David AlmondUnited Kingdom
He was born in Newcastle, England in 1951. He is one of the most important contemporary narrators of children’s and young adult literature and was the winner of the Hans Christian Andersen Award in 2010. That same year he was a finalist in the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award. He has also been awarded the Carnegie Medal, the Silver Medal Award and was awarded twice the Whitbread Award. He has also been a finalist in several contests. Among his most prominent works are Skellig, The Boy Who Swam with Piranhas and My Dad's a Birdman.
David Almond’s literature is serious and appeals to the intelligence of readers with complex literary techniques such as intertextual relationships and framed stories (mise-en-abyme). The use of these literary resources contributes to children and young people striving to read them carefully and enquire the relationship between texts and cultural elements.
Almond believes in his readers and is sure that young people like to read: "We hear this so often: kids don’t read any more. They’re the plugged-in generation, brains dulled by iPods and computer screens. Is that true? No. I want to drag the prophets of doom to meet the young readers that I meet all around the world — children who love books, stories, poems, plays. Children who ask the most perceptive questions about character and narrative, about the way words work, about the writing process, children with exploring minds and ﬂexible imaginations." Children, youth and adults greatly enjoy the work of David Almond.
MASTER CONFERENCE 2: INCLUSION IN CHILDREN AND YOUTH LITERATURE
Thank you very much, good morning.
It's great to be here. Being in Mexico City is wonderful and attend a IBBY Congress, which does a fantastic job in much of the world. I am pleased to get back and gather with friends from previous congress that have taken place in different places.
I think that in a congress like this, that gathers people like you, is because this optimism is based on the belief that books, reading, writing, the arts and creative activities, can really change the world , to make it a better place to live.
Sometimes, when talking about these things, people only say "oh, they are romantic, has a notion they have a imaginative view of what you do, living like in a fairyland." But they are the ones who are wrong and we are right, we are interesting and they are boring.
And I think what we say in particular, and this has already been mentioned previously this week, we mean the people who acquire power, they become politicians, they become even more boring. We are committed to creating something different, create a better world, a world that the boring politicians may look up to who can never imagine, because what they lack is imagination.
I wasgoing to prepare a speech before coming but I could not do it because I knew that everything I would live this week would influence my lecture and certainly that has happened, whenever I travel, I see people from many sides and learn from all.
What does it mean to be inclusive?
Being inclusive is the heart of all the arts, as storyteller, I think that what we do has to do with fundamental aspects of human experience, particularly when working with children, writing children's stories, illustrating for children, working creatively with children or encouraging children in all possible ways to use their minds and imagination.
This week I came to Mexico from a very small corner from North West of England. Apparently it is an insignificant, but good site, all sites are insignificant all sites are in a corner of the world. In all the places where we tell stories there is a heart that resonates, I remember that once I traveled to the United States when I was writing a book, Kit'swilderness, dealing with the stories of the coal, which is closely related to the history England.
In South Africa a person came and said, "David how'd you know how to write about my people?".
I was in northern Japan two years ago where a large area had been devastated by the earthquake and tsunami and where the great Japanese poet, KenjiMiyasawa, had worked, and we worked on the river banks made where Kenji had walked many times and I felt that both he and I, writers were writing about the same country. In northern Japan felt as if the North of England. KenjiMiyasawa work was published in England, and has resonated in places that seem so different but were combined by the imagination and spirit of poetry and storytelling.
A couple of years I was in Morocco, one of the things I love about this country, are the markets. I was at a market when the sun went down, there was music, people bought and sold and in the center of this market there was someone telling stories, sat on a bench, people around him listening, I had no idea what he said because I did not understand his words, but what I could understand was his body movement, hand movements, gestures and audience response, I saw that there was something very fundamental in their stories that had to do with the body with memory, with dreams, however, anyone that tells a story bases on it.
We see stories like things that appear in books, text books, but further down the things that are on the books is what has brought us together, this spirit to tell stories, to be storytellers, to bring it in history in the heart and memory, these stories we tell ourselves among us, lead us to the origin of mankind, we have gathered, we have protected and also because of someone like this storyteller of whom I spoke on the market told us a story, each time we write, draw or make images we rely on that. Children know it thaat is why it's so exciting to write for them, because children are a beating heart and they know what the stories mean.
