LOS ANGELES–Storyteller and children’s book author Alidz Agbabian has been invited by the Stockholm Public Library to represent Armenia in the upcoming International Children’s Book Week 2007, to take place in the Swedish capital the first week of December.
For the last four years, the International Library–a department of the Stockholm Public Library which houses 129 languages and boasts over 220,000 titles–has organized the event in order to stimulate reading and writing among children of different cultures and languages in its immigrant population. “Another aim is to increase the knowledge of international children’s literature among Swedish librarians and publishers,” says Ulla Budd of the International Library. “We feel there is a need for more knowledge and understanding of children’s literature from other countries among the Swedish public.”
Every year, the library invites a different group of representative writers from various countries to meet not only children but also teachers, librarians and Swedish colleagues. In addition to Armenia, this year’s book week will host authors from Korea (Choi Sukhee), Japan (Tomiyasu Yoko), India (Devika Rangachari), Poland (Anna Onichimowska) and Somalia (Marian Hassan).
The book week will feature seminars, workshops and school visits in and around Stockholm. Participants include writers, librarians, educators and publishers as well as other groups involved with children’s literature. The group of invited authors also will meet with representatives of the Swedish Writers’ Association, the Swedish Institute for Children’s Books, the Swedish Academy of Children’s Books and the International Library.
“I will be offering storytelling presentations both to school children and an adult audience,” says Agbabian. “At the main workshop, in addition to outlining the history and nature of Armenian literature for children, my address will touch upon whether today’s Armenian children’s literature addresses issues important in the lives of children in Armenia or the Diaspora, matters of language and what avenues of cooperation might exist between Armenian and Swedish authors and cultural institutions.”
“I am told I will be meeting with Armenian children and their parents in our school visits,” says Agbabian enthusiastically. “I’m looking forward to those encounters and the chance to visit this majestic city.”
More than 8,000 Armenia’s call Sweden home. They include a large number of immigran’s from Lebanon, Iran and other Middle Eastern countries who live in almost every city and town across the Scandinavian country. According to a 10th century Swedish legend, a navigator named Petrus was so enchanted by the beauty of an Armenian princess that he traveled to Armenia and married her. Traces of the Armenian influence are seen in many Swedish literary works and research documen’s, especially in the Middle Ages. Historians believe that the Swedes learned the art of needlework from the Armenia’s along with some musical notes during that era. Despite the repeated references, there is little or no mention of any real and continuous Armenian presence in Sweden until the 18th century. Apart from individual contacts, a group of Armenia’s from Turkey accompanied Swedish King Karl XII to Sweden in 1714 and stayed on, integrating into Swedish society over the years. Many Armenia’s were employed at the Swedish Embassy in Ottoman Turkey.
Alidz Agbabian is a storyteller and author who specializes in Armenian and Middle Eastern oral traditions, bringing folk tales, myths, songs and legends to many communities nationwide and around the world. Based in Los Angeles, Agbabian offers classroom, library and museum presentations, residencies and teachers’ workshops, and develops special theme presentations for schools, exhibits, conventions and festivals. Known for her varied repertoire, she performs in a setting of cultural traditions, personal stories, artifacts, games and rhythmic speech that extends to the cultures of the Near East, the Mediterranean basin and the New Independent States (the former Soviet Union). As an author of children’s books, she has established Dzil-u-Dzar Publications, which for the past dozen years has introduced high-quality, bilingual story books from the Armenian tradition to readers of all ages. More information is available at www.dziludzar.com.