Like Miku Takeshita, the hero of Takeshita Demons, many children leave their country of birth to live in another country. My sisters and I did, leaving New Zealand to live in our mother’s home country of Australia.
Lucky for us, Mum had already introduced bits and pieces of Australia’s culture. We visited grandparents in Perth, we ate Vegemite with our eggs, we read Aussie classics like Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, The Muddle-Headed Wombat, Blinky Bill, The Magic Pudding…
Culture shock and a new name
Even so, moving to Australia was a culture shock and full of all the adventures of a new school, new friends, a new way of speaking, even new names (I was suddenly Creesty instead of Crusty). But we explored this new life and grew to love it and now, years later, we are bringing up our own children in Australia.
But we never lost touch with our Kiwi roots. My sisters and I are, and will always be, a mix of Australia and New Zealand. We still love New Zealand and the childhood we had there. And that’s great…it adds to the melting pot of culture and experience that makes up the world. I think that’s the way it should be, that it’s vital that no child is forced to give up one culture to fit into another.
Celebrating the world’s children’s literature
That’s where the International Children’s Bunko Association (or here for the Japanese site) plays such an important role for ‘international’ children, who move countries a lot, or who feel they are straddling more than one country or culture. It was originally set up in the Japan, as a means for keeping English-speaking chidren living in Japan connected with their culture and literature.
Each branch of the IBCA provides a volunteer-run mini-library for bilingual and bicultural or multicultural children.
Branches now exist in Japan, England, America, Australia, Brazil, France, Italy, Germany and beyond. Overseas branches provide childrens books and cultural experiences celebrating Japanese language and culture, and the Japanese branches provide for children from French, German, Korean and English backgrounds and cultures.
Helping kids to feel at home, wherever that is and wherever they are
Each ICBA branch aims “to create an atmosphere in which the children feel at home,” and I think that’s such a fabulous thing.
Sometimes it’s just so comfy to slip into a different culture completely, to stop straddling the fence between two cultures and totally embrace one or the other, even if just for a few minutes.
I do this every time I open a favourite book from my Kiwi childhood, everytime I open a can of Lemon and Paeroa (yum!) or bite into a chocolate fish (yum!) or peel open a Pinky Bar (yum!)(not all of my memories are food-related, I promise )
So three cheers for the International Children’s Bunko Association! I think it’s a tremendous service.
And thanks to Mrs Keiko Holt!
Many thanks to Mrs Keiko Holt, Japanese advisor for the Takeshita Demons series, for introducing me to the ICBA. Mrs Holt is an integral member of the ICBA in the UK and an invaluable part of the editing process for each Takeshita Demons book…. THANK YOU for all your hard work!!!
(Thanks also to Like_the_Grand_Canyon for the yummy chocolate fish shot!)