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Newsletter Number 1 2016
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Warm wishes for International Children’s Book Day 2 April! The Brazilian section of IBBY is the sponsor this year. And welcome to IBBY SA’s first newsletter for 2016.
                                          
It will be a quieter year after the buzz last year of selecting the books for the IBBY Honour List of Books for display at the 2016 Congress in New Zealand and for the biennial Exclusive Books IBBY SA award. We feature two of our Honour books in this letter with extracts from my interview with Charmaine Kendal and an article by Fanie Viljoen. Intriguingly, both authors use the same words in describing their book – “It just/simply had to be written”.
 
Please contribute to the Honour List of Books that Robin Malan and Samukelo Nombembe send out every three months. The Honour books attract wide international attention.  Once presented at the international IBBY congress they go on parallel travelling exhibitions in Russia, Japan, the USA, and at the Bologna Book Fair. They then are housed at the International Youth Library in Munich.  
 
Another chance to showcase South African children’s literature came with the request last week from IBBY Mexico for an “outstanding” South African Alice in Wonderland for an exhibition marking the book’s 150 year anniversary.  I at once thought of Andre Brink’s Afrikaans translation, re-issued by Tafelberg in 2010 with brilliant illustrations by Marjorie van Heerden. Tafelberg has kindly donated  a copy which I will send off.  
 
We kicked 2016 off with a celebration of last year’s Exclusive Books IBBY SA prizewinner, Fiona Moodie for her Noko and the Kool Kats (Tafelberg), and the two close runners up. See our photos below.  Thanks to Elaine Ridge of SCBWI for her thoughtful & interesting commentary.   Congratulations are due to NB Publishers for the high quality work of its teams at Tafelberg and Human & Rousseau – and thanks as well to NB for their donation of R1250.00 towards our 2016 IBBY dues.   
 
Our plans for 2016 include a funding proposal for a publishing project to fill a gap and a compilation of a list of 50 must read books for South African primary schools. Our small committee cannot do this work by ourselves so please contact me if you’d like to be involved (ibbysa@ibbysa.org.za).  We need help from our members across the country! 

More mundane news is that we are now undergoing an audit of our finances from 2007 – a necessary step if we are to consolidate our recent NPO status and raise funds for the two projects.
 
We plan to feature an innovative books project in each of our newsletters this year. This month Book Dash is in our spotlight. See Julia Norrish’s photos below.      
 
Genevieve Hart
 
Autumn Book Bash
Translation questions! 
 
Come and take part in our discussion of the issues in translating children's books.Ntombi Mahobe of Nalibali will chair the panel, comprising Sindiwe Magona, Arabella Koopman, Jean Williams and Xolisa Guzula.

SASNEV, 5.00-7.30, 19 May 2016

The cool green light and tinkling water of Charmaine’s peaceful garden was a perfect setting for our interview. Miscast is the first South African children’s book about transgenderism.  Caleb, its engaging hero, has always felt he has been given the wrong body.  He’s constantly surprised to see a girl looking back at him in the mirror. Now, from the vantage point of 15 years, he tells the story of his struggles to understand himself and find a secure place. Given the hostile climate for any questioning of “normal” sexuality or gender identity in South Africa, it’s a brave book, perhaps even for an alternative publisher like Robin Malan’s Junkets. Before being taken on by Junkets. Charmaine first tried to have her book published by a mainstream publisher but it was declined because it did not fit into the category of books they were publishing.

                                                          
At our bookbash last year when we announced our choices of books for IBBY SA’s 2016 Honour List of Books, I was struck by Charmaine’s phrase “this book had to be written”. And soon into our conversation she stops herself when she says “I wrote the book”  -  preferring to say “The book wrote itself”.  Later she says “Even now when I look at it I don’t identify with it. It’s a book that happened … I was the vehicle through which it was expressed. … The character took over.”

                                                                 

Here are some extracts from Charmaine’s words on why she wrote the book,  responses she has had from young readers and the challenges in marketing her book and getting it into schools.
  
