Sunday, 19 June 2011

Academic serendipities

My Brazilian contacts are, like almost everything, the result of serendipity. Six years ago (as we figured out yesterday) a younger colleague from Brazil who had a fellowship at the International Youth Library in Munich, contacted me because he wanted to take some side trips while in Europe. I wasn't in a position to invite him to Stockholm, but offered Åbo as second-best, and he did an excellent presentation at the children's literature colloquium, and I also remember some nice meals together. As usual, we talked a lot about my coming to Brazil, but if I pursued all casual invitations to diferent parts of the world, I would never have time for anything else (I also tell everybody I meet: "You must come and visit us in Cambridge").

However, three years ago I received a proper invitation to a conference in Sao Paolo, and then I contacted André and came over for a few days to Rio de Janeiro and the wonderful Catedra de Leitura. I have a strong interest in Brazilian children's literature because of two great writers, Lygia Bojunga and Ana Maria Machado. I met Lygia in Stockholm in mid-80s, and then she won the ALMA award and came to collect it, so we met again. I met Ana Maria Machado on several occasions. I have written about both, and I find thier books absolutely fascinating and like nothing else. For obvious reasons I am interersted in children's literature in totalitarian and post-totalitarian countries. In passing, I have also discovered that Brazil has some marvelous picturebooks.

So this is what brought me here this time, picturebooks. My book, co-authored with Carole Scott, How Picturebooks Work, has been translated into Portuguese (Livro illustrado: palavras e imagens), and yesterday it was officially launched, accompanied by a day symposium. The speakers were a great mix of academics and non-academics, and the organisers managed to find an illustrator who can talk about picturebooks (far from self-evident); the audience was enthusiastic and asked so many questions that the round table would never end. Afterwards, I sat at a table, next to another launched author, and signed the book. There were people who actually bought my book! Presumably because they were interested. These moments make the pains of writing academic books worth while.

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