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Silence is Golden: The Astonishing Power of Wordless Books to Inspire, Delight and Unite Us

October 23, 2015 | Deb | Comments (4)

In the Mediterranean Sea, on the island of Lampedusa — a mere speck of land compared to the great boot of Italy — something big is happening.

Lampedusa is part of Italy but lies so far south that it is, in fact, closer to Tunisia in Africa. In recent times, Lampedusa’s affiliations and location — part of Europe, yet also removed from it — have made it a landing point for migrants from Africa and the Middle East fleeing war, persecution, and other desperate situations in their homelands.

"Pelagie Islands map". Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons -

Among these migrants are children and young people, some accompanied by family members and some on their own. Heartbreakingly, many migrants have died while on their way to Lampedusa.

The children and young people who do make it to the island have many needs -- for food, medicine, and shelter. And they have other needs, also important, that must be met. Those needs include books.

I Have the Right

Having access to books, and the means to understand them, is crucial because stories and language, both spoken and written, help children make connections with others. Books let readers know they are not alone, and introduce them to other worlds and experiences and perspectives. Without books, one may be able to survive. But with books, a person can do so much more: they can flourish and thrive.



In recognition of the transformative role of books in the lives of children and young people, The International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) is working to establish Lampedusa's first children's library. To build the library's collection, the Italian section of IBBY has gathered outstanding wordless picture books from 23 countries.


Window BakerWhy wordless books? Wordless books (also known as silent books) have a universal language of image and art. They allow all readers to dive into a range of stories: ones that are slapstick-silly, tender-hearted, suspenseful and soothing. Without the barrier of language and words to keep readers out, connections happen instantly.

Wordless books are, in short, perfect for the young migrants in Lampedusa, who come from a variety of cultural backgrounds and speak different languages.

To showcase the library, an exhibit of more than 100 renowned wordless picture books, called "Silent Books: Final Destination Lampedusa" has been on tour around the world. After stops in Italy, Mexico and Austria, the exhibit travelled to Edmonton and Vancouver. And from November 2nd to December 11th, this exhibit will be at North York Central Library.

Everyone is invited to the Toronto launch where Deborah Soria, the Silent Books Project Director from Italy, will talk about IBBY's work with the children of Lampedusa:


Toronto Launch

Silent Books: Final Destination Lampedusa

Monday, November 2, 2015

Reception 6:30 pm; Launch 7:00 pm

North York Central Library, Auditorium

5120 Yonge Street (north of Sheppard Avenue)

All are welcome


Come see beautiful illustrations and stories from around the world! And stay tuned for an upcoming blog post that takes a closer look at wordless books for children and highlights some of the most outstanding ones out there.

Around the World in 50 Books: Exciting News About Books For Young People with Disabilities

September 25, 2015 | Deb | Comments (0)

BooksOne of the terrific things about working with The IBBY Collection of Books for Young People with Disabilities is the sense of community and connection that comes from looking at books that have been published around the world, all of them for and about children and teens with disabilities.

There are 4000 multilingual books in this collection -- and the more time I spend poring over its titles and discussing them with the collection's lead librarian, Leigh Turina, the more I am in awe of the creative efforts happening worldwide when it comes to children, disabilities, and books.

IBBY Collection in Action
Two young visitors explore The IBBY Collection of Books for Young People with Disabilities, located in Canada at North York Central Library, part of the Toronto Public Library system
Leigh in Bologna
Leigh Turina at the 2015 Bologna Children's Book Fair in Italy

Every two years, IBBY (The International Board on Books for Young People) seeks to spread the word about this collection -- to further share that sense of community and connection that Leigh and I, our colleagues, and our fellow booklovers already experience.

IBBY does this by recognizing and celebrating exceptional books that address special needs and situations and which encourage inclusion at every level.

The latest biennial selection of outstanding titles occurred earlier this year. Over 150 books from 27 countries -- including Russia, Argentina, Australia, and Japan -- were submitted for consideration. Of these works, 50 were chosen as 2015 Outstanding Books. You'll find books with Braille, sign language, and pictograms on the list; there are also tactile books and books that meet the needs and interests of readers with dyslexia.

