'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Monday 22 October 2018

Event: Sharing Stories

Sharing Stories was a wonderful initiative of The National Centre for Australian Children’s Literature (NCACL) to celebrate UNESCO’s International Year of Translations.

It brought together 191 children’s books in over 50 languages from 61 member countries of the International Board on Books for Young people (IBBY), as well as IBBY Australia’s 48 Honour Books.

The opening event was held at Woden Library in Canberra on 8 October, surrounded by a stunning display of children’s books translated from counties all over the world.

Emeritus Professor Belle Alderman AM, Director, National Centre for Australian Children’s Literature, commenced proceedings, and ACT Minister for  Multicultural Affairs, Chris Steel, welcomed guests and reminisced about his own memories of this very library as a child.

Jackie French gave the keynote speech of the evening. She was the perfect choice, being one of Australia’s most translated children’s authors with over 40 of her books appearing in more than 20 languages worldwide. She shared her experiences of translation, including some of the challenges, misinterpretations and interesting censorship she has encountered in different countries (and not always where you would expect!).

Jackie then shared a stirring and memorable story that got to the heart of story telling. Her experience of visiting a detention centre to read stories to around 100 children who did not speak English, many of whom had been through unknown and unspeakable trauma, brought tears to the eyes of many audience members (myself included!). She recounted how she was able to connect with these children through the universal language of story. The children joined together, acting out animals, smiling, laughing, playing and connecting. Some for the first time in months. Such is the power of story.

Libraries across the ACT have been displaying IBBY Honour books and hosting bilingual story times and activities for children throughout the month. There have also been a number of events for teachers and educators, featuring high profile Australian authors, illustrators and translators, including Jackie French, Libby Gleeson, Freya Blackwood and Ursula Dubosarsky.

There were also mini-exhibits of how Australian picture books are created, featuring original artworks and the creative process behind Alison Lester’s Noni the Pony and Noni Goes to the Beach, as well as Bob Graham’s Let’s Get a Pup!

Unfortunately, I missed one of the flagship events, The Art and Science of Translating & Sharing Australian Children's Stories Worldwide. This was held on 11 October and featured Libby Gleeson AM (author), Freya Blackwood (author and illustrator), Matthew Callaghan (translator) and Angela Namoi (recently retired Rights Director, Allen & Unwin Publishers).

I really want to congratulate the NCACL for such a thoughtful and important event. The opportunity to touch and hold books from around the world brought me immeasurable joy. It was also eye opening to see the different approaches to children’s books from around the world. It was so wonderful to experience books in different shapes, formats and styles, and see different approaches to story telling from other countries. What better way to embrace the vibrant diversity of the world that through the books they produce for their children.

Heartfelt thanks to Belle Alderman and all involved for bringing this wonderful opportunity to Canberra. I really hope this can become a regular event in some form, and even expand across the country.

Sharing Stories was organised by the National Centre for Australian Children's Literature and held from 30 September to 20 October 2018 at various venues around Canberra, ACT.