Picturebook Conference, Day Two!

This blog is starting to look! like! the blog! of the Society for Blog Post Titles with Exclamation Marks!

I (Clem) am currently sitting at a kitchen table opposite Prof N, waiting for the conference banquet to start after another extremely rich, thought-provoking day of conference sessions.

Maria is super happy because she has 42 new emails to reply to and that’s totally what she likes doing to wind down after seven and a half hours of listening to conference papers.

Here’s some photographic evidence of the Cambridge contingent’s concentration as they listen to today’s papers:

Ross clearly in a trance of inspiration

 

Eve not at all doing something else on her phone (tbh, this pic was taken in-between sessions)

The morning started with an extremely good session on cultural geography and children’s literature, which seems to be a recurring theme of this conference and others, to the extent that I wouldn’t be surprised if David Cameron announced the imminent creation of a Ministry of Cultural Geography and Ecocriticism in Children’s Literature. 

If he did, he could enlist the services of my compatriot Christophe Meunier, whose picturebook as ‘actor of spatialities’ took us through the myth of the French rural child. And the new Ministry could also do with the Dream Team of interdisciplinary wowment, formed of Bettina Kummerling-Meibauer and her husband Jorg Meibauer (sorry, my keyboard won’t let me do the little ¨s on the names!).

(thanks for letting me use this pic, Jorg & Bettina!)

The children’s literature-and-linguist duo triggered a smorgasbord of questions and comments from the audience after their talk on maps in children’s picturebooks. Paratextual or intratextual, pictorial or symbolic, the variety of examples and the theorisation they drew from it seemed to find an echo in everyone (particularly in those who, like me, felt they’d miss the essential developmental stage of map literacy).

Bettina also gave me the secret of the husband-and-wife interdisciplinary collaboration, which had already interpellated me at Tubingen two years ago. Apparently you have to find an interesting topic, talk to each other about it over breakfast, and then get to work. Unfortunately I didn’t think of asking them what they usually have for breakfast.
The presentations that followed were just as rich and interesting – from a detailed analysis of a graphic designer’s work for a small, independent publisher in Portugal, to Ted Hughes’s animal poems illustrated by illustrious artists, to the weavers of South America and the magical birds of Turkey, and also a study of lies, lie detection and mind-reading in picturebooks.
In the absence of Morag Styles, Evelyn Arizpe took us back to the legendary Children Reading Pictures, which they published together 10 years ago and which is currently being revamped. The whole audience agreed that, despite criticism, they had been right to be so optimistic about how much the child readers could imagine, interpret and create – and apparently this dimension won’t be absent from the new version, ten years later.
(This also means, for those of you who like to be made to feel old, that the children reading pictures and drawing all those lovely scenes in the original study are now teenagers and young adults probably busy smoking pot and being hormonal.)
That’s all for now, I’m afraid, because we haven’t been to dinner yet so we have no new gossip to speak of (and if everything goes well at dinner, we won’t be allowed to tell you the gossip anyway).
 
But an excellent Day Two all round; everyone is eminently caffeinated, eminently inspired to write more on more topics, and eminently looking forward to another half-day of talks, tea breaks and picturebooks.
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