ambassadors for reading

I am reposting this message:

After a tough 2020, Children’s Laureates from around the world have united with a special message about the power of books and reading. 

The International Children’s Laureates believe every child has the right to be a reader. Across the globe, we have continued to write and draw stories that inspire children. Reading is a journey everyone can embark on because books have no borders. 

We are ready to #ReadAroundTheWorld in 2021. Join us!

wordless picture books

Images are powerful, so powerful that people take them for truth, disregarding context or critical approach. But there are powerful images of a different kind.

After spending a day in the company of literature enthusiasts (teachers, librarians, researchers) who had fascinating and thought provoking things to say (with words!) about nothing but wordless picture books, I need to share their magic.

Wordless picture books have settled firmly in my universe of interests. Perhaps it started when I studied Children’s Literature and discovered my fondness for the picture book. The better ones offer a wonderful story and illustrations that enhance the story, by for instance alluding to an underlying story, adding quirky details or deepening the reading experience altogether. Pictures that open, deepen and layer a story = art.

When you open a wordless picture book, the pace of reading slows. Every re-reading is a discovery of more and new meanings, details come into focus, humour is suddenly obvious. My collection of wordless picture books I was rather proud of turned out to be rather pathetic (in numbers) against the thirty or so books the first presenter whisked us through. And so many more followed on that day. Why not showcasing a few of my treasured wordless picture books!

Slightly biased, I start with Belgian illustrator Leo Timmers who is pretty adept at the genre. His latest, Monkey on the Run/Aap op straat (isn’t the Dutch title snappier than the English one?), was ‘translated’ by Gecko Press in New Zealand. They specialise in discovering, then negotiating and finally translating and publishing quality children’s books originally published in other languages. When possible, I request my Flemish book buyers (aka family) to purchase the original (even when it is wordless) and send it across the world. It is worth the exorbitant cost of freight.

Konijnentango by author Daan Remmerts de Vries and illustrators Ingrid and Dieter Schubert is a very clever picture book with a surprising twist at each end of the book.

Stephen Michael King illustrated Leaf. A story about growth. His drawings ooze tenderness and warmth. I love his work.

Time to re-read Clown/Het clowntje by Quentin Blake. I have forgotten the story.  

the box of books 2

For its lengthy travel, from Europe to New Zealand, this box (of books and other treats as you learnt in the previous blog) was in fine condition. This is not always the case. Occasionally, custom officers leave a note to say they’ve had a sneak peak, in the worst case scenario to inform you that a prohibited item (like seeds some thoughtful friends sent in the early years) has been removed or will be destroyed unless you produce official permission for import.

Occasionally, the content looks worse for wear: damaged, wet, broken. It’s anyone’s guess what happened on that journey of 20,000 kms by land and air. Books stained by water damage are not a pretty sight. Trying to peel apart sticky pages can render parts of the print unreadable. So tragic! Fortunately, everything looked in perfect condition. Most importantly, this applied to the chocolate and Lotus speculaas too.

Slowly, because I want to feel the delight of each discovery, I unpack the box and finally reach the books. Two heavy weights, delivered as requested: Judas by Astrid Holleeder and Nachtouders (Night Parents) by Saskia de Coster.

And here is … a third book! One my moeke chose for me. On the black and white cover a freckled, serious looking face of a young teenage girl, her pony tail snaking around her neck and resting on her left shoulder. Not a joyful picture, reminiscent of pictures of children caught in the insanity and starkness of a world at war. But I don’t think Let op mijn woorden written by Griet Op de Beeck is a war story. Without having read the story yet, I can only offer a temporary literal translation: Take notice of my words (i.e. of what I say).

What an incredibly fitting book title my mother picked for her eldest daughter who loves literature and language.

An unexpected book and a title that pierces my wordy heart equals a thoughtful, precious gift from my mother. The bestest surprise. How incredibly fitting for this blog.

the box of books

The knock on the door surprised us. We’d been watching the evening news obviously oblivious to the world on the other side of the windows. The dogs must have greeted the neighbour with anticipation for a cuddle or a pat because she parked the car, collected the parcel form the back seat and walked to the front door without them coughing a barky noise.

The neighbour balances the parcel on the dining table. Earlier, her husband had spotted where it came from, the land of amazing chocolate and delicious beer (can you guess?). He voices to his wife his wish for us (and perhaps secretly for himself) that the box contains at least some chocolate. Eying up the size of the parcel, he concludes that finding bottled beers is unlikely.

We chat for a while about our winter hibernation activities, our craving for the summer’s social gatherings and what the coming week has in store. But can I stop thinking about the parcel’s content? No! I am dying to open it, to rip the cardboard apart (I’d never do that, I am so boringly behaved) and feel the weight of the books, ogle the covers, smell the ink, smile at the titles before giving proper attention to the sweet Belgian (aha!) treats sprinkled between the words.

a special picture book

But this box harbours more and has been anticipated for many months. While in full lockdown in New Zealand (beginning 25 March 2020) and international freight virtually non-existent, I ordered a personalised picture book from MeMeMe Press for a little boy, Edison, and his two mamas. The story and the pictures make me chuckle and move me – they are the perfect reflection of Edison’s family’s make-up, I just love it. I can’t wait to hear what my lovely friend Mennie, his grandmother, has to say once she sees this. We share this passion about writing, books and everything that goes with it. She’ll appreciate this unique gift.

And Edison’s book came about because I read just about everything, from labels on cans to book reviews, from journal articles to comic strips, from emails to one-liners. Because while I am reading, my mind is always keeping others in mind.  

And while lifting books out of the box of presents carefully selected and packed by my mum (moeke I call her in Flemish) and trying hard not to succumb to the bar of delicious white chocolate, I spot something unexpected yet exciting. What do you think it was? And what memorable surprise sent to you by mail would you like to share?


blogging is for the brave

For the agonising, the numerous editing and the never ending doubt about this curious world of blogging, I feel that I am onto something here. Because blogging = sharing stories. And it takes more than a smidgen of bravery and willpower to just GO and DO IT. I am doing it.

I can now declare that the wait for me is over, finally, and the scribbled-down topics in my special blog journal (imagine this: it’s made of paper and needs a pen or pencil to write in, OMG) are bursting to be set free in words, perhaps illustrated with images at times.

I read all my eyes can take in. Here you can read my blogging efforts plus re-posting, quoting and linking to what piques my interest in the world of language and stories. And that is A LOT. It even includes stationary. I’m a paper&pen lover. A language aficionado. A book obsessive. A reading freak. A writing star spreading a soft, wordly glow over you.