Much has happened since the Outstanding Books were announced in the spring. Here is the latest news about some of the titles on this list:


Newsflash #1: A picture book about Down syndrome becomes a film

The 2015 Outstanding Books feature a vibrant, energetic picture book about Down syndrome, published in Germany, that has recently been turned into a film. Planet Willi by Birte Müller looks at the daily life of a boy named Willi who seems -- especially to those who don't know him -- as if he comes from another planet. The animated film, by filmmaker Sören Wendt, was shown earlier this year at the Hamburg Film Festival. You can watch the trailer (with English subtitles) here:

Planet Willi - Trailer from Sören Wendt on Vimeo.

Newsflash #2: A girl and her guide dog travel from Italy to North America

A beautifully-illustrated story about the close bond between a guide dog and a blind girl, in Italian, is also a 2015 Outstanding Book. Lola e io (Lola and I) by Chiara Valentina Segré uses an oversize format to showcase its double-page, painterly artwork, including this scene of the two friends enjoying a day at the beach:

Lola interior pages
From Lola e io (Lola and I) by Chiara Valentina Segré, illustrated by Paolo Domeniconi. Published by Camelozampa snc in Italy, 2012

English-language readers will have a chance to read Lola's story and experience its delightful -- and unexpected -- ending for themselves when a new edition is published in North America by Fitzhenry & Whiteside later this year:

Lola and I


Newsflash #3: North American toddlers will soon meet Sweden's Pippa and Boo

And in other news about English-language editions, Ajja & Bajjas ramsor (Rhymes for you with Pippa & Boo) by Elvira Ashby is currently being translated from Swedish into English. The everyday adventures of a toddler with an animal companion are told using both words and easy-to-understand sign language.

Pippa and Boo books should be available shortly. Here is what the English-language cover of the introductory title will look like:



Newsflash #4: The catalogue for the 2015 Outstanding Books is now online!

For those who can't make it to the library to see the 2015 Outstanding Books up close, there's good news. The 2015 catalogue, which contains an annotated listing of all the books and includes some of their artwork as well, has been digitized and is now accessible online. Simply go here or click on the catalogue cover:

  2015 IBBY Selection of outstanding books for young people with disabilities


And as always, if you would like to learn more about The IBBY Collection of Books for Young People with Disabilities or would like to see the collection in person, we would be delighted to hear from you. Click on the IBBY logo for contact details, hours, and more:




Celebrating Outstanding Books for Young People with Disabilities at the Bologna Children's Book Fair

March 30, 2015 | Deb | Comments (0)

Bologna Children’s Book FairEvery spring in Italy, in a vast indoor space that rivals the size of the Colosseum, the Bologna Children’s Book Fair brings together thousands of people with a passion for children’s publishing. This year’s fair, which begins on March 30, 2015 and runs for four action-packed days, is hosting writers, illustrators, publishers, booksellers, and librarians from over 70 countries, all eager to share their expertise and ideas with others.

Inside BolognaNoisy, vibrant, and supercharged with lots of caffeinated enthusiasm -- there's nothing like the Bologna fair. It's where brand-new children’s books are shown off, important publishing deals are negotiated, innovative projects (think apps, digital storytelling and more) are launched, and the best of recently-published books for children are feted and recognized for their imaginative achievements.

At a press conference held today at the fair, Sharon Moynes and Leigh Turina of the Toronto Public Library spoke about a list of books that is currently receiving lots of buzz: The 2015 IBBY Outstanding Books for Young People with Disabilities, a biennial selection of 50 titles published around the world that are for and about children and young people with disabilities. IBBY is, of course, the acronym for "The International Board on Books for Young People."

2015 IBBY Selection of Outstanding Books for Young People with DisabilitiesLeigh is the lead librarian for The IBBY Collection of Books for Young People with Disabilities housed at the Toronto Public Library. She highlighted some of the titles that were recently selected for this prestigious list, including the following three books from Japan, the Netherlands and France. The catalogue of the 2015 Outstanding Books, which includes all the annotations shown below, is hot-off-the-press and available at the IBBY stand at the fair. The catalogue will also be digitized and available online in the near future.



Tenji tsuki sawaru ehon: Sawaru meiro [Touch picture book with Braille: Mazes by touch] designed by Junko Murayama. Shogakukan, Inc.

