Day 1

September 10, 2014


During the 34th International IBBY Congress in Mexico City, more than 970 people representing 66 countries met —  participation of Mexicans exceeded 60%.

Editors, writers, illustrators, teachers, promoters of reading, among other profiles, gathered at the premises of Fiesta Americana Reforma Hotel for 4 days (September 10 to 13, 2014), during which they could exchange experiences, opinions, methodologies, studies and implementing actions to promote reading, in order to enrich their practices and develop their field of knowledge, and thus create new readers.

May everyone really mean everyone was the motto of the Congress, where over 120 speakers talked about reading as an inclusive experience.

The opening ceremony of the 34th International Congress of IBBY was held on Wednesday, September 10 with a gala dinner at the Library of Mexico (Biblioteca de México) — La Ciudadela.

In the Octavio Paz Central Patio, Wally De Doncker, a member of the Belgian section of IBBY, opened the exhibition on the founder of IBBY Jella Lepman (Stuttgart, 1891): Ways out of no man’s land (Caminos para salir de la tierra de nadie), an exhibition that, through a photographic tour, allows people to get closer to the life of the defender of human rights, especially in the social and cultural sphere, after the Second World War. Jella Lepman said that children could and should be strengthened through reading, as this would help erase the horrors of war that were still in their memories. " They, children, will show adults the way out," she used to say.

All speakers and guests were welcomed In the Patio of Writers (Patio de los Escritores).

Luis Ignacio Sánchez Gómez, Federal Educational Services Manager of Mexico City —representing the Secretary of Public Education Mr. Emilio Chauyffett—; Hasmin Chahinian, Vice President of IBBY —representing the President of IBBY, Ahmad Redza Khairuddin—;  Ricardo Bucio Mújica, President of CONAPRED; Fernando Álvarez del Castillo, Head of the Directorate General of CONACULTA Libraries; Luis Fernando Crespo, President of Ediciones SM España; and by IBBY México/A leer, Bruno Newman, President, and Azucena Galindo, Director General, were present.

Words pronounced by Bruno Newman firstly referred to Jella Lepman’s work, remembering that, when she inaugurated the first IBBY Congress in Zurich in 1953, she talked about international understanding through children's and young people's literature as a basis of the formation of the international collective and thus achieve a better understanding between people and countries.

He added that all work that is done in IBBY is based on the conviction that the world's children should have access to books, so that when they are formed as readers they could approach other forms of life, cultures and values, understanding, accepting and respecting other beliefs and lifestyles. Bruno Newman also affirmed the importance of the Mexican Educational Reform with the purpose that civil society and authorities may work together on reading and inclusion issues. He also invited all members of IBBY around the world to become a stronger global institution, since more than 60 years of the association existence empower them to establish close and horizontal dialogues between international and governmental agencies.

On the other hand, Hasmin Chahinian, Vice President of IBBY, announced the support the IBBY Children in Crisis Fund would give Gaza, at the various points of conflict, in order to create libraries — but especially to restore libraries that could have been affected by a contingency and thus be able to bring stories to embrace and accompany those children and youngsters to withstand the days of grief and loss.

Luis Ignacio Sánchez, Federal Educational Services Manager of Mexico City, confirmed the importance of organizing an event of the magnitude of this Congress because, beyond being an international meeting, its central theme makes it pertinent and relevant since reading strengthens freedom to discern and act. He also noted that reading comprehension is the most important skill to ensure high academic achievement. Moreover, he mentioned how the work done in conjunction with IBBY México/A leer —mainly through the We Are Among the Books (Nosotros entre Libros) program, implemented in several public elementary schools at Mexico City— promotes the formation of reading communities that strengthen the school space as a whole.

Before concluding, Luis Ignacio Sánchez Gómez officially opened the 34th International IBBY Congress in Mexico City.

After the keynote speech, dinner was served, followed by the most outstanding and expected ceremonies of the 34th International IBBY Congress in Mexico City program: the 2014 Hans Christian Andersen Narrative and Illustration Awards Ceremony.

This year, the narrative award went to Nahoko Uehashi (Japan) and the illustration award to Roger Mello (Brazil). Such recognition is awarded by IBBY and is sponsored by Nami Island Inc. (South Korea).

It is noteworthy that, in this Congress, five Hans Christian Andersen winners met: David Almond (United Kingdom), María Teresa Andruetto (Argentina), Roberto Innocenti (Italia), to whom the winners of this year joined: Nahoko Uehashi and Roger Mello.