When writing for children, we realize that, as it happens to adults, we are closer to the body than it is literature too. It's like a common meaning making everything one, beyond languages, borders, etc. It is something that connects us to others, because the others have to do with the artistic creative human being.
This week I visited three schools in México City , notable, this are three different schools and children are always doing the best questions.
I was in school José Arturo Pichardo, two days ago, is a school with all kinds of children. They had decorated with drawings around one of my books, I saw my characters models, saw art work on my characters, poems that children had written about my characters, stories they had written. My character is like someone Northwest and was them talking about my country and talked to children in México city about this child, my character, passing through the drama of growing up and becoming somebody more conflicted later.
Upon entering that school a staff person came and said, "we still have some craft issues here ."
The fiction of the character can also talk to children who are on the other side of the world.
We always talk about what are the messages we want to convey to children, one can tell them what you want to tell , but I want to be inclusive with everyone, but if the story is good, the child will understand the meaning of abstractions of inclusiveness. Being in this school I was asked numerous questions, there was a little boy who raised his hand and said, "David, why must we see the smaller fish weaker," and I could see in his eyes that he felt a connection with fish and those who are the weakest in society. and I asked "why? if we love properly even weaker imply that society could be less strong." I mean, the boy understood.
I was at yet another different school , it was a private school of Jewish heritage, where they spoke English very well, obviously wealthy, but I saw the extent that border crossing stories have , one of my books is called Klee a little boy raised his hand and said, "David, your book has to do with the Golem of the Jewish legends" and I said yes because I grew up in northwest England, but this little boy had recognized the history of Prague, central Europe and everything he put together on a question, Imean, the child understood .
I was at another school, Escuela Continental Drive, forgive me my bad spanish pronunciation . These children were so sophisticated that they had many advantages; one child said: "Why Bobby has a friend like Joseph." Bobby is a good boy, he has a good life and Joseph had been a bad boy. When he asked he knew what I was going to say; well at least we have friends from different backgrounds how we will be right people we need to include everyone and I answered "yes it is true" so the child understood the message.
They also asked about interesting things, "why you write little things when you talk of darkness, light, life, death?" Well I said, well, it works, that's how stories work because at least the little things as a little fish and people wearing the correct shoes, even universal themes such as inclusiveness would have no meaning. It has to do with incidental peoples and what happens in the lives of ordinary people.
People often ask me why I write for younger people, the answers are in the answers given to me by the children.
The exciting thing about writing is that we live on a planet that is billions of years old and is huge. Each time a child is born, this universe is recreated. And there is a real enthusiasm in writing and illustrating for children who are seeing things for the first time.
Pessimists, bored, and destroyers do not understand. But children do. Children are recreating the world.
Each time the dramas one writes about happen , the drama of birth, falling in love, fall out of love, living, dieing, all these old stories, but they are always fresh every time a child arrives to this world and has contact with it, each new child is a new opportunity, and for us, each new story represents a new opportunity.
Children are natural artists and this is what makes boring people think they are unintelligent and boring "oh the children and who wouldn't believe that children are not natural artists."
Another question I was asked at school, well I was asked to make questions and I told them wellI'm going to ask questions, "Who likes to write?" and they raised their little handd, "Who likes to read?" well I like to read, "Who dances?", I dance, "Who sings?", I sing, "Who likes to do drama? "I like, who likes sports, I like sports, the world of children, are really natural artists,it is said to lead lives, are said to take years to be an artist but a lifetime is needed to react and act like children.
We can not be inclusive, not adult enough if we do not consider, it might not be an child interactive world like children.
Another question they asked me was, sitting out there, this girl told me: "David, is it possible to be childish and at the same time being an adult." and I said, "Yes" that is the purpose that everyone should have.
