Between May 26-28, I was fortunate enough to attend the Asian Festival of Children’s Content in Singapore. This year, the AFCC was held at the National Library of Singapore rather than at the Arts House as in past year. The new location provided a spectacular backdrop for some of the keynote lectures, including Holly Thompson‘s “Novels Set in Asia: Selling Them Overseas.” As always, the festival provided a wealth of different presenters from across Asia and around the world.
The first session I attended, featuring Ruthanne Lum McCunn and Paul Yee, focused on “Asian American Authors and Their Impact on Asia.” Much of the discussion revolved around the experiences of Chinese immigrants to North America, which was of course fascinating, although I’m not sure that the impact of Asian American writers on Asia was ever really addressed.
The second session examined two different modes of storytelling from contemporary Japanese culture: conventional picture books and kamishibai (紙芝居), a sort of “paper art slide show” that emerged in Japan in the 1930s and continues to be practised to this day. Etsuko Nozaka spoke about her work with kamishibai stories, followed by Akiko Sueyoshi, who discussed her forty years as a children’s author in Japan, during which time she has produced nearly two hundred children’s books.
Just a few of Akiko Sueyoshi’s many books for children…
The First Look Illustration Critique, chaired by Naomi Kojima, Shirin Yim Bridges and Yusof Gajah, involved thought-provoking critiques of the work of 7 different (anonymous) aspiring children’s book illustrators. One of the most interesting things that I’d never really thought about before (not being able to draw anything) was that illustrators should try to vary the “camera angle” and “camera proximity” from frame to frame as they tell the story. It is also important, apparently, to consider how the text will fit into your illustration on the page.
On the second day of the AFCC (May 29), I attended the IBBY (International Board of Books for Young People) session, which introduced me to this multinational organization for the first time.
The First Pages Writing Critique, similar to First Look, involved a panel of experts (Renee Ting, Vatsala Kaul Banerjee, Wendy Orr, Kathleen Ahrens) reviewing the opening 250 words of a series of picture books and children’s novels, in front of a big room full of people. Think of it as American Idol for writers. I wish I had submitted something!
Overall, the festival seems to be continuing to gain momentum from year to year, and doing a good job of its aim to promote the development of children’s content in Asia, although it seemed that there were some logistical challenges this year presented by the new venue. However, the book sales area, Bookaburra, in the centre of the Library concourse, was very well-organized and easy to access.
The future of children’s books (/art/apps/TV programs) in Asia looks very bright indeed!