Mazes spread
Eleven mazes showcase what can be accomplished with bright colours, eye-catching patterns and lines of Braille in this innovative and entertaining book. Children use their fingers to follow paths made of Braille lines while avoiding breaks in the lines and routes that lead to dead ends. Printed on durable cardstock, the mazes range from basic to complex; each maze has a clearly-marked start and finish. The mazes will appeal to a wide variety of puzzle players: children with vision loss who are already familiar with Braille; children who are just starting to use and read Braille; and children with low vision. Puzzle players without any vision loss will also benefit as they gain a practical hands-on understanding of what it is like to read Braille by running their fingers over the raised dots. A distinctive aspect of this book – it has been printed on one large sheet of cardstock – makes it possible for all the pages to be unfolded, laid out together and enjoyed by several children simultaneously.

Planet Willi [Willi’s planet] written and illustrated by Birte Müller. Klett Kinderbuch Verlag GmbH. 

Planet Willi

Author and illustrator Birte Müller draws on her own experiences as the mother of a son with Down syndrome in this picture book about a young boy with special needs who stands out from everyone else. Willi has strong reactions to the commonplace sights and situations he encounters; for the people around him, especially those who don’t know him, it is as if Willi comes from another planet. Bold, energetic illustrations done in a primitive, child-like style depict the world that Willi finds himself in: a busy place full of exciting, scary and confusing things. Willi’s family are always close by and clearly happy to be with him; at times, however, their faces reveal the inevitable confusion, dismay and fatigue that they feel while being in Willi’s company. Readers who look closely at the artwork will notice that Willi sometimes uses sign language to communicate with his family. These signs, along with others, appear on the book’s endpapers.

Une feuille, un arbre [A leaf, a tree] written and illustrated by Bruno Gibert. Albin Michel Jeunesse.

Une feuille

How does a leaf resemble a tree? In what ways are an atom and the solar system alike? Can a puddle ever appear to be a lake? This arresting book features 23 pairs of similar-looking objects and shows the connections that exist between the members of each pair. Changes in scale, perspective and context are used with great effectiveness to influence the way readers view the objects and the relationship between them. The bold graphic style of the artwork and the minimal text in the form of identifying labels make this book accessible to a wide range of readers including children who have developmental or learning disabilities. With its high contrast artwork, this book will be of interest to children with low vision; it is also suitable for sharing with a group.

* * * * *

Interested in learning more about The IBBY Collection of Books for Young People with Disabilities? You can find out more by clicking on the IBBY logo below:

Ibby logo

Introducing...The 2015 IBBY Outstanding Books for Young People with Disabilities!

March 11, 2015 | Deb | Comments (4)

IBBY logoEvery two years, the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) chooses outstanding books for and about children and young people with disabilities. This biennial selection draws attention to books published around the world, in an extensive variety of languages and formats, that address special needs and situations and which encourage inclusion at every level.

BuchFor this outstanding selection, 159 books from 27 countries -- including Russia, Argentina, Sweden and Japan -- were submitted. Of these books, 50 were chosen as outstanding works.

Books selected as 2015 outstanding titles are featured in a print catalogue that will be launched at this year’s Bologna Children's Book Fair in Italy on March 30th. The 2015 catalogue will also be digitized and available online.

Outstanding titles become part of The IBBY Collection of Books for Young People with Disabilities. Consisting of 4000 multilingual books, this one-of-a-kind collection is located in Canada at North York Central Library, part of the Toronto Public Library system.


IBBY Collection Toronto Public Library


2015 IBBY Outstanding Books for Young People with Disabilities

Ajja & Bajjas ramsor
Ajja & Bajjas ramsor [Rhymes for you with Pippa & Boo]
by Elvira Ashby. Illustrated by Karin Holmström. Hatten förlag.


Moa åker på läger [Moa goes to camp] by Ann Gomér. Illustrated by Cecilia Höglund. Landskrona vision AB.


Mil Orejas [A thousand ears] by Pilar Gutiérrez Llano. Illustrated by Samuel Castaño Mesa. Tragaluz Editores SAS.


Maja spelar innebandy [Maja plays floorball] by Camilla Larsson. Illustrated by Gunvor Ekström. Specialpedagogiska skolmyndigheten (SPSM).


Storie con la CAA 3. Tre IN-book per bambini di 3-6 anni [Stories with AAC, volume #3. Three IN-book for children from 3 to 6 years] by Elena Magni et al. Illustrated by Laura Constanzi and Roberto Introzzi. Edizioni Centra Studi Erickson S.p.A.


