When I was in my early teens I read J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. And then I read it again. And again. And again.
Actually I read it eight, nine, or was it ten times in a row? I don’t remember exactly. But I do know that whenever I turned the last page of the third book, I picked up the first book again, barely leaving the Grey Havens with Frodo, before starting over with Bilbo’s party. I just wanted to be there in that other world. Yes, I lived in Middle Earth during a few very intense years. In some ways it was probably a more real and satisfying experience than being me at the time. In any case, no other book – or film or TV series, for that matter – has influenced me more deeply. I don’t expect to find another book that will give me the same thrill of wonder and fulfilment ever. But that doesn’t matter. The Lord of the Rings changed me, made me the ardent and obsessive book-lover that I am, constantly on the lookout for stories and images that can stir my being. Would I have devoted myself to literature and made it my profession, if it hadn’t been for Tolkien’s grand fantasy? I doubt it.
I thought about this when I visited the Hobbiton film set on New Zealand a few days before the IBBY world congress 2016 in Auckland. Prior to the visit I was a bit apprehensive that it would be too commercial and superficial, and that it would in some way demean my own vision of Tolkien’s world. But somehow it worked. The reason, I think, is that Peter Jackson must have had a similar sea-changing experience of Middle Earth in his youth as I had. For only someone who deeply respects the original story can render it in such minute and loving detail – on screen as well as in landscaped New Zealand soil. Stories that really matter to us beg to be retold, orally, in writing, in pictures, in film, and sometimes by lovingly morphing the very earth.
When editing this issue of Bookbird I also thought about other, newer stories and pictures that may have the potential to take hold of young readers in a similar way. For here we have articles of some of the best contemporary authors and illustrators in the world, the Andersen Award winners 2016 – Cao Wenxuan (China) and Rotraut Susanne Berner (Germany) – as well as the nominees, Louis Jensen (Denmark), Suzy Lee (Korea), Mirjam Pressler (Germany), Pejman Rahimizadeh (Iran), Ted van Lieshout (The Netherlands), Marit Törnqvist (The Netherlands), Alessandro Sanna (Italy), and Lois Lowry (USA). And I wonder whose young life is about to be enchanted or changed or given meaning because of the work of one of these outstanding storytellers in word and image. Will someone build stories with Wenxuan or “feel the Bern” with Berner’s illustrations?
In this issue of Bookbird we get a glimpse of the work of all of these outstanding creators. On the cover you can see an illustration by Andersen winner Rotraut Susanne Berner. Further glimpses of visual storytelling can [End Page 2] be had in the journal pages: Berner, Rahimizadeh, Törnqvist, Sanna, and Lee – and others. This is something IBBY and Bookbird are proud of: our ambition to reproduce excellent visual material in our journal. Few, if any, academic journals do that. But we also get glimpses and snippets of the words and views of the ten finalist authors and illustrators. Critics and scholars have come together to produce an anthology of articles on the winners and other finalists. My thanks go out to this excellent group! These articles are both inspiring and learned, and fun to read.
Finally, I should add that this Bookbird also hosts a few texts on other topics. Liz Page reports from the Auckland Congress among other things (Focus IBBY). Christiane Raabe of the International Youth Library reflects over a recent travelling exhibition, “Hello, Dear Enemy”: Picture Books for Peace and Humanity.” We also have two Letters – one on...