Friday, November 17, 2017

Jella Lepman: Children's Books for the World

Howdy Campers! Happy Poetry Friday! Today's poem and the link to PF is below.
It's time once again for TeachingAuthors' annual...

Mary Ann began our series giving thanks to the best teacher ever; Carla thanked her favorite teachers; Carmela thanked her history teacher; Bobbi thanked the many teachers who appeared in her life throughout this difficult year. It's my turn to thank someone.

Who Was Jella Lepman And Why Am I Giving Thanks To Her?

This year I'm thanking a different kind of teacher: Jella Lepman, whose memoir, A Bridge of Children's Books, which I've just finished, has inspired me to rise up from my couch of despair and continue fighting for what's right, no matter the obstacles.

Here are some adjectives which describe this visionary librarian/teacher/leader:
Tenacious. Purposeful. Unfaltering. Dogged. Unwavering. Ambitious. Generous. Unstoppable. I could go on and on. Campers--if you are flagging, if you need inspiration, run, don't walk to pick up her memoir, A Bridge of Children's Books.

'This is the story of a remarkable woman and an important document in the history of international children's literature' -- Inis Magazine

From Amazon:
"The remarkable story of Jella Lepman, who, having left Germany to escape the Nazi regime in the 1930s, chose to return in the aftermath of the Second World War, as 'Adviser on the Cultural and Educational Needs of Women and Children in the American Zone'. She soon decided that what Germany's war-ravaged children needed was to see a world of the imagination, beyond their landscape of bombed-out buildings and military vehicles. Battling with bureaucracy and meeting with generals and statesmen, including Eleanor Roosevelt, she founded the International Youth Library, filling a huge void in the lives of Germany's children with books from all corners of the world. The IYL included a children's art studio, story- and play-writing classes, readings, foreign language classes, and the foundation of the Young People's United Nations. In 1951 Jella Lepman founded the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY), dedicated to promoting international understanding through children's books. This is a story of tireless courage and conviction in the face of desolation and cynicism."

Note, Campers, that the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) has been called "one of the most influential children's literature organizations in the world." (And the good news is that there's a United States national section we can join!)

The International Youth Library,
the world's largest library
for international children's and youth literature,
was founded in 1949 by Jella Lepman.

Check out this quick PowerPoint about Jella created by Canadian Laura A. Thompson, PhD in 2011.

I also owe thanks to Janet Wong and Sylvia Vardell who introduced me to USBBY during this summer's ILA conference in Orlando, opening my eyes and heart to the world of international children's literature. And thanks, too, to Junko Yokota for pressing this book into my hands and urging me to read it. Reading how Jella climbed over obstacles to accomplish so much has lifted me up and changed my life.

Here's today's poem:

by April Halprin Wayland

she is one warm light
through this wet, winter night

just one woman
just one human

climbing chunks of bombed-out buildings
she is steady, she is feisty
and her goals 
are grand and mighty
no one says that she is cautious
skirting senseless rules and bosses

just one woman
just one human

she is one warm light
through this wet, winter night

poem (c) 2017 April Halprin Wayland

Thank you, Jella Lepman.

And thank you, Jane, who's hosting Poetry Friday on her Raincity Librarian blog.

posted by April Halprin Wayland, coming off the couch of despair and bouncing into the light


Sally Murphy said...

Thanks for sharing Jella's story, and your poetic tribute to her. She was truly an amazing woman.

jan godown annino said...

Appreciations for adding a library hero to my list that includes Augusta Baker & continues today with Carla Haydn. Your poem about Jella encourages any reader to never give up.

And I feel children' will love to say her first name. Perhaps you will follow the path to create an illustrated bio book about her.

Thanks for the IBBY links. I would like to know when/were the next conference will be.

Linda B said...

"Just one warm light" is perfect, April. This story of Jella is new to me, so thanks for the links and part of her story. Happy Thanksgiving!

Kay said...

Wow! Thank you for sharing the inspiring story of Jella. I can't wait to learn more. I'm adding this book to my Christmas list!

author amok said...

I'm so glad you introduced me to Jella's story, April. Thanks for the gift of this poem.

Tabatha said...

Wow, look at that International Children's Library! Looks like a destination spot. Thanks for telling us about Jella. She sounds like someone to be thankful for, definitely.

Brenda at FriendlyFairyTales said...

What an inspiring story of a woman who teaches that dealing with trauma doesn't have to mean becoming a helpless victim, or living in a denial haze aided by chemicals or even being angry. You can transform the experience into an opportunity for doing great good in the world. I wonder how we can apply that to our world where it's apparent that women and kids need healing, still.

Buffy Silverman said...

Thanks for this, April. I have struggled to rise from my couch of despair this year--I just ordered Jella's book! She sounds like an inspiring role model. Glad she inspired you (and your poetic tribute!)

Kerry Aradhya said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on Jella...and your beautiful poem. I'm glad she has helped you rise off your couch of despair. We all need inspiration like that!

April Halprin Wayland said...

Thanks, Sally ~ It sounds like you knew about her already. Where has Jella been hiding from me?

Jan ~ I just went to the USBBY site and see that it hasn't been updated regarding upcoming conferences. I've emailed them to find out more...stay tuned! And your idea for a PB sounds great. Maybe that's YOUR book to write?

Linda, thank you!

Kay and Laura ~ yes, what a smart, brave lady.

Tabatha ~ I feel EXACTLY the same way about that building...let's have a poetry retreat there!

Brenda, Buffy and Kerry ~ yes, inspiring. It helps me to see that others have faced darkness and prevailed.