I showed my notebook and told them, look, when I write I'm like a baby, I am again as a child, I imagine that people grow and are illustrators that awards are won, writers and all have this attitude, if I am a adult and am really very intelligent and I am very sophisticated. But it's not true, is not it.
Children are always interested in the way in which you work. When I'm in a shed in my cabin and work that way, if the inspector went out to my cabin would say, this man is doing nothing there.
What could be the positive outcome of an activity like this?
As always I teach kids my notes and notebooks about a book because it looks very adult looks perfect, but we are not. The illusion of being perfect is an illusion, a trick. Those who publish books, the editors say this, they pull off the shelf and say look at David, look writes well cleanest thing is perfect right?
But I always ask kids questions when I go to schools "Anyone is perfect here?" Someone always says "I am perfect David." because they know they are not, then what is this sense of when mixed something does things like winning awards is something that they too can do.
I also show them pages of a notebook. This is one of the pages of my notebook, see that's like what's inside my head and listen to this short story writer than I speak in Morocco, is not that one has to be able to read, understand and is rather say, if I can do that, that's what I do mostly, this is my purpose, the act of writing, the act of talking about writing and being inclusive children open their mouths and turn around to see the teacher with that face.
But of course that the teachers and the teachers want to be allowed to be kids too, such not know if the audience is teachers but teachers become teachers because they love by the children.
Do not know how much time I was assigned? it is there that clock is not running. I already stopped?
I guess what I'm saying is that we grow and we want to make it appear that the world has grown adult world are the people who just want to feel they have outgrown all others, the most dangerous in the world, people are the you want to tell people how to behave. The most dangerous people in the world are those who try to deny the innate creativity and how artistic can children be .
The others who are not intelligent destroyers. Destruction occurs in many different ways. When I was in Japan and libraries were destroyed by a natural act of destruction, it was the earth itself that destroyed these libraries and the people here struggled to recreate libraries with many teachers and children who knew their purpose was to rebuild the libraries.
Last night, speaking with a friend, she spoke of the destruction of public libraries in Gaza, the aim now is to rebuild libraries, these are massive acts of destruction against which many people are.
Something that is a more orderly world is that the destruction comes in a light way, where I live there are many libraries that have closed because of these myths true or not true, is that people do not read much and some say that we can no longer afford to keep them running when we pay millions of dollars in bombs and destruction ....... the money spent in England to develop nuclear weapons, can not afford to maintain libraries, are these kinds of lies that led the invasion of Iraq some years ago. The lies told about Iraq policy that led to the destruction of Iraq.
Another question they asked me the other day was from a child who was talking about the missile crisis, the child said: "David think this will ever happen something like the Cuban missile crisis is something that can threaten us the future. "And by asking ourselves this question was by reading the book of the Cuban missile crisis, one may think, and the child thought, how it can can apply to his own life. And I said yes, it can happen again, what happens is that a history book has helped to make this child think about the world and this that presence in his life.
Other types of lies that are, that count is as in the story of StartingYelpez why are they looking for this type of fish. There are in England, that the financial crisis and people going through this financial crisis, they were the poorest. Bankers, they are blamed for the crisis, but what we do is give them more million pounds dads had nothing, those who were most afflicted and affected.
The things we do are creative and optimistic things it has nothing to do with writers and illustrators individual awards winners but all work together and play with what is the heart of the world and the worlds beyond that we develop and between languages that seem to separate us, beyond the lies that people say about us, things we try to stop us look functional human beings, beyond the things we have tried to prevent our society that is completely creative. At the end of the session in schools yesterday, the teacher asked me, "Do you have questions for children, and told them I asked who danced, who played; yeah yeah yeah. And I asked them what they wanted to do with their lives, and well I got different answers about what they want to do in their lives and then said "do you think you will be able to create a better world?" they thought and said "yes, if we believe it."
After all, this is our purpose, to inspire young people through creative activities to read, write books we've done for them or that we have created with them, in the end this is how the world can transcend thefoolish powers destruction and you can create something that is much better.
Failure to do so, they will come more children. The world is constantly recreated and recreated it comes from young people and their activities better world we have today.
Thank you very much.