The 35th IBBY Congress in Auckland, New Zealand

This week’s blog is about another conference! Xiaofei Shi has just finished her PhD at Cambridge. Her thesis is titled Reconceptualising Crossover Picturebooks: A Cognitive Approach to Crossover Picturebooks and Readers’ Engagement with Them. She now lectures and researches in the English Department, Soochow University, China.

This was my first time to the Southern Hemisphere. It was a unique experience. The IBBY Congress was imbued with the Maori spirit, vigorous and powerful. I was one of the two postgraduate student winners of the generous bursary provided by IBBY UK. The Congress started with “haka,” the Maori war dance, awakening the audience to an exciting four-day event.

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The Congress was very diverse, involving academics, librarians, publishers, authors, illustrators, and covering a wide range of themes that provoked the thinking about literature, especially literature for young readers, in a multi-literate world.

My session was called “Diverse Words and Images,” which included three presentations. The first presentation talked about the life of today’s book designer, especially how they draw on new technologies to change the experience that a classic children’s text may give to the reader. The second one demonstrated that humour can function in complex ways within multimedial narratives for children. The last one, my presentation, discussed the crosscultural adaptation and reception of Jimmy Liao’s picturebook When the Moon Forgot. All the presentations touched on boundary crossing in more than one sense, technological, modal, linguistic, and cultural. The session, together with a lot of the plenary speeches, panel discussions and parallel sessions, revealed the massive possibilities for young readers in the increasingly multi-literate world.

The Hans Christian Andersen Award dinner was another highlight of the Congress. The Award was given to one author and one illustrator for their entire body of works that excel in aesthetic qualities, willingness to take creative risks, and significance for young readers. This year’s winners are Cao Wenxuan and Rotraut Susanne Berner. The illustrator winner, Rotraut Susanne Berner, was unable to come. The author winner, Cao Wenxuan, gave a touching acceptance speech, in which he compared writing to building houses, and like the house, writing was his shelter.

Auckland was a beautiful place to hold the Congress, with the sea, the sunshine, the ferry boat, the skyscrapers, and the hilly landscape. My only regret was that I didn’t stay longer after the Congress, though I did manage to capture a glimpse of its beauty, which enhanced the uniqueness of the experience:

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