The Present Meets the Past . . .

This week Antipodean Odyssey is off to Warsaw, to the Present Meets the Past workshop at the Faculty of Artes Liberales.  At this workshop, the participants in the Our Mythical Childhood project, will be presenting their work-in-progress.  Watching over us all (though we will avoid her gaze) is the Medusa Rondanini.

Zbigniew Karaszewski, The Present Meets the Past (2018), after Medusa Rondanini
Zbigniew Karaszewski, The Present Meets the Past (2018), after Medusa Rondanini


Participants in the Present Meets the Past come from around the globe: I’ll be representing the Antipodes; there’s a team from Cameroon, one from Israel, one from the UK, and there are scholars from Germany, Italy, Belarus, Siberia, and more.  The wonderful Polish team, who leads the project (headed by Katarzyna Marciniak) has gone out of its way to make this a special occasion celebrating a diversity of talent, background, and more.  Some of us are teachers, some are writers, some are artists, some are dancers, some are actors, some are doctors, some are students.  All of us are fascinated by the way that the past meets the present in children’s culture around the world, and the uses to which children’s culture puts the past for young audiences.

So, if you have nothing to do next week, you could do worse than hop on a plane, or train, or bus, or even just look at the links below or follow along on twitter (@OMChildhood; @ebrhale) to witness the past and the present meeting, colliding, and producing works to take us into the future . . .

–Elizabeth Hale



IJB Shout-out

Antipodean Odyssey goes to the International Jugendsbibliotek.

Blutenburg Castle on a rare cloudy day.

Imagine a 13th-century castle stuffed to the brim with children’s books. With a swan named Ludwig guarding the moat outside, and swallows nesting in the entryway.

Imagine spending time in a serenely orderly reading room, surrounded by the best scholarship in children’s literature, and selecting picture books, pop-up books, novels, collections, and more from the hundreds of thousands of texts in the catalogue to the point that you can hardly see over the piles that arrive on your desk.

This was my happy lot in the past two weeks. I pored through the catalogue and, thanks to the help of the wonderful librarians in the lesesaal (reading room), found book after book after book that will play a part in the Our Mythical Survey, and form part of the Guide I’m writing with Miriam Riverlea.

I found myself enchanted and distracted and led in all sorts of directions, from the aesthetic to the narrative. But I held firm, and did my best to gather some exquisite works for inclusion and discussion. Here’s three wow moments from many!

Ariadne’s Goose

 My first wow moment was opening ‘Le Fil D’Ariane,’ by Dominique Feraud, which retells the story of Theseus, the Minotaur, and Ariadne’s Golden Thread. Its subtitle reads: ‘ou jouer le jeu pour vivre le mythe’ (1994). (Ariadne’s Thread: or, play the game to live the myth, but it sounds better in French!)

As you read, or listen, you can play along on a games board that is included with the book: the Game of the Goose (one of Europe’s oldest boardgames, and worthy of much further exploration). The idea of a book that is a game isn’t new, but such a beautiful experience reveals that picture books are an aesthetic experience, and also that reading and play can be intimately intertwined.

Carte in Tavola

My second wow moment was opening two more boxes. These ones contained Ulisses, la Maga Circe e le Sirene by Lucia Scuderi, and Teseo e Arianna by Nicoletta Ceccoli, published by Italian company Fatatrac. These are a series called ‘carte in tavola,’ where the words are on one side of a card, and the picture is on the other side. As you read, you then put the card on the table, picture side up, to build up a snaking rectangle that forms a larger picture. Something about playing with the story as you read it, tell it, or hear it, is quite profound. It reminds me a little of the Japanese Kamishabai approach to storytelling. (I’ll be talking about these lovely works in Warsaw in a couple of weeks.)

Hummers and Stingers

 My third and biggest wow was to find that the excellent staff of the IJB had prepared a superb exhibition on the subject of insects:  Summende Staatenbauer und Pikende Plagegeister: Insekten und Spinnentiere in Kinder- und Jugend Büchern, a title that almost defeated my high school German, but with a little help from the web, basically translates as Buzzing Builders and Piercing Pests: Insects and Spinning animals in Children’s and Young Adults’ Literature.

I was led up the stairs to the exhibition room where I discovered not only that they had illuminated the mythological elements of insect-related storytelling (La Fontaine, Aesop, Toni Morrison), but that they had displayed a whole host of children’s books, from all over the world, devoted to understanding and sharing the lives of insects.

So here’s a shout-out to this wonderful exhibition, and a hearty recommendation for anyone passing through, well, anywhere, to take a detour to Munich and the joys of Schloss Blutenburg and the Internationale Jugendsbibliotek.

— Elizabeth Hale