Illustrating Marvellous Imaginations

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.

Illustrating Marvellous Imaginations

During this conference, people were not just taking notes, asking questions about picturebooks, and discussing marvellous imaginations: Laura Davis and Emma Dunmore were also illustrating the conference proceedings.

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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

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Marvellous Imaginations: Reflections on the makers and readers of picture books

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: Reflections on the makers and readers of picture books

By Lesley Smith

Martin Salisbury: “The New Picturebook-Makers: Visual Thinker as Author”

Martin Salisbury is Professor of Illustration at Anglia Ruskin University and leads the MA Children’s Book Illustration programme.

Picture books are usually 32 pages, which gives you 12 spreads between the end papers and titles. People think picture books are easy to write but pictures are a language in themselves, not just an extra to the words. Drawing is another way of thinking, a way of reasoning on paper and many people are visual thinkers, working out their ideas through drawing – “I prefer drawing to talking. Drawing is faster and leaves less room for lies” (Le Corbusier).

In picture books for children, it the image used to merely reflected the words, but the authorial side of illustration has come to the fore in recent years and there is often more meaning in the pictures than there is in the text (e.g. There’s a Bear on My Chair by Ross Collins). Publishers are, however, still a little nervous about wordless books where all the writing is in the pictures.

In France, picture books are more sophisticated. In China, interest in picturebooks is increasing as entertainment is becoming as important as overt didactism. In Germany, the Wimmelbuch (literally teeming book, like Martin Handford’s Where’s Wally?) is on the rise.

Vivienne Smith: “Playing at Reading? Why picturebooks really matter in the teaching of reading”

Vivienne Smith is a lecturer in Primary Education at the University of Strathclyde. She is particularly interested in reading as a creative and social practice.

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Beyond the Uniform and The Big Ideas Project: Parallel Session 1

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.

Beyond the Uniform and The Big Ideas Project: Parallel Session 1

By Andrew Pope

In The Big Ideas Project, researchers investigated a range of concepts through children’s books with 60 primary school children. Beyond the Uniform is a collabroative project that uses children’s and YA fiction to examine social attitudes to women military veterans. Attended by a select group of no more than 10, this session was run by Debbie Beeks and Helen Limon, both of whom came across as formidably powerful characters in their field.  I chose this session because of its potential relevance to my next assignment, in which I plan to write about Apache, by Tanya Landman, the story of a Native American girl/warrior.

Debbie Beeks from the Seven Stories foundation in Newcastle explained how the researchers in The Big Ideas Project were obliged to demonstrate that they had informed the local community of their work, and that, through her and Seven Stories, they had selected children’s picture books in order to provide focus for sessions with groups from local schools. Debbie is apparently trained in Drama, and her inventiveness was very evident in the stimulating exercises which were used to encourage the children’s understanding. Thoroughly inspirational!

Helen Limon, who works at Newcastle University, then reported on her work with military veterans, investigating the use of picture books and YA literature in easing the rehabilitation process, particularly for women. Again, her commitment and observation were inspiring; both speakers stressed the need to adjust one’s view, or ‘frame’, when considering picture books, since the images and ideas may seem innocuous, and yet the underlying assumptions that they reinforce may well be less than even-handed!

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Marvellous Imaginations – Excitement, enthusiasm, and new insights

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 – Excitement, enthusiasm, and new insights

By Mark Carter

Somehow I have managed to reach the ripe old age of 37 without ever having attended any type of conference so I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect of the IBBY/NCRCL MA ‘Marvellous Imaginations’ conference but I went away full of excitement, enthusiasm and new insights into the world of picture books. One of the final speakers of the day, Jane Davis from The Reader, began her talk by saying that she felt like she was home – all the things she had heard or seen through the day were things that were already in her head or in her heart and I wholeheartedly agree.

The day began with a talk by Martin Salisbury, who talked about the notion of ‘Visual Thinkers’ and of drawing and image as a form of thought. He showed us some beautiful examples of work from his students and former students who are blurring the lines between author and illustrator, and picked up on Oliver Jeffers’ coining of the term ‘Picture Book Maker’ as a more appropriate term than either author or illustrator. One aspect of David’s talk that I found absolutely fascinating was his discussion of what he called the ‘culture clash between makers and thinkers’. He suggested that the makers and ways of making are too often thought of as being something separate from the scholarly work that is done purely in words and scholarly articles. He gave some excellent examples of people who are beginning to present their research and theory in visual terms, including a PhD student who had presented their academic paper on Wimmelbücher as a Wimmelbuch! (And in case you don’t know (which I didn’t) Wimmelbuch means ‘teeming book’, a book teeming with visual details)

Vivienne Smith from the University of Strathclyde was next with a brilliantly energetic and inspirational talk on reading and play which lamented the fact that all too often play is seen as something different from reading; particularly in the current school system where the aim of reading education is purely about decoding the words on the page. Unfortunately this fails to teach children how to become sophisticated or meaningful readers or to appreciate the great possibilities of literacy – something that can really only be achieved by playing with words and language. The current mode of teaching reading, Smith argued, is incredibly limiting, particularly for children of deprived backgrounds who may not experience opportunities to explore texts outside the classroom. As Smith rightly observed, playing with language is how we learn to control language and the ability to control language is a source of significant power in society. ‘Good books’, she said  ‘help children understand that they are powerful’. Smith illustrated her points wonderfully by reading to us extracts from a number of books, including Claire and Kes Gray’s Oi Dog! and Colin McNaughton’s Don’t Step on the Crack, contrasting their wonderful playful anarchy with the rather unimaginative phonic decoding text of Julia Donaldson’s school reading scheme book, Top Cat.

