Recently I have been really privileged to attend to attend the International Research Society for Children’s Literature (IRSCL) conference in Stockholm, Sweden. This conference is held every 2 years and is a gathering of children’s literature scholars from all over the world presenting many different facets of their research. This year the theme was ‘silence and silencing’, and this brought forth a great range of presentations. I presented on how some languages in multilingual picturebooks get less space than others, and so are in effect, relatively silenced. I was also part of a panel of four from Italy, New Zealand, Norway and the United States discussing how we teach children’s literature in our different contexts. The link to silence here was that this topic has rarely been discussed, so we proposed that we were ‘breaking the silence’. I learned a great deal from my colleagues about the different ways in which we all teach a similar topic. My colleague from Norway discussed how she brings eco-critical dialogue into her teaching of children’s literature; my colleague from the United States discussed using themes such as ‘journey’ and ‘borders’ to enable children’s literature students to engage at a personal level with the literature they read and analyse for their studies; my Italian colleague discussed how she uses visual literacy in her teaching, engaging students with developing exhibitions concerning children’s literature. I learned a great deal from all three colleagues which I hope will develop my own teaching in new ways.
Highlights from the rest of the sessions I attended include talks about silence in Moomin stories by Tove Jansson; sessions about the silences associated with refugee voices in the picturebooks telling refugee stories, silences in the translation of picturebooks, an analysis of the silences in world tours made by Munro Leaf, author of The Story of Ferdinand
https://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/how-the-story-of-ferdinand-became-fodder-for-the-culture-wars-of-its-era based on itineraries in his archived papers; the presence or silencing of indigenous voices in children’s literature; voices present in children’s lullabies.
I was also able to have a tour of Astrid Lindgren’s apartment (the creator of Pippi Longstocking), still furnished exactly as it was when she died; and we were given a city reception at the Town Hall of Stockholm, in the beautiful golden hall where the Nobel Awards are given each year. So it has been a full and privileged experience which will benefit both my teaching and research into the future. I have taken the opportunity to download biographies of Astrid Lindgren and Tove Jansson, two amazingly prolific and talented writers (with several picturebooks each among their works) from the region to read. Somehow the connection of having been in the country which each of them had connections to makes reading these biographies even more of a pleasure.