I attended this Book Links lecture on 25 June at the State Library of Queensland.
She gave a high call for creators of picture books, quoting Junko Yokota who wrote in1993 that authentic fiction books are where "the author and illustrator are intimately familiar with the nuances of a culture."
Dr Robin Morrow gave an excellent overview of Australian children's literature and shared about her experience operating Australia's first children's book store. She also talked about Jella Lepman, a German journalist, author and translator who founded the International Youth Library in Munich.
She went on to speak about the right of every child to hear stories in their mother tongue. Her lecture was inspirational to teacher librarians and educators in her promotion of making book choices to expand the worldview of young readers. She is also passionate about the representation of disability in children's books, especially some of the less known conditions where children may feel very alone.
Indiginous literature received a lot of attention, as well as fiction about immigrants. Dr Morrow showed an example of multiculturalism in a board book, commenting that it is a recent development to see less anglo-centrism in children's picture books. This made me think of Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox, which I have read to both of my children since they were babies.
I have been aware of the anglo-centrism in most genres of writing that I have ever read since I was a teenager. All three of my projects at present feature people who are not your typical white heroes. In Myra and the Magic Motorcycle, I encouraged my illustrator to make Myra part anglo part Australian aborigine, but her appearance is such that she could be of African or Hispanic descent, or even just an olive-skinned caucasian with a nice tan. This way she is relatable by all sorts of different children. In my yet-to-be-published fantasy series, the main character is from a divinely-ordained dark-skinned race.
Some books Dr Morrow mentioned that I am interested in reading are:
- Remembering Lionsville by Bronwyn Bancroft
- Crow Country by Kate Constable
- Nona and Me by Clare Atkins
- A Bus Called Heaven by Bob Graham
- Figgy in the world Tamsin Janu
For my series, Myra and the Magic Motorcycle, I feel that I am trying to bridge the gap between popular and worldview expanding children's literature. My writing is not up to the same CBCA standards that Dr Morrow is most passionate about, but I hope that it is as gripping and entertaining as it can be, and is fair in its treatment of people from all different walks of life. Ultimately I hope for this series to open doors for educators and parents to, in a fun way, discuss some of the wider social issues we are faced with in our world today.
You can read more about Dr Morrow's paper on Indigenous Languages in Some Australian Picture Books here.