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Impressions about USBBY Conference from Dr. Smith

Henrietta and USBBY President John Mason USBBY 8th Regional Conference
October 2-4, 2009
St. Charles (Chicago), Illinois

The moment this conferee saw Conference President John Mason at the O’Hare Airport there came a sense that all would go well at USBBY — and indeed it did.

The International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) organization with world wide regional chapters focuses on bringing to the attention of all, the wealth of books for children and young people all around the world.  There is further emphasis on the need to find ways to get books to those young people living and struggling in many of the depressed countries around the world.  It was almost disturbingly interesting to note how FEW children’s books from other countries are available — published or easily acquired from publishing houses in the United States.  This is particularly so about books that are published in the language of that particular country.  Yet one looks in awe at the illustrations — the unique perspectives many illustrators use, the subtle sense of humor, the challenge to the reader to as one illustrator advised, “learn to look at a picture out of the corner of your eye, not always straight ahead.”  That made this conference attendee, return to a book that had been once read, and re-read as if for the first time, this particular wordless story.

Arriving at the conference during the period when things were being set up, provided the opportunity to meet many of those who would later address the USBBY members.  During one “conversation” session participants were able to see examples of handmade cloth books.  They came from workshops held in areas where poverty was rampant and educational materials almost totally beyond reach.  Those who participated in the workshops were able to add to their meager supply of educational materials, books that with care, were almost indestructible.  During the Discussion Sessions, one got a deep insight into what each person brought to the conference, based on the contents of the books chosen for the discussion.  The themes ranged from treatment of women in some area, an author’s perspective on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, early history of slavery in Brazil, to name just a few.  The protagonist in each title was a young person or several young people whose actions were viewed as a sign of HOPE for a future world.  USBBY was a small conference that lent itself to almost constant conversation with attendees from all over, the beginning of, or at times the renewal of acquaintances, with time for more than just a quick, “Hello, I’ll see you later.”  Perhaps there was not the landscape beauty of other conference sites, Calloway Gardens, Georgia, or Tucson, Arizona, but the time for meaningful exchanges with colleagues from so many different places held a beauty all its own.  Fresno, California, here I come (I hope).

Henrietta M. Smith /MT / DA

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