The Power of Silent Books
Although wordless picturebooks are still met with diffidence and resistance in certain environments and geographical areas, in many other parts of the world they are now an international publishing phenomenon at the centre of reading promotion programmes.
Over the last ten years especially, silent book projects started in Italy have helped boost the international circulation of books and best practices, acquire a vast new readership, and prove the pedagogic, aesthetic, poetic and publishing potential of the wordless picturebook.
Started in 2012, the project Silent Books: final destination Lampedusa promoted by IBBY Italia in partnership with IBBY International has assembled the best wordless books from all over the world in biennial and itinerant exhibitions. The project also involves a reference library located in Rome’s Palazzo delle Esposizioni as well as the first library for children and young adults on the island of Lampedusa in the middle of the Mediterranean.
Crossing linguistic barriers, wordless picturebooks build bridges that allow intercultural dialogue, promote the development of language and visual skills, and foster peaceful coexistence.
The publication and dissemination of silent books are promoted by initiatives encouraging international authors to come forward with new projects. Events include the Silent Book Contest – another Italian project begun in 2014 – accompanied by the Gianni De Conno Award.
2017 saw a further Italian initiative in the form of the first international study dedicated entirely to these Meraviglie mute (Silent Marvels), accompanied by the publication of a monographic volume on the history, forms and expressive languages of wordless picturebooks and how they engage with readers. The volume has already been translated into Chinese and Arabic.
Silent book masterpieces include, among others, Shaun Tan’s The Arrival, a poignant insight into the emotional wrench of migration, the classical visual accounts of nature’s cyclical changes by Iela and Enzo Mari, Suzy Lee’s portraits of childhood, the astonishing imagery of David Wiesner, and the poetic themes translated with amazing simplicity by Katsumi Komagata into images blending silence and pictures.
The Moscow conference The Power of Silent Books was an opportunity to meet contemporary authors, illustrators, designers, experts and publishers from the wordless picturebook world, get an in-depth understanding of the latest sector developments, and be directly involved in on-going experimental work with a range of players working in this publishing sector.
The Power of Silent Books was dedicated to the cross-border book par excellence, a genre that has broadened the offering of children’s literature and opened up new ways for books to resonate with readers.
illustrator and professor, Russia
Anastasia Arkhipova was born in Moscow to a family of artists. Both her father and grandfather were book illustrators. She is best known for her illustrations of the Fairy Tales by Andersen and the Brothers Grimm, published first in Germany by Schreiber Verlag, and then reprinted in many countries from Scandinavia to Brazil and China. Her illustrations have been successfully exhibited in Bologna, Barcelona, Paris and several German cities. She has organized and participated in several art exhibitions in Russia and abroad. Since 2007, Anastasia has been a member of the Executive Committee of IBBY and is head of the Association of Book Illustrators and Designers of the Moscow Artists' Union. She was a member of the H.C. Andersen Award jury (2011 – 2012), as well as the international juries in Bratislava (BIB) and Bologna (BCBF). Anastasia initiated the Moscow contest for book illustrators and designers, now international, ‘Image of the Book’.
publisher, Enchanted Lion, USA
Claudia Zoe Bedrick was born in New York City in 1963 to a Ukrainian-Jewish father and a Norwegian mother. She grew up eating Jewish, Russian, Norwegian, Chinese and American foods, and going to both church and synagogue.
Between 1990-2001, she worked at the Graduate Faculty of the New School for Social Research managing a non-profit program focused on the development of libraries throughout East & Central Europe and the countries of the former Soviet Union after 45 years of isolation from the West. During this time, she traveled a lot, visiting libraries throughout that region, including St. Petersburg and Moscow.
Since 2004, she has been running Enchanted Lion Books, where she is publisher, editor, and art director. In addition to the books she has been publishing, her favorite children's books are William Steig's Amos & Boris and James Marshall's stories. Bedrick also translates from French, loves Japanese children's books, and is endlessly absorbed by conversations around translation, mark making and representation, and narrative itself.