I’ve actually done nothing about marketing -- but when I wrote the book I gave it to Patsy [Bergvliet High School librarian] and said “Do you think this book is going to work? She said it would fill a big gaping hole. So she bought a set and the Grade 11s have been reading it. We had a 40 minute talk and they asked such wonderful questions. They wanted to know why I’d written it – and they’d learned so much from it.  Which is my thing! I want to explore values teaching through literature. They [the Grade 11s] would say things like “ I suddenly realised --- I have huge prejudices that re hidden that I can’t see.” And then what I really enjoyed about it was one of the pupils said “Gosh this writer knows teenagers!”
 
The character becomes a part of you.  … I wanted to create a character that everybody likes – there are so many odds stacked against transgendered people anyway.

But as the book evolved it became a character. …. It was just amazing. I know there are some things that are part of me – biographical …Feelings I had of awkwardness as a child.  But the character eventually took over until it’s his story. Caleb took over – when the character speaks then the character becomes the lesson.

It’s not limited, the story of Caleb. His mother is as much an important character – the mother and the father. When I read it with some boys at Wynberg I was thinking these boys are going to be fathers one day. And well who’s to say they are not going to have a child like Caleb. 

Well, ja, everybody asks me “where can I buy the book?”  I must do something … If I don’t do something about this [selling the book] other books are going to come along. Although it [Miscast] is a good book it will just get lost I think.

How do I get it into our schools?  

I said earlier that the theme of Miscast is transgenderism but, as Charmaine tells me,  “ It’s really just about being honest about who you are.” In telling his story, Caleb is marking his newly-found sense of freedom  – in his words, it’s his  “Declaration of Me”.

Charmaine Kendal and Genevieve Hart

Fanie Viljoen on his IBBY SA Honour List book UIT (LAPA 2014)

Why I wrote Uit
The main reason would probably be that some books simply need to be written.
There are so many teenagers struggling with their sexuality these days – some in secret. Yes, of course, things have changed tremendously over the last couple of years. I’m sure we are all grateful for that, but, in some places, some families, some cultures, being gay is still taboo. There are still teenagers who fear the day when somebody finds out who they really are. Who fear being ridiculed, losing their friends, losing their families, being kicked out of the house and fending for themselves.

                                                


With this book I intended to break down some barriers. Some Afrikaans youth novels have touched on the subject of homosexuality. Books like Slinger-Slinger by Francois Bloemhof, Die ongelooflike avonture van Hanna Hoekom by Marita van der Vyver and Skilpoppe by Barry Hough. But I felt we needed to tackle the subject of being gay and coming out head-on.

Inspiration
The inspiration for Uit came from the famous Welsh rugby player, Gareth Thomas – a man who played more than 100 games for his country, the 12th highest point scorer in world rugby, a man who came out in 2009 and bravely told the world his truth.

Another spark for the story: A few years ago the magazine Insig published an interview with Nick Mallet, a former Springbok rugby coach. In the interview Mallet was asked about his views on rugby and homosexuality. He replied that the toughest player he ever faced had a boyfriend. I found this very surprizing at the time. But the idea stuck in my head.

Today there are more and more instances of sportsmen – and yes, even rugby players - coming out: British rugby league player Keegan Hirst, Sam Stanley, the English rugby union player, and very recently an American football player from Princeton, Mason Darrow.  It seems as if times are changing, and future generations will not be subject to the stereotypes of what I means to be a real man or a real woman. Hopefully Uit would be part of that mindshift.
                                                                          

How was Uit written?
A few years ago the Mark Shuttleworth foundation came up with a brilliant initiative to improve reading. They started the YOZA mobile site and began publishing mobile novels, or m-novels. Each day a chapter or two would be added to a story. Readers had the opportunity to respond to each chapter, and to the story as a whole.