Off to the Park! by Child’s Play. Illustrated by Stephen Cheetham. Child’s Play (International) Ltd.


Les Wa-Wa [The toilets] by Laure Constantin. Illustrated by Cécile Gay. Les Doigts Qui Rêvent.


Dongurami Semo Nemoga Moyeoseo [Circle, triangle, and rectangle] by Meong Sun Jung. Illustrated by Su Ji Park. Braille Publishing Co., Ltd.


Malyshi v zooparke [Little ones at the zoo] by Samuil Marshak. Illustrated by Evgeniy Charushin. “Illustrated Books for Blind Children” Foundation.

Mon premier ABC brailleMon premier ABC Braille [My first Braille ABC]
written and  illustrated by Caroline Morin. Association Mes Mains en Or.


Tenji tsuki sawaru ehon: Sawaru meiro [Touch picture book with Braille: Mazes by touch] designed by Junko Murayama. Shogakukan, Inc.


Stir It Up! Recipes & Techniques for Young Blind Cooks by National Braille Press. Illustrated by Janet Malone. National Braille Press.


Out-of-Sight Science Experiments: for grades 2-5 by Lillian A. Rankel and Marilyn D. Winograd. Illustrated by National Braille Press. National Braille Press.


Mushi [Insects] design and tactile adaptation by Volunteers from Fukinoto Bunko, Nuno Group. Fukinoto Bunko.


Klaus Vogel and the Bad Lads by David Almond. Illustrated by Vladimir Stankovic. Barrington Stoke.


La maglia del nonno [Grandpa’s Shirt] by Gabriella Genisi. Illustrated by Eleonora Marton. Biancoenero Edizioni srl.


Tamtarams [Rumpety-tumpety-rhymes] by Elvira Ashby. Illustrated by Karin Holmström. Hatten förlag.


Rompecabezas [Puzzle] written and illustrated by Diego Bianki. Pequeño editor.

Il libro cricetoIl libro criceto [The hamster book]
written and illustrated by Silvia Borando. Minibombo.


Une feuille, un arbre [A leaf, a tree] written and illustrated by Bruno Gibert. Albin Michel Jeunesse.


Shh! We Have a Plan written and illustrated by Chris Haughton. Walker Books.


To lak laky, ya Darkoub [Are you a stork or a woodpecker?] written and illustrated by Ali Khodaee. Institute for the Cultural Development of Children and Young People/Kanoon.


Saku, spesiaali lapsi [Saku, a special kid] by Marianne Kulmala. Illustrated by Kirsi Tapani. Aivoliitto ry.


How To written and illustrated by Julie Morstad. Simply Read Books.


Sandoicchi itadakimasu [Let’s make a sandwich] written and illustrated by Shimako Okamura. Poplar Publishing Co.


Splash of RedA Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin by Jen Bryant. Illustrated by Melissa Sweet. Alfred A. Knopf.


Recinto Gris [Gray Enclosure] by Ledicia Costas. Illustrated by Antonio Seijas. Edicións Xerais de Galicia.


Freddie and the Fairy by Julia Donaldson. Illustrated by Karen George. Macmillan Children’s Books.


Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner. Hot Key Books.


Are You Seeing Me? by Darren Groth. Woolshed Press/Random House.


Mallko y papá [Mallko and Dad] written and illustrated by Gusti. Editorial Océano.


Look the Bird is SingingKijk, de vogel zingt [Look, the bird is singing] by Bente Jonker. Illustrated by Moniek Peek. De Vier Windstreken.


Liever dan lief [Sweeter than sweet] by Bente Jonker. Illustrated by Moniek Peek. De Vier Windstreken.


Mimi a Líza [Mimi and Liza] written and illustrated by Katarina Kerekesová et. al. Vydavatel’stvo Slovart.


Noi [Us] by Elisa Mazzoli. Illustrated by Sonia MariaLuce Possentini. Corso Bacchilega editore.


Emily Included by Kathleen McDonnell. Second Story Press.


Writing with Grace: A Journey beyond Down syndrome by Judy McFarlane. Douglas & McIntyre.


Temple Grandin: How the Girl who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World by Sy Montgomery. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.


Planet WilliPlanet Willi [Willi’s planet] written and illustrated by Birte Müller. Klett Kinderbuch Verlag GmbH.


