2015 IBBY/NCRCL Conference: Parallel Sessions

Parallel Sessions

Session A

Katie Forrester: ‘An Illustrator’s Recipe Book: Approaches to illustrating picturebooks that reflect an intercultural society.’

Ursula Le Guin writes that “the imagination recombines, remakes [and] makes the world anew”. Similarly, through the medium of the picturebook, authors and illustrators reimagine stories in a contemporary context for children to learn about the society they are encountering and striving to find their identity within. This presentation will involve a discussion of my own approach to this way of making the world anew, showing how, as a practice-based researcher I try to create culturally inclusive images for picturebooks.

In order to represent British society as truthfully as possible, the basis for my illustration work is always observation. I gather visual data from my surroundings – by sketching, taking photographs and collecting ephemera of all sorts – which together result in a kind of “recipe book” for visual thinking. This documentation, as I will show, constitutes the building blocks of my image-making process, which I then recombine, often using collage, to form pictures that accompany text in picturebooks. My hypothesis is that to “cut and paste” from existing culture will inevitably make an accurate reflection of modern intercultural British society for children to identify and engage with.

Laura Little: ‘Using geometric shapes to represent characters in a picturebook: a practice-based exploration.’

This paper uses a semiotic framework to examine, from the perspective of an illustrator, the use of minimal information in the visual depictions of characters and their emotions in a picturebook.

In Picture This Molly Bang explores using triangles, rectangles and simple colours to depict scenes from the fairy tale Little Red Riding Hood. Drawing on this, I made a picturebook, Sammy the Fish, in which visual representations of the characters and his environment are based on simple geometric shapes: ovals, rectangles and triangles. The aim was to explore ways of showing Sammy’s emotions without using facial expressions: his emotions are implicitly implied by his placement on the page and suggestive use of other visual elements. Through this, Sammy becomes a blank canvas for the reader / viewer to project on to and, potentially, to begin to relate to him.

When working with minimal images, the subtleties and nuances of creative decisions have a greater impact on the artwork. By taking a practice-based approach, this paper describes the process of creating the character and the successful and failed attempts to show his emotive state.

Session B – Cancelled (programme revised) 

Session C

Group Presentation on a Creative Community Project: ‘The Ryde Mennyms’ – Judy Digby, Jo Dodd, Hannah George, Teresa Grimaldi, and Carol Jaye.

It is reported that in 1889 Queen Victoria was amused by Ryde Carnival with its characters from children’s literature.  This August a group of life-sized Mennyms sat in the shelter of an empty shop, to ‘watch’ the parade.  Constructed in the run-up to Ryde Arts Festival by individuals and community groups with support from artist Teresa Grimaldi, these stuffed calico figures, like the ones in the books that inspired them, can’t get wet. The Mennyms are weaving their way into the town’s history and now some of them, discreetly, with their makers, are planning to attend the NCRCL/IBBY Conference to share the experience of running a children’s literature project and developing a story.

The workshop will cover how Librarian Jo and Festival Chair Carol conceived the Ryde Mennyms, secured Arts Council and Library funding and inspired others to help craft the evolving sequel to Sylvia Waugh’s creation.  Carol and Hannah will describe how the author came on board and contributed to the newsletters and Facebook page.  There will be a review how the characters grew with their physical construction and strategic placement around the town and how the responses of townspeople and tourists fed into the imaginative storying.

Session D

Yan Zheng: ‘Story Apps and the Touch-Screen: Challenges and Opportunities for 21st Century Storytelling.’

Ever since touch-screen technology was introduced, storytellers have been trying to move storytelling onto this new platform. This is an exciting experiment, but also a challenging one, since the touch screen is a unique medium that is different from other known media for storytelling. Because of the technical nature of the touch screen, the storytelling and the story receiving unavoidably face obstacles and opportunities that do not exist at all in other forms of storytelling.

This paper will thus focus on the influence of the medium in the storytelling app by examining how the touch screen can influence the production and consumption of narrative texts from a practical and technical point of view. The discussion will be based on my personal involvement in story app production with two children’s book publishers: Audois & Alleuil Editions (French), and Nosy Crow (English). The questions addressed will be:

  • What are children REALLY reading and what are they reading from?
  • Why should we care about the medium of the storytelling app?
  • What possibilities and challenges does the touch-screen hold for the storytelling and the storyteller?

Kerenza Ghosh: ‘Children and Teachers’ Experiences of Book Making and Authorship.’

Becoming a writer and book maker is one of the most effective ways to explore the writing of other people (Chambers, 2011). Children’s own involvement in book production can therefore be a way to develop their responses to reading, and can motivate them as writers. Since both reading and writing are creative and interpretive acts, each can be explored further through the craft of book making. This paper stems from class-based projects carried out with children in Reception and Year 1, during which two quality picturebooks were studied, Wild (Hughes, 2013) and That Rabbit Belongs to Emily Brown (Cowell, 2007). The children’s engagement in these texts culminated in book production and an opportunity to share their books with one other. This paper evaluates the experiences of children between the ages of 4 and 6, and their class teachers, as they engaged in the art of book making. It will consider how the children viewed themselves as published authors and illustrators, with a real audience for their writing, and how book-making as a process and a final outcome supported and developed the children’s confidence in reading and writing.

Siwan Rosser: ‘Do we really need Dahl in Welsh?’

