Kaleidoscope 9 Children’s Literature Conference Calgary, Alberta
November 6-8, 2008, Story: Bridging Worlds
This was my first Kaleidoscope Conference sponsored by the Alberta School Library Council. I have been waiting to attend this conference for a couple years now as it only runs every four years. The conference celebrates children’s literature through interaction with a plethora of internationally recognized authors and illustrators. My highlights include meeting:
Ian Wallace (The Sleeping Porch)
Janell Cannon (Verdi)
Shaun Tan (The Arrival)
Tim Wynne-Jones (Rex Zero, King of Nothing)
Melanie Watt (Scaredy Squirrel at the Beach)
Wallace Edwards (Alphabeasts)
Today’s opening plenary session was a provocative presentation by Dr Jack Zipes (Professor at the University of Minnesota) titled Resisting Happy Ends: Telling Tales of Truth to Children. His lecture begins “Once upon our time, truth vanished from our globe…”. Storytelling pervades all cultures and all boundaries. It does not make distinctions between adults and children. Can we continue to tell tales today to bridge cultures? How can storytelling provide hope for children? What stories should young children read? These are just a few of the questions Jack touched on through his unique perspective of fairy tales and folklore. At one particular moment in his presentation he declared that 90% of children’s literature is schlock and there are no nutrients in schlock! Interesting statement considering the audience demography!
Shaun Tan knew at the age of 12 he wanted to be an illustrator/author. His description of a picture book being ‘sustained meditation’ speaks volumes in his choice to author characters that don’t speak through words, but instead invite natural storytelling to take place through drawings. The Arrival was book that took several years to come to a final format. This book originally started off as a 32 page picture book with abstract cartoon like characters. Tan wanted The Arrival to be a book where readers would slowly digest the illustrative detail on each page, thus the process of getting rid of the words and transforming this into a ‘wordless read’ began to take shape.
I was terribly excited to listen to Ian Wallace. After all, his book The Huron Carol is listed on my blog slideshow as one of my ‘Favourite Children’s Literature’. According to Wallace “the cover is the most important image in the book” as this image invites the reader in for the first time. And yes, those of us in the audience were treated to a few bars of the Huron Christmas Carol by Ian himself.