August 28th, 2012

shaun tan in london: ibby, comica, quentin blake

I knew writer and illustrator Shaun Tan was going to be in London this summer, over from Australia, so I was pleased as punch when IBBY Conference organiser Ann Lazim asked me if I'd introduce Shaun before his talk. (IBBY stands for International Board on Books for Young People and it's a big global organisation dedicated to rooting out the best children's books from all over the planet and making sure they can find their way into kids' hands.)

I knew all the delegates would be more than aware of who Shaun is, so I thought I needed to do something a little different than just list his awards and stuff. The night before the conference, I made a short picture book-thing out of book packaging material. The conference theme was 'Crossing Boundaries: Translations and Migrations', so I picked out some of the made-up foreign language from Shaun's book The Arrival.

It's a perfect book for that theme because it puts you, the viewer, into the position of being a new immigrant to the country Shaun's created. You don't understand the language, the customs, the food, and as you explore, recurring images begin to present themselves as new symbols to you: a strange white tadpole creature on legs, paper birds, cryptic runes.

I talked my way through the booklet, opening its flaps, then at the end, unwrapped a little box with a paper bird in it, and... ha ha, launched it into the audience. This delegate caught it! Actually, mine didn't look much like a bird, more like an airplane.

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