Producing children’s books in minority languages faces a unique set of opportunities and challenges within the changing landscape of international publishing. As well as navigating market forces, digital developments and pedagogical concerns, minority language publishing must also set its course according to the presence of a larger, more influential and diverse body of publications, easily accessible to their bilingual readers. One method utilised by publishers in languages from Welsh to Faroese since the beginning of their printed children’s book cultures, has been to translate. Initially considered as a means to augment a developing literary system, translation sought to bring esteemed and canonical works into the lesser-used language. Translation remains central to minority-language children’s publishing today, especially in early-years publications, due to the high costs of original picture-book production. However, the prominence of translated books into Welsh aimed at older children, who are capable of reading the text in the original English, leads this paper to question whether translation in the 21st century enhances the attractiveness of Welsh books, or undermines the viability of this minority-language children’s publishing industry.

Session E

Sarah Lawrance: ‘Drawn from the Archive – hidden histories of illustration.’

In an address to a gathering of children’s book reviewers in March 2004, the redoubtable critic and children’s book historian Brian Alderson highlighted the importance of an understanding of the processes involved in the production of picture books. He deemed it highly advantageous to have ‘access to material, records, and technical data which … may only be available by courtesy of the artists themselves, or their publishers, or the owners of national, local, academic, or private archives which are as often as not on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.’ Happily, there is now, at Seven Stories the National Centre for Children’s Books, in Newcastle upon Tyne, just such a rich and diverse collection of original artwork, manuscripts and archival materials as to afford a detailed exploration of these processes.

In this talk I will offer brief illustrated histories of work by celebrated illustrators represented in the Seven Stories Collection, from Edward Ardizzone to Yasmeen Ismail. I will highlight ways in which changing technology and trends in publishing have impacted on the creative process of individual artists and will also describe how scholars can access this material, suggested possible areas for future research.

Franziska E. Kohlt: ‘Illustrating Alice, Then and Now: Victorian Visual Culture and the Politics of Modern Children’s Book Illustration & Adaptation.’

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) was, contrary to popular belief, not written by an author of children’s novels, but by an academic, a mathematician, a man of science, a deacon of the Church of England, a writer of academic satire. Consequently reflecting developments in Victorian science – from evolutionary biology to psychiatric medicine – Alice was, likewise, not illustrated by a dedicated ‘children’s book illustrator’, but by one of the most eminent political caricaturists of his age, Sir John Tenniel, whom Carroll knew chose for his work at the Punch Magazine.

In the 20th and 21st century Alice remained political, and, like in Tenniel’s days, it is illustrators are first in line to offer an interpretation of the text to the reader and lift Alice into the current cultural and temporary context. Thus Alice has transformed into a post-war fashion icon and donned a sari when exploring the wildlife of post-imperial India, or, most recently challenged class struggles, poverty and child-abuse in American McGee’s video Game Alice: Madness Returns. However, in these modern Alice’s it is rarely the author that challenges existing hierarchies, but the illustrator who is one step ahead in identifying and visualising these tensions.

In this anniversary year, this paper will offer an exploration of social and political issues in 150 years of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and its textual and visual interpretations. On the example of Alice: Madness Returns fathom how the tensions underlying Carroll’s and especially Tenniel’s Alice lend themselves to modern interactive approaches to children’s literature. Thus it will engage with the task modern illustrators face, of both challenging young readers, but also accommodating them within the text as well as their ever-changing social environment, and thus break new grounds in the field of children’s literature.

Session F

Nivia De Andrade Lima: ‘The Ironic Use of the Gutter in Postmodern Picturebooks.’

Developments in digital technology continue to expand the possibilities for the production of children´s picturebooks in electronic form. Nevertheless, the physicality of print books may be a key element in the construction of the narrative. In this paper the author describes how artists such as Hervé Tullet, John Burningham, María Wernicke, Anthony Browne and Suzy Lee make innovative use of the gutter as an integral part of the construction of meaning. It is described how, by employing this unconventional technique, these artists use the gutter to introduce to the young reader to such postmodern features as boundary breaking, indeterminacy, fragmentation, hybridization and participation. These features challenge the reader to construct meaning not only from the verbal and visual texts, but also through the materiality of this art form. The author rebuts the argument that the complexity of postmodern picturebooks may have a negative impact on young readers. It is concluded that in a time of increasing uniformity in mass culture, such features may encourage collaborative reading and stimulate an active criticism of mainstream texts.

Karenanne Knight: ‘The Picture Book Maker and the Polymath Principle.’

The purpose of the picture book maker is to create a work that serves its readers. However, the parameters of picture book practice have changed considerably in recent years and have had to respond accordingly to a variety of implicit fluctuations. The implications for this will be insurmountable for some practitioners and students of picture book creation. But what does this mean and what are the consequences?

With regards to contemporary picture book creation it is argued that we are beginning to see a return to Alan Male’s Polymath Principle, where success is measured by:

  • Impact: cultural, academic and educational value
  • Reach: the extent and diversity of those who will benefit, engage with or be influenced by the impact
  • Content: credibility and authoritativeness regarding topic or subject matter
  • Standpoint: thematic uniqueness, thrust, context, argument, consequence and effect
  • Methodologies: intellectual and practical processes
  • Concept: creativity and originality
  • Language: quality and appropriate use of aesthetics, creative writing, design, genre, iconography, visual syntax
  • Technical applications: drawing, media, image, product, presentation and publication.

Picture book creation is not judged by visual literacy and technical qualities alone, but is a discipline that engenders the best intellectual engagement with subject matter, problem solving and visual communication; moreover, the practitioner discloses and interprets content with authority and un-ambiguity in the pursuit of knowledge and information is recognised as a pre-requisite for eminent professional authorship and/or picture book creation.

Picture book material created by William Grill, Emma Yarlett and Gemma O’Neill (students from Falmouth University) will be used to highlight how each has developed the concept of authorial practice in the light of the Polymath Principle. By expanding upon the pathways available to students it is hoped to pinpoint how future picture book makers might deliver meaningful and effective picture books.