France’s Publishers Set a Youth Literature Conference for October 9

In News by Porter Anderson

With opening commentary from translator and author Clémentine Beauvais, the French program looks at ‘the role of children’s literature.’

A July 19 shot of the entrance to Paris’ Bibliothèque nationale de France, the venue for the SNE’s fourth conference on young readers’ literature. Image – Getty iStockphoto: HJBC

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

‘French-Bashing and Little Prince-Washing’
On October 9, the French publishers’ association—the Syndicat national de l’édition—is working with the National Center of Youth Literature to stage a fourth iteration of its Youth Literature Conference at the Bibliothèque nationale de France at Paris’ François Mitterrand site.

The theme of the program this year is “Children’s Literature: A Continent Without Borders?” That question mark is meaningful. One of the things that the former chief of the translation house Amazon Crossing, Gabriella Page-Fort has talked about recently (she’s now with HarperOne) is the kind of support that graphical content can have in children’s literature, as well as adults’, the visuals supporting what might be less than easily followed in text.

How borderless is children’s literature? While seen in some markets as almost impervious to economic vicissitudes, there are some markets, including the United States, in which young readers’ content has been tracked with lower sales. (See our coverage this week on the Association of American Publishers’ StatShot report for July.)

The program draws publishers, authors, translators, journalists, and teachers, in a sequence of speeches, readings, panels, and workshops, all touching on this question: “Between heritage tales and soft power, what place and role is there for children’s literature?”

Highlights of the Program

A shot from the 2019 edition of the SNE’s program on youth literature. Image: SNE

9:45 a.m. Opening comments from translator and author Clémentine Beauvais are titled Between French-Bashing and Little Prince-Washing: French Literature Seen by Its Gauls. Introductory material on this talk reads, in part, “French children’s literature is both adored and despised in its own country. Every French author, absolutely wants, in the absence of writing in English, to at least be translated into English, a language—and associated cultural and economic power—supposedly ideal for children’s books.

Clémentine Beauvais

“This ‘French-bashing’ Anglomania is, however, coupled with a national cult dedicated to the classics of French youth (and almost-youth) literature. That causes us to glorify Dumas, Verne, and Saint-Exupéry, ignoring that just in the last two years, a Frenchman (Jean-Claude Mourlevat) and a Frenchwoman (Marie-Aude Murail) have won the two biggest international awards for children’s literature, the Astrid Lindgren and Andersen prizes.

“What is really happening with French children’s literature domestically and internationally, and what does this complex of inferiority and superiority say about France in the face of its own children’s literature?

“We will explore this question, hoping that the sky does not fall on our heads, with the help of contemporary classics from home, but also from elsewhere.”

You have to admit that with such an intriguing and wryly described premise, we all would like to be in the room.

Nicolas Roche

10:15 a.m. Following Beauvais’ comments, Nicolas Roche will be on-hand to lead a panel on rights and rights management, agents, translators, and “business providers,” with literary agent Laura Karayotov; translator Bernard Friot; rights director Isabelle Darthy of L’École des Loisirs; and Delcourt’s head of youth comics rights, Laurence Leclerq.

11:30 a.m. When Mathilde Lévêque of the Sorbonne Paris Nord speaks, she’ll be talking about The Insertion of Children’s Literature in International University Education.

“The aim” of this presentation is “to question the multidisciplinary issues, the limits and the new perspectives on inventing vs. imitating—drawing inspiration, where it exists, from several original models offered in other countries.”

11:45 a.m. In Children’s Literature Facing the Digital Challenge, Le Monde’s Laurent Carpentier will moderate a panel featuring Youscribe’s Juan Pirlot de Corbion; psychologist Michael Stora; and BookTube-ing journalist Jeanne Seignol.

Praline Gay Para

It’s at 3:20 p.m. that Praline Gay Para, a storyteller, is to directly address the Tales That Cross Borders question of the October 9 program, discussing how “some folk tales, especially marvelous tales, often have versions in different cultures. At the center of their dramaturgy, human and family ties have a special place.

“This allows us to speak of universality concerning this oral narrative genre. The language of these stories is symbolic. Symbols, like certain motifs, are above all anchored in a specific culture, the only one capable of decoding their meaning. How can we transmit tales from elsewhere, here, today, without falling into cultural appropriation?”

There’s more programming for you to consider and registration available here. The program is expected to be available in a live stream from the venue.

Publisher Thierry Magnier of Éditions Thierry Magnier speaks in Paris at the 2021 iteration of the young people’s literature program from the French publishers association. Image: SNE

A programming note: During Frankfurter Buchmesse (October 18 to 22), our Publishing Perspectives Forum includes an afternoon Kids Mini-Conference on issues and viewpoints in international children’s publishing.

This part of our three-day series of events opens at 2 p.m. and runs to 4 p.m. on Frankfurt Wednesday, October 18. As always, all trade visitors and exhibitors are welcome to attend free of charge and it’s understood that some will have other obligations requiring them to arrive and leave at different moments. 

Featured in the mini-conference will be speakers including:

  • Peter Warwick, Scholastic CEO in the United States
  • Mariam Al Obaidli, managing director of the Kalimat Group, United Arab Emirates
  • Eduardo Kruel Rodrigues, senior manager with Brazil’s Saber Educação and chair of the Educational Publishers Forum of Latin America
  • Laura Summers, co-founding director of BookMachine in the United Kingdom
  • Tina McIntyre, interim head of global publishing and head of marketing with Wattpad  Webtoon Studios, Canada
  • David Saylor, vice-president, creative director, and publisher with Scholastic’s Graphix in the United States
  • Alessandra Sternfeld, founding CEO of Am-Book in the United States

As last year, the PP Forum is set in the bright, tree-lined Room Spektrum on Level 2 of the Messe Frankfurt Congress Center. More on the Forum and its programming is here, with information on our speakers and their appearances.

More on the book publishing industry in France is here, more on children’s books and young-adult literature is here, and more on publishing conferences and other similar events is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

Facebook Twitter

Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.