On April 2, 2021, to celebrate the official day of the International Children’s Book, SC&I and Rutgers Libraries hosted a virtual launch of the newly created International Youth Literature Collection housed in Rutgers University- New Brunswick’s Alexander Library and the online LibGuide to International Youth Literature created by Doris Gabel, who teaches in the Master of Information program, as well as two graduate students, Mackenzie Dunbar and Kelsey Commerford.
Associate Professor of Practice Marc Aronson welcomed the guests attending the online celebration by explaining, “This moment is the realization of a dream: to have a lively, fresh, growing collection of international books for children and teenagers in translation and in original languages here at Rutgers . . . today is much more that a ribbon cutting for a collection. It is a celebration of international youth literature in all of its forms, but because of COVID, it was never opened to readers.”
The International Youth Literature Collection was established at Rutgers Alexander Library in 2019. According to the library, it “is a representative collection of children’s and young adult books, both translated and in their original language, that celebrate writing, visual style and design from outside of this country.” The collection includes “picture books, early readers, chapter books, young adult fiction, and some historical and foreign language materials, and the Youth Collection is designed to support the adult study of children’s and young adult literature.”
Potter, who grew up in England, explained the ways he developed a fondness for books as a child. “Youth literature is something I feel very strongly about,” he said. “For me books were a very important part of growing up and in my family they had a central role. My father would always spend time reading to me during the evening, however tired he was. The weekly trip to the library, once I started to read and could choose my own books, was a really special part of the week, and it was something which I looked forward to, and I enjoyed the magic of the shelves and the choice and so on. The books I was reading as a child were from a different era. They enshrined different assumptions about gender, nation, and nationality. But they were still magical to me. It was still rather wonderful flying with Biggles as he worked his spitfire to fight with the Nazis . . . so I am excited and proud that SC&I is involved with this celebration of international children’s book day and I hope you all enjoy the event.”
Lemish said, “Many of us here at Rutgers are immigrants from around the world, and we’ve brought with us a wealth of books for children and youth in other languages. For example, I am from Israel, and I have shelves of books at home in Hebrew that I used to read to my children, who are now grown-ups, and I hope someday to read them to my grandchildren when COVID is over.”
Lemish then read in Hebrew from one of her favorite children’s books, “A Room for Rent” by Leah Goldberg.
Special events during the online celebration included “Favorite Translated Books of 2020” presented by Betsy Bird; LibGuide Tours A and B (links to the new collection) presented by Doris Gebel, Kelsey Comerford, and Mackenzie Dunbar; and the “Translation Award Announcement” by David Jacobson, an announcement of this year’s winner of the “GLLIYA Book in Translation” award.
Discussing the “Picture Book Read Alouds” featured during the event, Aronson said, “We will get to sample, to taste, to read, picture books. I wanted you to all to hear the sounds of many languages and to view many art styles.” Read alouds featured during the day included:
- Peter Sís reading “Komodo” in Czech
- David Jacobson reading “Are You an Echo” in Japanese
- Roger Mello reading “Contradanca” in Portuguese
- Kristina Cordero and her daughter Carlota reading “Violet parra la jardinera” in Spanish
The end of the day, Aronson said, would be celebrated with a raffle to win “Yellow Butterfly,” which was illustrated by Roger Mellow.
Aronson credited many partners at Rutgers for making the collection and the development of the new LibGuides possible. He said, “This day would absolutely not have been possible without the support of many in the Rutgers library world. Within the School of Communication and Information, Dean Jonathan Potter, Dafna Lemish, and LIS Department Chair Marie Radford have all been great supporters, personally and financially, in building this collection.” (Click here to learn the names of all of the event’s supporters).
Wrapping up the introductions, Aronson began the day’s exciting events by announcing, “Friends, supporters, fans of international literature for children and teenagers, including fiction and non-fiction, let the games begin!”
View the entire event below.