of course, it might just lead to reduced literacy, but I'm an optimist! Paper books may reduce in numbers but won't go away.

madwippitt said...

I'll be interested in seeing a pop-up ebook ... :-)