Roses are Blue by Sally Murphy. Illustrated by Gabriel Evans. Walker Books Australia Pty Ltd.


Victor et Philomène [Victor and Philomène] by Claire Renaud. L’école des loisirs.


O Stephenie Hawkingu, Czarnej Dziurze i myszach podpodłogowych [On Stephen Hawking, a black hole and undermice] by Katarzyna Ryrych. Illustrated by Elżbieta Chopna. Wydawnictwo Literatura.


Lola e io [Lola and I] by Chiara Valentina Segré. Illustrated by Paolo Domeniconi. Camelozampa snc.


Le Garçon de I’intérieur [The boy from the inside] by Benoît Sévérac. Syros.


Max the Champion by Sean Stockdale and Alexandra Strick. Illustrated by Ros Asquith. Frances Lincoln Children’s Books.


Ai-chan no iru kyoshitsuAi-chan no iru kyoshitsu [In the classroom with Ai-chan] written and photographed by Masaki Takakura. Kaisei-sha.


The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B by Teresa Toten. Doubleday Canada.


Paperboy by Vince Vawter. Delacorte Press.


A Time to Dance by Padma Venkatraman. Nancy Paulsen Books.


Dingdingdangdang [Dingding and Dangdang] by Cao Wenxuan. Illustrated by Liu Zhenjun. China Children’s Press & Publication Group.


Books of Wonder, Books with "Wow!" Three Reasons to Visit the New IBBY Collection

March 24, 2014 | Deb | Comments (4)

Its full name is "The IBBY Collection of Books for Young People with Disabilities" -- that's it in the photo below, on the shelves directly under the sign -- but there are other words that best describe this one-of-a-kind resource: "Amazing!" "Fantastic!" and, yes, "Wow!"




As its official name indicates, this collection comes from IBBY, the International Board on Books for Young People. The IBBY collection features more than 3000 multilingual books in sign language, Braille, Blissymbolics, as well as cloth and tactile books and other formats -- all for and about children and teens with disabilities.

Until very recently, this reference collection was housed in a school near Oslo, Norway. Today, thanks to the efforts of many people on both sides of the Atlantic, you'll find this outstanding collection at North York Central Library, its new home, where it is already receiving lots of attention and accolades.

What's so special about this collection? And why should you see it for yourself? Here are three reasons to come and explore these books:

Reason One: You'll find titles from around the world about children and teen characters with disabilities -- all in one place.

If you're a local teacher or librarian, you can arrange a class visit to share these books with your students. You can also arrange the loan of a small kit of books to share with your class at school. Using these books in the classroom, and talking about them, is a terrific way to help children develop empathy for others and introduce them to different ways of seeing the world.


Leigh Turina  with IBBY book-1
Leigh Turina, Librarian in charge of the IBBY collection, shows "Petit Bleu and Petit Jaune," an oversize Braille and tactile edition of "Little Blue and Little Yellow" by Leo Lionni. This edition is published by Les Doigts Qui Revent.

Reason Two: The accessible formats of the books in this collection means that there are many ways to enjoy them and use them with children.

For example, you can use the sturdy, colorful picture books, many containing simple text or no text at all, with children who have developmental delays and learning disabilities. You can also use the same books with children who are learning English as a second language.


Leo Deckt den Tisch
"Leo Lays the Table" (in German: "Leo Deckt den Tisch") is a wordless picture book with vibrant colors, strong outlines, and a simple story that works well with young children who have visual disabilities. It was created by Christin Linder and Regula Stillhart and published by Edition Bentheim. Image credit: Edition Bentheim

Reason Three: You'll discover amazing examples of illustration and inspiring examples of craftsmanship in the one-of-a-kind and limited edition cloth and tactile books.

Books like the one in the photo below -- an imaginative retelling of Little Red Riding Hood that is unlike any version you've ever seen before -- are the ones that provoke a "Wow!" response, every time.

"Le Petit Chaperon" (known in English as "Little Red Riding Hood") is a tactile adaptation by Myriam Colin of the artistic book created by Warja Lavater. This accordion-style book uses colors, shapes, and textures to tell its story. It is published by Les Doigts Qui Revent. Image credit: Les Doigts Qui Revent.

Interested in learning more about The IBBY Collection of Books for Young People with Disabilities? You can find out more by clicking on the IBBY logo below:


Happy reading and browsing and be sure to let us know what you think!

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