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Deepa Agarwal

It is not too often that people with a passion for children’s books get an opportunity to discuss the numerous issues that concern children’s literature with like-minded persons from across the globe. The issues are too many, the funds always limited.      Consequently, the biennial IBBY Congress, which was held in Cape Town, South Africa from 5 to 9 September this year, witnessed an impressive turnout. The scenic city stretching out against the dramatic backdrop of Table Mountain played host to about 600 delegates from countries as far apart as Iceland and New Zealand. Teachers, storytellers and librarians, writers, illustrators, publishers and editors, scholars, social workers, journalists and critics thronged the Baxter Theatre Complex to attend seminars and workshops, browse through the books displayed at the various stalls and learn what was going on in the world of children’s literature through poster sessions. There were sessions of storytelling along with entertainment programmes in the evenings, activities like wine tasting to sample the excellent South African wines and trips to landmarks like Table Mountain. As if this were not enough, visits to local libraries where readings and storytelling had been arranged provided delegates with the opportunity to interact with South African children. Book launches, exhibitions and meetings of professionals added to the tightly packed programme, and often when one was torn between two equally exciting possibilities, one ended up scurrying from one venue to another.      IBBY is a non-profit voluntary association whose Secretariat is in Basel, Switzerland. A German journalist Jella Lepman, was the vision behind IBBY, and the organization was founded in 1953 in Zurich. Broadly, IBBY’s mission is to promote international understanding through children’s books, make quality books accessible to children everywhere, encourage the publication of books with high literary and artistic content especially in developing countries, provide support and training for those involved in children’s literature and promote research. IBBY has national sections in many countries (more than sixty-eight) to further its mission and since its inception an international congress has been organized by a different national section every two years. India hosted the IBBY Congress in 1998. IBBY also brings out Bookbird, a quarterly journal on children’s literature.       The 29th IBBY Congress opened on the 5th evening with speeches from the organizers, Anna Louw chair, and Jay Heale, secretary of the South African Book Forum which is the South African National Section of IBBY and by ...

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