Marvellous Imaginations: A Wonderful Day

The 23rd annual IBBY/NCRCL MA Conference took place on 5 November 2016 at the University of Roehampton. This year’s theme was ‘Marvellous Imaginations – Extending thinking through picture books’. This week on the NCRCL blog, alumni and current NCRCL students will be reporting on various aspects of the conference, including the speakers, panellists and parallel sessions.

Marvellous Imaginations: A Wonderful Day

By Suzanne Curley

On Saturday November 5th Roehampton University once again hosted the annual IBBY/NCRCL Conference. This year’s theme was ‘Marvellous Imaginations: Extending thinking through picture books’.

There was, as always, a plethora of fascinating sessions from academics and leading experts in the field of picture book study and creation.

The day began with a lovely array of tea, coffee, pastries and socialising, with an opportunity to browse the display tables, including the IBBY Collection of Outstanding Books for Young People with Disabilities, which showcased a range of books representing a variety of disabilities both physical and mental, from board books, right up to young adult fiction.

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A teeming display table

The sessions began with a warm welcome from the chair of IBBY UK, Pam Dix and before long, Martin Sailsbury began the first session, “The New Picture Book Makers: Visual Thinker as Author”.

Sailsbury explored the theory and practice of making a picture book, sharing some wonderful illustrations, many of which were drawn by his own students, with some messages that rang incredibly true to a large portion of the room…

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A moment of despair for Emma Carlisle

Vivienne Smith was up next, discussing the power of play and the use of picture books to explore situations which perhaps they may find fearful in a playful way. She explored the importance of picture books in the teaching of reading, which led interestingly into the panel session which discussed the use of picture books in projects such as Philosophy for Children, Empathy Lab and Amnesty International.

This was followed by a selection of parallel sessions, which were incredibly difficult to choose between!

I went into Parallel Session 3, with Lina Iordanaki and Louise Gallagher. Iordanaki discussed wordless picture books and shared her experiences of using Aaron Becker’s book Journey with children at the top end of primary school. It was fascinating to hear about the children’s reactions given the usual audience of picture books being younger children. She discussed the differences between British children and Greek children in her research and the range of interpretations these children gave.

Louise Gallagher’s talk complimented this as she explored quite the opposite – the way text is used within picture books, the typographical forms of hand-lettering and collaged text. She focused on experimental texts and the different uses of design. Her primary example of this is Sara Fanelli’s The Onion’s Great Escape, which reimagines what a book actually is and who the author and story creator is. It even encourages children to write in it, and to take the book apart, ending up with two items – the book itself with a hole left in the centre, and the child’s own onion, made from the centre of the pages.

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An onion escaping its book

Both of these talks were captivating and both speakers gave engaging answers in a lively Q&A at the end of the session.

This was followed by a hot lunch, with further opportunity for socialising and buying raffle tickets to fund IBBY’s Children in Crisis campaign.

The afternoon was also packed with engaging sessions, hearing news from the NCRCL and the IBBY Congress in New Zealand, further panel sessions and thought-provoking talks cumulating in the presentation of the inaugural Klaus Flugge Prize for the most exciting newcomer to picture book illustration, presented to Nicholas John Frith.

The day finished with a celebration of forty years of Andersen Press, with a marvellous cake and a toast to Klaus Flugge who set up Andersen Press and has guided the company to becoming one of the most influential publishers of children’s books.

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Klaus Flugge & festive cake

The day as a whole was wonderful, with some exciting insights into the creation of picture books.

Suzanne Curley completed the MA in Children’s Literature with the NCRCL in August 2016. She now works for DK Books, whilst staying involved with IBBY as a committee member. She was part of the panel selecting books for the List of Outstanding Books for Children with Disabilities.

Photos by Suzanne Curley (table, slide) and Lina Iordanaki (onion, cake).

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