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NCRCL Research Talk: Kitchens and Edges: The Politics of Hair in African-American Children’s Picture Books

NCRCL Research Talk

‘Kitchens and Edges:

The Politics of Hair in African-American Children’s Picture Books’

Dr. Michelle Martin, Beverly Cleary Endowed Professor of Children and Youth Services                    iSchool, University of Washington

bell hooks, Neal Lester, Noliwe M. Rooks and others have written on the politics of African-American hair and the way that Black women and girls, subjected to “white supremacist capitalist patriarchy” (hooks, “Straightening”), feel enormous pressure to conform to the White beauty standard. Instead of accepting their naturally textured hair, these scholars assert, African-American women and girls collectively spend millions of dollars annually to have it straightened, extended and/or altered in other ways to make it straighter, longer, lighter and often more similar to Caucasian hair.  This essay builds on that work, taking as a starting point Martin’s and Washington’s autobiographical hair tales and making the primary focus of the argument a select subset of children’s picture books about Afro hair: Camille Yarbrough and Carol Byard’s Cornrows (1979), Alexis De Veaux’s An Enchanted Hair Tale (1987), Natasha Anastasia Tarpley and E.B. Lewis’s I Love My Hair (1998),  Carolivia Herron and Joe Cepeda’s Nappy Hair (1999), bell hooks and Chris Raschka’s Happy to be Nappy (1999), Sylviane A. Diouf’s and Shane Evans’ Bintou’s Braids (2001), and Dinah Johnson and Kelly Johnson’s Hair Dance! (2007).

Wednesday 21st September 2016, 6-7pm

Convent Parlour, Digby Stuart, Roehampton

Refreshments Provided

ALL WELCOME

Dahl in Welsh? And other questions: Parallel session D

The 22nd annual IBBY/NCRCL MA Conference took place on 14 November 2015 at the University of Roehampton. This year’s theme was ‘Steering the Craft: Navigating the process of creating children’s books in the 21st century’. 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.

Dahl in Welsh? And other questions: Parallel session D

By Demet Hoffmeyer-Zlotnik

The session started with Siwan Rosser, from the University of Cardiff, with her topic: “Do we really need Dahl in Welsh?” First of all, Rosser described the situation in Wales right now. English versions of the same novel are easier to get and for many new Welsh speakers, who only learn Welsh in school, they’re also easier to read. She explained that the novels by Roald Dahl which she was looking at also required an extended knowledge of English from the reader, since, for example, quotes from Dylan Thomas were kept in the original English.

But this is not the only problem Rosser addressed in her talk. She also drew attention to the fact that 50% of the books published in Welsh are translated. Since a translation comes at a lower cost and risk for the publisher, it is both the enemy and the friend of lesser-spoken languages. Not to forget that it creates a one-way road of cultural flow.

With all these prominent problems, do we need Dahl in Welsh?

Siwan Rosser thinks: yes, we do! Translations of famous authors like Dahl or J.K. Rowling are important to encourage readers to read books in Welsh, “but we should not forget to raise our own Dahl” and keep on developing Welsh language and culture.

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Translations of well-known books into Welsh can encourage readers new to reading the language.

After this great start into the session we went on directly with Yan Zheng from the University of Glasgow talking about “Story Apps and the Touch-Screen: Challenges and Opportunities for 21st Century Storytelling”.

During her talk, Zheng described her experience with several app developers and their different apps that she had the opportunity to test. The biggest problem she pointed out in her talk were the numerous software bugs she discovered during her research. Compared to simple typing errors in a book, software bugs can heavily disrupt the reading experience of the user. In one of the apps Zheng focused on, the characters would start reading out random sentences if the user failed to interact with them in time. Zheng also mentioned that these story apps are not yet adjusted to users flipping through the book, which is something a usual reader of a picturebook does a lot.

With all those malfunctions in mind, why should we tell a story in an app and not in a book with less problems?

A touchscreen is a very interactive medium which can open a whole new reading experience for us, if we focus on how better to transfer from one medium to another.

The last speaker in this parallel session was Kerenza Ghosh from the University of Roehampton talking about “Children and Teachers’ Experiences of Book Making and Authorship”.

In her talk Ghosh described her work with two different classes of 4 and 5 year olds, in which each of them got a different book to talk about in class and then adapt into their own picturebook. The result of her project was, overall, positive. In general the children became more confident and independent. She even stated that “as young children work in creating art […] they gain practice in holding attention”. The book-making process helped the children to think more critically about the book and analyze the characters and their motivations. Even when they copied phrases, they still gave them their own twist and showed in this way a deeper understanding of the words and their meanings. In addition, the children showed interest in the general book-making process and in book art.

Ghosh has not yet decided how or if she wants to further develop this project, but so far it seems to show huge educational value.

With this the parallel session ended on a positive note for everyone attending.

Demet Hoffmeyer-Zlotnik is a distance learning student on the MA Children’s Literature at Roehampton University.