A Bridge of Children’s Books

The Fellowship Program at the International Youth Library

By Reina Nakano
The beginning of the International Youth Library (Internationale Jugendbibliothek / International Youth Library – IYL) was Jewish-German Jella Lepman’s idea to hold the international children’s book exhibition for children living in German cities devastated by bombing.  She asked 20 countries to send books and held the exhibition.  In 1949 she opened IYL. The number of books has increased since then – now it is the largest library of children’s books in the world.  It has been housed in the Blutenburg Castle with the collection of about 600,000 books in 130 languages.
IYL’s mission is building international understanding through children’s books.  With financial support of the Foreign Ministry, it has accepted foreign researchers every year since 1958.  I stayed there as a fellow researcher from 10th July to 21st August, 2012.  I conducted research on allegorical images in fantasies.  IYL’s wonderful collection greatly contributed to my research.  I also assisted library work by translating Japanese titles into English.  During my stay, I got an international point of view concerning library services for children and research of children’s literature.

Foreign authors at IYL
During my stay, IYL exhibited original illustrations of picture books about Janusz Korczak.  Korczak, who was renowned as an educator, doctor and writer, died with children of his orphanage at the Nazi death camp.  “Blumkas Tagebuch” is one of the exhibited books.  The illustrator is Iwona Chmielewska from Poland.  When she visited the exhibition, she explained the concept and details of her book.  According to her, she tried to depict Korczak as a human being, not as a saint, and represent his humanity.

Every year IYL selects the outstanding books around the world and publishes the “White Ravens List.”  From 15th July to 20th, 2012, it hosted the 2nd White Ravens Festival für Internationale Kinder- und Jugendliteratur. 14 authors were invited from various countries.  During the festival, school children visited there and participated in reading events and workshops. The next Festival will take place in July 2014.

Ravens_ReinaJapanese picture book reading
I gave picture book reading events at the White Ravens Festival and the local kindergarten.  I discussed with IYL staff members and chose 4 Japanese picture books.  I read them in Japanese – when necessary, an IYL member interpreted.  When I read “Moko mokomoko” (written by Shuntaro Tanikawa, illustrated by Sadamasa Motonaga), children told me what they say “moko mokomoko” in German and then repeated Japanese texts after me.  I also sang a nursery rhyme, “Donguri [Acorn] Goro-chan.”  Children enjoyed guessing which of my fists had an acorn inside.

“A Bridge of Children’s Books”
It was a wonderful experience to exchange ideas with other fellows and IJB staff members, seeing children’s book collections of all over the world.  I realized promotion of children’s books – foreign books for Japanese children and Japanese books for foreign children – is needed.  As Lepman says in “A Bridge of Children’s Books [Die Kinderbuchbrücke],” I believe that children’s books would play an important role in building international understanding.

Reina_Nakano1_kom_mlsReina Nakano, part-time researcher of the International Library of Children’s Literature, Tokyo

International Library of Children’s Literature, The Window 13(2013): 38-39.

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