IBBY Congress: From Russia with Love

Contributed by Josiane Polidori, 2nd Vice-President, IBBY Canada

The 37th IBBY Congress was held in Moscow, Russia on September 10-12, 2021 (after being postponed from September 2020). Despite many travel restrictions and health concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic, the organizing committee at RBBY (Russian Section of IBBY) organized a vibrant and rich hybrid congress with digital access for speakers and participants from all over the world. Some international delegates attended in person in Moscow, but most were online.

During the three-day congress, there were plenary sessions, exhibitions, award ceremonies and 42 sessions with speakers logging in from 32 countries including Canada, and in-person participants from 13 countries.

Highlights included:

  • Keynote speakers, including award-winning Belgian author Bert Moyaert and past IBBY-Asahi Reading Promotion Award winners Zohreh Ghaeni from Iran and Mempo Giardinelli from Argentina, spoke on the first day.
  • Hans Christian Andersen Award for illustration winner Roger Mello, from Brazil, charmed the audience with his storytelling skills and Buenos Aires writer Maryta Berenguer spoke about the first children’s book library in Argentina.
  • The history of the IBBY journal  A Journal of International Children’s Literature and the new publication Bookbird. A Flight Through Time were presented by former Bookbird editors Valerie Coghlan from Ireland and Evelyn Freeman, and Bookbird president Joan Glazer from the US.
  • Virtual roundtables gathered speakers from many countries with Casa Cuna Cuenterosfrom Argentina (2020 IBBY-Asahi winner), IBBY Canada’s very own Leigh Turina, lead librarian for the IBBY Collection of Outstanding Books for Young People with Disabilities, from Toronto, Mempo Giardinelli from Argentina (2012 IBBY-Asahi winner), Zohreh Ghaeni from Read With Me in Iran (2016 IBBY-Asahi winner), and Deborah Soria, founder of the IBBY Silent Books project in Lampedusa (Italy).
  • The 2020 Honour List presentation showed a video of the selected books, several Honour List recipients collected their diplomas.
  • For the Hans Christian Andersen (HCA) virtual ceremony held at Pashkov House, Junko Yokota, HCA Jury president and winning author Jacqueline Woodson joined from the US and the winning illustrator Albertine joined from Switzerland.
  • Marit Törnqvist, Swedish artist and reading promoter was able to attend in-person the inaugural IBBY-iRead Outstanding Reading Promoter Award.

I really enjoyed the discussion with the six Hans Christian Andersen Award winners.  Junko Yokota, chair of the Hans Christian Andersen Awards lead a roundtable with Jacqueline Woodson (USA, 2020), Albertine (Switzerland, 2020), Roger Mello (Brazil, 2014), David Almond (UK, 2010), Cao Wenxuan (China, 2016) and Igor Oleynikov (Russia, 2018).

I felt completely jet-lagged that weekend, with the seven-hour time difference between Moscow and Ottawa; I was waking up in the middle of the night to listen to speakers and watch the Hans Christian Andersen ceremony and several other IBBY events. It was a joy to listen to my friend Robyn Sheahan-Bright from Australia and to chat live with many IBBY friends from many countries despite various time zones. During the lively closing ceremony, while members of the Moscow Cossack Choir were performing with much passion and energy, my husband Edward said: “It would have been so nice to travel to Russia.’’

Attending the 2021 IBBY Congress virtually was like armchair travelling; I was sitting comfortably at home, but my mind and my heart were filled with longing for the IBBY community. My heartfelt congratulations to RBBY and IBBY. See you all at the 38th IBBY Congress in Putrajaya (Malaysia).


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