By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson
‘A Very Challenging and Disruptive Year’At least 40 publishers, writers, and other speakers are expected to be on hand and on camera Saturday and Sunday (October 3 and 4) when the of the Asian Festival of Children’s Content mounts its 2020 edition as a “digital symposium.”
Publishing Perspectives readers are quite familiar with this program from the Singapore Book Council under William Phuan (our interview with him is here). Last year, in its normal physical evocation, it fielded around 150 speakers across a four-day series of 90 sessions.
More compact this year, the 11th annual iteration of the event plans to look directly at issues arising from the impact of the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, rather than skirting the emergency. A key focal area of the programming “will discuss how the children’s book industry is responding and adapting to the global pandemic,” organizers tell us.
Phuan sounds cautiously optimistic in comments to us, but the emphasis remains on that caution. As so many markets of world publishing are finding out, what looks like a pathway out of the worst of the crisis can veer suddenly into rising numbers and new or renewed restrictions.
“It’s been a very challenging and disruptive year for us all,” he says. “The situation in Singapore is gradually getting under control, but things can quickly change.”
So it is that the program has chosen “voyages” as a thematic motif–perhaps a reference to the physical journeys that are so much harder at the moment for many to make.
The festival “will examine pressing topics such as the import of children’s books during a time of crisis; how to build resilience in children through books; the effects of digitization on book fairs and festivals; and how to build virtual communities,” organizers say in their media messaging.
“The festival will also take a close look at the impact of two popular genres–poetry and comics–and how schools can make them part of students’ essential reading.”
Dexter Ong, who heads up Wattpad Studios’ Asian office in Hong Kong is to speak, as is Peter Florence, the founding director of the Hay Festival. Maria Russo is on the bill, too. The former children’s book editor with The New York Times is now is editorial director with Michael Neugebauer Publishing’s picture-book imprint MineditionUS.
The chief juror for the Hans Christian Andersen Award, Junko Yokota, is speaking, as are poets Naomi Shihab Nye and Mariko Nagai; Minh Lê, the author of DC Comics’ Green Lantern: Legacy, which has illustrations by Andie Tong; Australian picture-book specialist Tohby Riddle; and the Chinese-Canadian author-illustrator Trevor Lai.
As always, the internationalism of the program is impressive, speakers logging in for their sessions from the States, India, the United Arab Emirates, Hong Kong, Canada, Lebanon, Australia, Malaysia, Germany, Spain, Japan, Thailand, and Singapore.
The professionally targeted events require tickets running between 30 and 60 Singapore dollars (US$21.80 to US$43.59). Ticketing is available here.
While you can find the full list of events here, we’ll direct your attention to several highlights here.
- Opening Session: Children’s Books in the Time of Crisis and Change with Junko Yokota (USA), Bijal Vachharajani (India), Camilla Reid (UK), and moderator Emily Lim-Leh (Singapore)
- Building Resilience in Children During Crisis with Myra Garces-Bacsal (UAE), Patrick Yee (Singapore), Tohby Riddle (Australia), and moderator Law Joo Hong (Singapore and UK)
- The Power of Poetry with Mariko Nagai (Japan), Naomi Shihab Nye (USA), Mark Nair (Singapore), and moderator Lah Chin Ee (Singapore)
- Creating Digital Content: Now and the New Future with Dexter Ong (Hong Kong), Jai Zende (India and Singapore), Goh Chun Hoong (Singapore), and moderator Gerald Cai (Singapore)
- Creative Crunch: Creating Within and Above Crisis with Ace Khong (Singapore), Leila Boukarim (Singapore and Lebanon), Robert Alejandro, Trevor Lai (Canada and China), and moderator Denise Tan (Singapore)
- (A New) Required Reading: Comics and Graphic Novels in Schools with Felicia Low-Jimenez (Singapore), Carol Tilley (USA), Remy Lai (Indonesia and Australia), Minh Lê (USA), and moderator Lim Cheng Tju (Singapore)
- Curating the iGeneration Reading List with Jochen Weber (Germany), Ahmad Redza bin Ahmad Khairuddin (Malaysia), Rasyidah Angullia (Singapore), Maria Russo (USA), and moderator Katie Day (Singapore)
- Building Virtual Communities: Do’s and Don’t’s with Dexter Ong (Hong Kong), David Liew (Singapore), and moderator Charlene Shepherdson (Singapore)
- Digital Festivals and Book Fairs: The New Normal? with Peter Florence (UK), Carolina Ballester (China and Spain), Kamolpaj Tosinthiti (Thailand), Alicia Chew (Singapore), and Julia Wheeler (UK)
If interested, you can find the bookstore outlet carrying speakers’ publications here, provided by Closetful of Books.
Hedwig Anuar Children’s Book Award
The public is invited to look in, free of charge, on Sunday’s festival-closing Hedwig Anuar Children’s Book Award ceremony, starting at 6 p.m. Singapore time / 1000 GMT.
This is a biennial award for children’s literature written in English by a Singaporean native or a permanent resident of the island state.
Here are the six shortlisted titles for the award:
- Jun and the Octopus by Ekkers (Goh Eck Kheng), illustrated by Lim An-ling
- Kelly and the Krumps by Ken Kwek, illustrated by Lolita Chiong
- Panjang: The Tall Boy Who Became Prime Minister by Peh Shing Huei, illustrated by Drewscape (Andrew Tan)
- The Incredible Basket by Quek Hong Shin
- We Can by Ben Lai
- X and O are B.F.F.s! by Lynette Teo, illustrated by Xinnie Ng
More information on the awards program is here.
More from Publishing Perspectives on the Asian Festival of Children’s Content in Singapore is here, more from us on Singapore and its publishing scene is here, and more on children’s books is here. More from us on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here and at the CORONAVIRUS tab at the top of each page of our site.