founder of Debbie Bibo Agency, USA/Italy
Born in Los Angeles, Debbie Bibo grew up in a sleepy suburb of Northern California, now the hub of the Silicon Valley. After earning a degree in Political Science at the University of California, San Diego, and working at a language school in San Francisco, she moved to Italy to teach English in 1992. While teaching, she enrolled in an invaluable three-year photography program at the Istituto Riccardo Bauer in Milan. Her background in photography and the visual arts led to her first job in publishing, working for the contemporary art publisher Charta, where she learned the ABCs of bookmaking and bookselling. There, she was fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with artists such as Marina Abramović and Shirin Neshat. She moved on to work for the art publisher Skira, managing their international sales and distribution, and then for 5 Continents Editions where she liaised with art museums and edited a series of books on design, co-published with the Museum of Modern Art of New York. After twelve years of publishing and two years of project management for a design studio, she founded Debbie Bibo Agency in 2011. When asked what makes a good agent, her one-word reply is: vision.
publisher, Two Hoots Macmillan, UK
In a career which began at Penguin Books (in New Zealand and the UK) and which spans three decades, Suzanne Carnell worked with many of today’s most talented authors and illustrators including Emily Gravett, Julia Donaldson, Axel Scheffler, Rod Campbell, Chris Riddell, David Roberts, Roger McGough, Lauren Child, and Lane Smith. After 12 years heading up the picture book list at Macmillan Children’s Books, in 2016 she launched her own imprint at Pan Macmillan, Two Hoots, with the ambition to create a quality children’s illustrated list with no boundaries of format, age group, style or content, offering the most gifted authors, artists and designers the creative space to try new things.
In less than three years, Two Hoots has received considerable critical acclaim, including having a book chosen as one the New York Times Top Ten Picture Books, and won prizes including Best Picture Book at the Chen Bochui Children’s Literature Awards in Shanghai as well as several UK awards including the Kate Greenaway Medal, the top prize for illustration in the UK.
Born in Versailles, France, Anna Castagnoli moved to Italy where she graduated in Aesthetics. A lover of literature, history of art and of children in modern culture, she found the picturebook to be the medium encompassing all her interests.
Illustrator, writer and critic of children’s books, Castagnoli’s own picturebooks have been published in many countries, and her stories illustrated by some of the key names on the contemporary scene, such as Susanne Janssen, Gabriel Pacheco, Isabelle Arsenault, Carll Cneut and Gaia Stella.
Since 2008, Castagnoli has curated an illustration research and study blog, LeFiguredeiLibri.com, which has become a go-to site for sector specialists. As a critic, she works with various bodies, associations, and international journals. These include Hors Cadre[s], (France), Revista Emília, (Brazil), and the Universities of Sorbonne, Paris, and Complutense, Madrid.
In 2014, Castagnoli was a member of the jury of the prestigious Illustrators Exhibition of Bologna Children’s Book Fair, and in 2017, she published Il manuale dell’illustratore (Editrice Bibliografica, Italy), a complete illustrator’s guide. For the last seven years she has taught Illustration at the Sarmede International Stepan Zavrel School and at the Milan and Turin sections of the European Institute of Design.
She lives in Barcelona, Spain, with her family and in her spare time collects old children’s books.
Katsumi Komagata (Shizuoka, Japan, 1953). Following a stint at Nippon Design Center, Inc., he moved to the United States in 1977, where he worked as a graphic designer. He returned to Japan in 1983 and three years later founded One Stroke, which began as a graphic design studio and later expanded into publishing.
The birth of a daughter prompted him to take up picture-book authoring and he is now world-renowned for his exquisitely crafted books. He has also created picture books for children with disabilities, including tactile and sign-language books.
He has held shows and workshops around the world, and won numerous honors, including an ADC Silver Cube (New York), the Prize for Creativity (Paris), a New Art Prize as well as a BolognaRagazzi Award Mention at the Bologna Children's Book Fair, an International Children's Book Award (Switzerland), and two Good Design Awards (Japan).
illustrator and publisher, Pato Logico, Portugal
André Letria was born in Lisbon in 1973. He works as an illustrator since 1992, regularly making books for children and collaborating with newspapers and magazines. His work has been published in many countries and showcased in numerous exhibitions including the Biennial of Bratislava, the Bologna Illustrators Exhibition, Sarmede or Ilustrarte.
He has also directed animation movies and worked as a theatre set designer.
He was a jury member in the first two Bologna Ragazzi Digital Awards.
As an illustrator he won several distinctions like the Portuguese National Illustration Award, the Gulbenkian Award, an Award of Excellence for Illustration by the Society for News Design (USA) and a mention in the Bologna Ragazzi Awards.
