Thursday, 29 April 2010

IBBY, Inkpen and the Secret of Romford

Yesterday I attended the annual meeting of the UK branch of IBBY, the International Board of Books for Young People. IBBY works around the world to promote international understanding through children’s literature and ensure that children everywhere have access to good books. You can find out more about them here.

The venue was on the 16th floor of the Hachette offices looking out over London. 
The view was terrific. 
The biscuits were glorious. 
But best of all was their guest speaker: Mick Inkpen, the man behind Kipper, Threadbear and many other brilliant books for children.

Mick’s writing has a special place in my heart because one of his books, Anything Cuddly Will Do, was a breakthrough for me in my work with Volunteer Reading Help. It was the first book to capture the interest of one of the boys I worked with. (The second was Where’s Wally, whose creator Martin Handford apparently used to live down the road from Mick in Romford. There must be something good in the water!).

Mick spoke in support of that time of play and discovery that happens before you’re old enough to go to school and get caught in the world of qualifications and check-boxes.

He reminded us that when you’re four years old, ‘Life can stream at you as it is, and you can run at it headlong.’ Mick explained how everything he does on the page connects to this – from uncluttered illustrations which maximise drama, to stories which empower their readers even as they point out the limits of adult authority.

Mick also brought some of his fab illustrations to share and it took all my willpower not to try and sneak one out of the building! His passion for storytelling and injunction to write from the heart came at just the right time to send me back to some of my current projects with a fresh perspective.

Mick’s presentation was based on a masterclass he had previously run in Edinburgh; it should be published in some form soon and I’ll post a link when it’s out. In the meantime, you can find out more about Mick here.

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