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
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.