The President of the Jury of the 2014 Hans Christian Andersen Awards, María Jesús Gil, congratulated the winners. Likewise, she thanked Nami Island Inc. for its generous sponsorship. Members of the 2014 jury were introduced; many of them were present at the ceremony: Anastasia Arkhipova (Rusia), Fanuel Hanán Díaz (Venezuela), Sabine Fuchs (Austria), Sang-Wook Kim (South Korea), Enrique Pérez Díaz (Cuba), Deborah Soria (Italia), Susan Stan (United States of America), Sahar Tarhandeh (Iran), Erik Titusson (Sweden) and Ayfer Gürdal Ünal (Turkey).

María Jesús Gil noted that the work of the 2014 winners, Nahoko Uehashi and Roger Mello, share the same point of view: transmitting boys, girls and adults, the chance of aspiring to live in a better world.

Ms. Nahoko Uehashi "writes extraordinary tales of fantasy and science fiction full of imagination, culture, and beauty of a sophisticated process and form. Her literary characters are based on ancient Asian and Oceanian mythologies, which are deeply rooted in the very essence of human nature.  Her stories revolve around the honor and duty, destiny and sacrifice. She has an extraordinary ability to create worlds where relationships exist at different levels: a world seen as a universe as a network of interactions, rather than merely exists in space," said María Jesús Gil. "In her works we can found sensitivity and tenderness, and a great respect for nature and all sapient creatures. Her books contain a universal message.

No matter where we live or how we define our culture, through her tales or stories, we can find the essence of humanity: love, altruism, life and death, body and soul, generosity, maturity, search... She build worlds filled with mystery and suspense using sophisticated and interesting metaphors, witty and intelligent literary techniques, including —at the same time— subtle touches of humor. It is perfectly clear that Nahoko Uehashi writes for very demanding readers — both young and old."

About Roger Mello, winner in the category of illustration, she stated that: "he creates illustrations that are a synthesis of symbolic and descriptive elements. It is as if Roger had two representative codes —  the evident and the obvious, which he then bring to more transcendent elements, explaining their meaning through the use of philosophy and illustration. He is a real master as he incorporates culture, tradition, tolerance, respect, journeys, discoveries, legends, surroundings and environment, urban life and technology. Therefore, he is able to enjoy an intelligent dialogue with his readers, creating in them a critical and emotional response to reality. The use he makes of color, in a ritual and symbolic way, generates on his books a ceremonial atmosphere that integrates all elements he has incorporated".

Nahoko Uehashi, in his acceptance speech, said that his work represents complex worlds with characters of various codes and scales of values, bearing love and respect for nature and humanity.

She recalled how her grandmother frequently told her: "never despise a cat that comes back, because it may have learned to become a human being."

On her craft of writing, Nahoko Uehashi said that stories provide the ability to be someone else — when a book is opened a door to a totally different culture and environment opens; you have the opportunity to become the story's protagonist, to live the life of another person, to see the world through different eyes and to experience everything with other senses. "There are books that you can’t stop reading; tales that make your heart race; stories that make you feel what each character feels, that let you walk by its side until the end and then find yourself in a place other than the one you were in the beginning". And finally, she shared the following words: "that's the kind of story I want to tell; and with that longing in my heart, I'll keep writing."

In the illustration category the winner of the 2014 Hans Christian Andersen Awards was Roger Mello, who in his first words of thanks expressed his desire to be in contact with the visual storytellers of Mexico, Tenochtitlan, Mesoamerica, the nomadic peoples of the North, because its visual poetry has conquered him through its unweldable strength because the “unweldable” is what makes possible to move narrative creation — the free thought of the reader.

Roger said that he grew up realizing that books can be powerful, that people could disappear after using them. He learned reading through codes in the visual arts, becoming an image reader in silence. For him drawing was thinking through a pen and that, in his native Brazil, nature and the human side belong together.                         

He narrated how his fictional universe relates to people not belonging to the world of economics or to the unstoppable development chain; he maintains that "Art cannot be guided by anything other than the freedom of ideas. My purpose is not teaching, but fictitious images also constitute an effective activism in a country that has the highest figures in environmental murders."

As for books he said: "books foster tolerance when accepting differences without preconceptions or hatred, without judgment, and through dialogue with others. Color is the interaction with the present, with the here and now. And only this allows dialogue with memory."

To conclude, he asked this question to the audience: "Aren’t some images bigger than us?" And finally he recalled someone to whom he said... "while I was writing this, I had a memory of you and me under the blankets —like a caterpillar with two heads— while you were reading to me one of Andersen’s books".

The ceremony ended with applause. The two winners made a toast with all.