In 2019, his book titled A Guerra (War) won the Talking Pictures Award (USA), the Little Hakka Prize (China), the Nami Concours Grand Prix (Korea), as well as being selected in the Bologna Illustrators Exhibition.
In 2010 he founded Pato Lógico, his own independent publishing house.
He frequently visits schools and libraries in and outside of Portugal to talk about his work and hold creative workshops.
agent, Bright Agency, UK
Robyn Newton works with clients throughout the UK. Her passion for children’s books and their integral place in the lives of young readers makes her a highly enthusiastic and supportive agent.
Her in-depth knowledge of the book creation process from years spent in book publishing means that she has experience with just about any book format you can think of and can always be relied upon for an efficient and creative approach.
illustrator and winner of the 2018 Silent Book Contest
Anastasia Suvorova is a young russian illustrator, born and raised in a small provincial town. Ever since her childhood she has lived surrounded by nature, bright forests, transparent lakes, and plethora of wild flowers. Thanks to her parents, she learned to recognise and appreciate beauty, although they never thought she would become an artist.
And actually, when she was a little girl she wanted to be an astronaut to change the world and leave a mark in history. In those years she wasn’t an avid reader at all; rather, she used to love glancing over beautiful book illustrations while coming up with incredible stories.
Now she lives in St. Petersbourg, the most beautiful city of Russia. She doesn’t feel like she has grown up and keeps considering herself an eternal child. The only thing that’s changed is that now she loves reading books with words. Her house is so filled with books that it’s hard to find room for anything else: they are everywhere!
Today her greatest adventure is being an illustrator although she has never planned to become it. Through her illustrations she tells stories about beauty, kindness and wonder. She appreciates the fact that not everyone recognises her illustrative technique at first sight because it seems to her a kind of magic. All her illustrations are drawn on a computer, although using the assistance of variously textured paper and paint. She's still learning the profession: children, adults, books and nature which surround her are very inspiring for her work.
publisher of Carthusia, organizer of the Silent Book Contest, Italy
Patrizia Zerbi was born in Como, Italy. In 1978, while studying at DAMS, she has been the youngest founder of three partners of “Fatatrac”, publishing house set in Florence specialized in children’s books. Ten years later she moved to Milan in orderto found her own publishing house, Carthusia Edizioni, which has been designing and producing more than 350 titles in thirty-three years. As editor and publishing director she chooses to deal with children about “courageous and tough” topics as a specific editorial line. Concerning design, she has experimented new ways of communication in illustrated books and kits. She created also patented formats, such as the “Open Box Kit” which,once opened, becomes a 3D and in game planks, and the “Boundless Stories”, bilingual books in a particular concertina-folded format.
Thanks to her passion, professionalism and competence, she won prestigious awards, such as “FIDAPA DONNA Prize BPW Italia 2012 per Milano” and the recognition the RECOGNITION 2015 “Comitato dei Cento - In onore dell’Italia che ci onora”.
All over the years she has been speaking in several conferences, seminars, training sessions and master’s lectures for postgraduates, teachers, librarians, operators, and she keeps engaging with her young audience through meetings to promote reading in schools throughout Italy.
founder of Accademia Drosselmeier and Cooperativa Giannino Stoppani, curator of Drawn Worlds exhibition, Italy
After she graduated in Pedagogy, in 1983 Grazia Gotti founded the Cooperativa Culturale Giannino Stoppani with a group of kindergarten and primary school teachers and educators she had been working or was still working with.
The Cooperativa run an indipended children's book store, organise exhibitions of children's books illustrators as well as training courses for teachers and educators.
Grazia Gotti currently collaborates with many publishers, scouting for books and curating book series. She also runs her own publishing house.
Since 2003 she is a member of the Board of Education of the Accademia Drosselmeier, a study centre and research and training school for teachers, educators, librarians, book sellers.
In 2013 she published her first book: A scuola con i libri. Avventure di una libraia-maestra,Rizzoli.
In 2015 her second book Ne ho vedute tante da raccontar. Crescere con i libri is published by Giunti Editore .
In 2016 her third book 21 donne all'Assemblea is published by Bompiani.
In 2019 her first picture book Europa, illustrated by Daniela Stamatiadi, is published by Edizioni Primavera.