I was approached to write an m-novel in Afrikaans, something a bit edgy. That is how I started writing Uit. All the chapters needed to be short, and to the point. They needed to be quick reads. It was eventually translated to English, with soccer substituting rugby. There was an enormous response. The statistics by middle of 2011:

  
Some readers loved it, and some, very honestly, said ‘It sucked’. Many were moved to tears. All in all, it evoked an emotion in most readers.

I eventually decided to convert the m-novel to a fully-fledged youth novel. The m-novel formed the skeleton for the longer manuscript. I took into consideration some of the comments made to the m-novel, for example: Brent sleeps with Nita to confirm his sexuality. Readers of the m-novel weren’t impressed that he didn’t apologize after she found out. I added a scene to the book in which he then begs her forgiveness.

Response
The response to the book was mainly positive. Two schools prescribed it to their learners, and I received a stack of letters from them. With the help of Lapa publishers, I sometimes go around to schools. Here the responses vary. In Potch and Klerksdorp I could feel the learners tensing up after a few nervous giggles. Learners in the Western Cape and Gauteng are more accepting and open-minded.

                                             

But the best response was one I received via Facebook:

'Hi Fanie. My naam is XXX. Ek is 16 en ek is een van die gelukkiges wat weet dat dit uiteindelik beter word. Ek het sopas Uit klaar gelees. ’n Uitstekende boek. Soos ek hierdie boek gelees het, het ek gehuil, gelag en my kop geknik elke keer as Brent sy situasie beskryf. My ouers dink seker ek is laf! Ongelukkig is my broer nie so aanvarend soos Lana nie. Van sy hartseer tot die selfmoordpoging het ek elke deel gevoel asof dit weer met my gebeur het. Baie dankie vir so boek. Dis altyd lekker om te weet jy is nie alleen nie.'
 
In conclusion
About 9 years ago I decided to make writing my fulltime career. It was the best decision I’ve ever made for it allows me to do what I love. To touch the hearts of so many young people.  And to hopefully write the books that need to be written.

Fanie Viljoen
Summer Book Bash 8 February 2016
IBBY Celebrates! Exclusive Books IBBY SA Award  
 
The chance to engage with three of South Africa’s leading children’s book creators attracted a full house to our first book bash of the year, which celebrated the winner of the 2015 Exclusive Books IBBY SA Award. Last year’s jury, coordinated by Robin Malan and Lona Gericke, faced a particularly good crop of books; and it took much debate to select finally Fiona Moodie’s Noko and the Kool Kats over the two runners-up, The Name of the Tree is Bojabi by Piet Grobler & Dianne Hofmeyr and Sisi Goes to School by Wendy Hartmann & Joan Rankin. 

                             
                        Fiona Moodie - Exclusive Books IBBY SA 2015 prizewinner

                             
                       Dianne Hofmeyr - Runner up with her and Piet Grobler's
                                        'The Name of the Tree is Bojabi'

                             
                Elaine Ridge of SCBWI reading Wendy Hartmann & Joan Rankins'
                                      'Sisi Goes to School' (runner up).
                 
                            
                                      Dianne Hofmeyr & Dianne Stewart

                            
                                   Kate Whittaker & Sam Nombembe on duty

                                
                             Wayne Mills of Kids' Lit Quiz & Kathy Madlener

                           
                                             Two of the many guests
Each newsletter we will seek to spotlight a special project.  This first quarter of 2016 we have pleasure in showcasing a very innovative and exciting initiative called..

Book Dash began in Cape Town in 2014. It believes that books can change lives and that every child should own a hundred books by the age of five. But conventionally published books are too expensive for the average South African family and Book Dash has come up with a clever collaborative project to fill our huge gaps– inspired by Book Sprint in New Zealand.  Over weekends teams of volunteer “creative professionals” get together - so far in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban - and in 12 hours of hectic work they create high quality storybooks that anyone can freely translate and distribute.  

Thanks to Julia Norrish (project manager) for the photos.

                         



                   
 
Copyright © 2016 IBBY SA - THE INTERNATIONAL BOARD ON BOOKS FOR YOUNG PEOPLE SOUTH AFRICA, All rights reserved.


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