Books International Youth Library Finds Literatura Europa Non-fiction Wednesday Nonfiction Picture Books Reading Themes

[IYL Finds | Nonfiction Wednesday] Mother of the International Youth Library: Jella Lepman


Myra here.

We are delighted to join the Nonfiction Picture Book meme 2017 hosted by Alyson Beecher @ Kid Lit Frenzy. We would also be linking our nonfiction choices with our reading themes throughout the year.

One of the reasons why we are doing a Literatura Europa reading theme until end of August is because I have just recently come home to Singapore from a six-week international research fellowship at the International Youth Library (IYL) in Munich, Germany. For those who may be unaware, the IYL (or the Internationale Jugendbibliothek in German) is the home of the largest international children’s literature collection in the world, and it is housed in the Blutenburg Castle. Our widget above is a photograph that I have taken of the outside of the castle, with its famous swan lake. To say that it is a magical place would be doing it an injustice.

Books for Children Of The World: The Story of Jella Lepman

Written by: Sydelle Pearl Illustrated by: Danlyn Iantorno
Published by: Pelican Publishing Company, 2007
ISBN-10: 1589804384
ISBN-13: 9781589804388
Copy borrowed from the International Youth Library in Munich.

This picturebook biography begins on the night of December 1946, on the steps of the International Exhibition of Children’s Books in Berlin. Jella Lepman was thinking about the children who queued up, waited in long lines, for them to finally see and touch the books that she has successfully gathered from around the world.

Then the story backtracks for a little bit by introducing who Jella Lepman was, going back from the years 1933-1945 during the darkest period in Germany’s history. Jella Lepman was requested by the United States Army to return from her exile in London as soon as the war was over in 1945 to help rebuild German society, with a special focus on women and children.

Jella Lepman knew that one of the most effective ways of facilitating this rebuilding process would be through books and by building a library. She was able to convince the people who were in charge at the time that nourishing the body is not enough. While it is true that a lot of people were physically famished, their souls also needed nourishment. Hence, the idea of building the International Youth Library was born.

It was sheer force of will, a vision that encompassed the whole of humanity, and a fervent desire to make a tangible change by building this sanctuary through books that facilitated the birth of what is now reputed to be the biggest international children’s literature collection from all over the world, and the home of the IBBY or the International Board on Books for Young People with over 200 member countries.

Hence, her dream of building international understanding through children’s books remains very much alive through the wonderful and dedicated librarians who have transformed the book castle into a home for all international children’s literature scholars from around the world.

I would also recommend that you pair the reading of the PBB with this autobiography written by Lepman herself, entitled A Bridge of Children’s Books. I bought this book in 2015 during my very first visit and read it last year before returning for the first half of my fellowship. When I returned this year, I am glad to read the picturebook biography version of the life of a woman whose vision of building bridges through books can be traced to her steadfast belief in the power of international literature to facilitate compassion, kindness, humanity.

Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

3 comments on “[IYL Finds | Nonfiction Wednesday] Mother of the International Youth Library: Jella Lepman

  1. lindabaie

    Wow, this is a wonderful story, Myra. I’ll look for it! What an amazing woman she was.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for introducing me to such a fascinating person! I’ll have to do some research to see how I can read these books!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I have never heard of her but she seems to be so important to our world of literature! Thanks for the introduction!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: