I spent spring semester 2022 as a Fulbright grantee at The Center for the Study of Children’s Literature, in Simmons University, Boston, MA, with my project ”Data Visualization in Children’s Nonfiction Picture Books”. It was a deeply dear and important experience for me and my career. (And because of the project I started this blog!)
My grant was Fulbright Finland’s Mid-Career Professional Development program, and I was able to plan the project around professional development of my own choosing. I planned a project of independent research with interviews, project visits and familiarizing myself with picture book research and the American nonfiction picture book field.
Background & Bologna
In hindsight it’s easy to see the project had a prelude: My visits to the Bologna Children’s Book Fair in 2017, 2018, and 2019. The book fair is the leading professional fair for children’s books in the world. During my first visit in 2017 I was introduced to a whole new world of nonfiction picture books based on visual ideas, typically with little text, and a theme and execution that make them interesting also for adults. I felt I had discovered my genre. During those three years and visits, I found inspiration, ideas and contacts from the publishing industries of Europe and North America.
Ever since the visits to Bologna Book Fair I was eager to look into the world of nonfiction picture books in a more deeper level.
Boston & Books
Boston was my home for five months of 2022, and on most days I walked from Brookline to Fenway to work in my room at Simmons. Every now and then I traveled to Amherst in western Massachusetts to visit the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art.
Getting to experience the Simmons atmosphere was one of the most important things of my scholarship – something I will surely miss. The way the staff and the students at the Department of Children’s Literature talked about the books – big and small, light and heavy, fiction and nonfiction – was passionate, rigorous and invigorating. The illustrations were discussed in the same manner and with the same attention as the texts. So were choices of fonts, forms and layouts of the books, endsheets and the bindings. So were the commercial successes as well as artistic qualities of the books.
The books! Because of reading so much… I had to buy reading glasses for the first time in my life. I became a fan girl of Margaret Wise Brown, Leo Lionni, David Macaulay – as well as Jason Chin, Jacqueline Woodson, Peter Sís, Candace Fleming, Kadir Nelson among many others.
Even though I hadn’t planned a specific outcome for the project, I knew I would be creating something. The outcome was a creation of six categories on presentations of data in children’s nonfiction picture books published in the United States. You can read more on it here. Read also my blog article of the project on Fulbright Finland’s blog: Why We Need Data Visualization in Children’s Picture Books, Too.
Being a part of the Fulbright community made it possible for me to meet people from different academic fields. I attended the Fulbright Enrichment seminar in Cleveland with the topic of climate justice, and wrote about the experience on Fulbright Finland’s blog: Climate Justice in Cleveland. The seminar brought together more than 80 Fulbright scholars from 40 different countries, and amongst them were two artists: Me and a documentary film maker.
I want to thank everyone who helped in the project: Cathryn Mercier, Shelley Isaacson, Betty Carter, Michelle Cusolito, Nicholl Montgomery, Melanie Kimball, Courtney Waring, Allie Martineau, Alyssa Mito Pusey, Marlene Kliman, Alexandra McKenzie, Neal Porter, Eugenia Mello, Jonathan Schwabish, Steven Franconeri and everyone else ❤