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Asian Festival of Children’s Content
25–28 May 2023

by Beth Parrocha, award-winning illustrator (Philippines)

How fortunate can one be, as much as I am – to be chosen as one of the curators of the AFCC Book Illustrators Gallery 2023. To be one of the first to see what the illustrators of each country has to offer, in the form of illustrations of children’s picture books.

For me, the role of a children’s picture book is not to ape what other culture has to offer but to recognize its own culture and present it in such a way that a simple child will appreciate and understand. The children’s book illustrator is a nursemaid to a future generation of would-be parents and educators, ensuring that the home country’s tradition lives on, if not in experiential form, but in spirit.

So the importance of gatherings such as the Book Illustrators Gallery becomes relevant; it is a celebration of a way of life being passed on as art and offered as picture book illustrations.

How does a guest curator filter the very best from the best of the offerings? We were asked to choose as many as we would like, and that is what I did. Each illustration give’s us a window’s view into another’s way of life, another perspective. It would be a shame to let it pass and not let other’s see it as well.

by David Liew, SCBWI Regional Advisor (Singapore)

It was truly an honour to be part of the curatorial team for this year’s BIG.  Other than being a journey for the contributors, it is similarly one for me as I return to the curatorial seat after some years away.

An alleged dual Chinese blessing-curse intoned “May you live in interesting times”, and an interesting time indeed it is to be an artist.  Artists now walk in an uncertain landscape, unsure if the new technology is a friend or foe.  But when I saw the submissions to the gallery, I see a statement of human endeavor. 

Not a perfect image concocted by an articulate human aided by a machine (or is that an articulate machine operating a human?), but a rich tapestry woven  human ideas, creativity and aspiration.  No matter how beautiful the images derived from artificial intelligence, it can never replace the heart contained within human work. 

by Turine Tran, award-winning illustrator (Vietnam)

The curation process for BIG this year was a delight to me. Looking at a wide variety of style and content from illustrators across Asia is such an inspiration. Selecting them was not an easy task. There are many factors to consider, but the main criteria for me to choose are: 

  • The visual narrative expression (especially because we curators only looked at the illustrations and not the text for most books). Visuals should be able to tell stories.
  • Variety in angles (for books) for storytelling dynamic: if the book has several illustrations, they should consist of various angles (long/wide immersive shot, expressive closeups, spots, etc.)
  • Cultural representation: It is exciting to see how illustrators from different Asian countries portray cultural elements of their ethnic backgrounds into the illustrations. Especially for books that are from folktales, cultural traditions, this is very important.
  • Novelty in visual style and medium: The illustrator’s cohesive visual stylisation of the content.

About the Curators

Beth Parrocha-Doctolero

Beth is a book illustrator who has been locally recognised several times by the National Children's Book Awards' Best Reads. Internationally, she was awarded the Samsung KidsTime Awards (2016), the grand prize of the AFCC Children's Book Award (2017) and the first prize in the Indie Children's Book Cover Award (2021) in the US.

David Liew

When he’s not illustrating books like Eliza Teoh’s Ellie Belly and Hwee Goh’s Change Makers, David can be found building miniature worlds in unattended drawers. In-between this artistic mayhem, he teaches at local art colleges and polytechnics. If adequately incentivised he’ll admit to illustrating Pippa Chorley’s Eye Spy series and Melanie Lee’s The Adventures of Squirky the Alien as well.

Turine Tran

Turine Tran, a Vietnamese born multi-award-winning artist, takes inspiration from children, companionship, and nature. Since 2001, she has been pursuing art in Singapore, U.S, France, and U.K. In 2015, she came back to Singapore to research in visual storytelling and earned a PhD in the field.

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