Thursday, February 27, 2014

Snizzly Snouts

Snizzly Snouts; Fabulous new tactile book brings a whole new experience to young blind, vision impaired and sighted readers. Take a look at it in action!

NCBI was thrilled to host the launch of a fabulous new illustrated, tactile book called Snizzly Snouts, for children of all ages, at the ChesterBeatty Library, Dublin Castle on Friday February 7th 2014.

The book, which is the English language translation of the original Dutch Rare Snuiters (Weird Guys) by writer Jan Dewitte and artist Freya Vlerick, is accompanied by two CDs which contain the GPS commentary giving a full directional description and a complete guide to the book’s content.

Elaine Howley CEO, NCBI Services, who welcomed the invited audience to the Chester Beatty Library for the launch of the book said, “It is a real privilege for NCBI to be part of this wonderful project. For me, this book is unique, it’s a work of art and I would like to congratulate all those involved in its production”. Elaine spoke of the services of NCBI, particularly its support for blind and vision impaired children and their families and NCBI’s advocacy of their rights to fully participate in society.

“Children with impaired vision should have as much access to reading material, and learning through reading, as all other children. NCBI fosters this, particularly through our involvement in the EVEIL Project — working with children and parents in Ireland and with partners across five other EC countries, looking at how children with impaired vision can access the information that is usually available through books — and particularly with pictures in books — that people have difficulties accessing. Now while there are some tactile books which we have seen, being produced around Europe, none of them are anything like Snizzly Snouts.”

The book is aimed at blind and vision impaired and sighted readers. Its wonderful tactile illustrations and verse in ink print and in Braille are bought to life by the unique GPS descriptions which guide the reader through the book. The original Dutch version Rare Snuiters was produced by NCBI’s partner Blindenzorg Licht en Liefde, a similar organisation serving blind and vision impaired people in the Flemish part of Belgium. Rare Snuiters was four years in the making and sold out in its first three print runs.

But it was not an easy passage to completion. Writer Jan Dewitte told NCBI News, “I am a poet and a writer for children and I also work for Blindenzorg Licht en Liefde. As part of my job I run a documentation service where students often come seeking information. One of these students was Freya Vlerick who was then an art student at the Academy of Antwerp. She had the idea to make a book which could be read and seen by sight for a week through illness and, remembering that experience, she always had it in her mind to produce such a book. She told me about her project and also said she was looking for a writer. We just seemed to click and that same day we started the project.

“It was a collaborative process, I wrote some poems in Flemish and she made some illustrative drawings of the poems and we considered and argued about their effectiveness, working through many changes until we had the prototype complete. The prototype which Freya made was not suitable for reproduction but in fact that was an advantage because all the obstacles forced us to be inventive, to think about new things. One of these was the GPS for the fingers which we invented — a system which make it possible for blind and sighted children to interpret tactile print, which is not very easy if you don’t have experience of it”.

“And it was here that playwright and poet, MartinBurke — and Irishman living in Belgium — was invaluable with the translation of the GPS. Jan and Freya also consulted field experts, Kristien De man and Peter Vanhoutte. Kristien who is blind, advised on the design of the relief and the GPS; and Peter who is deaf and blind (Peter has since given dozens of Snizzly Snouts workshops with plenty of humour). The project progressed, but it was very difficult to get it into print because it is very expensive to print relief and while commercial publishers loved our idea, they did not think the profit margins justified them taking it on”.

Eventually they found a Belgium publisher who agreed to host the project so that they could get it into the regular book circuit and Blindenzorg Licht en Liefde funded the project, with additional support from private and governmental institutions. A specialised printing company in Cracow, Poland undertook the embossed printing. Rare Snuiters has gone into it fourth printing, with well over 2,000 copies purchased by readers in Flanders and the Netherlands. It has received two international awards: The White Raven Special Mention 2012 from The International Youth Library; It has also been selected for the travelling exhibition: OutstandingBooks for Young People with Disabilities. This recognition of the value of the book encouraged Blindenzorg Licht en Liefde to provide editions in other languages, and so the NCBI partnership and the English language translation arose.

Jan consulted Marcus Cumberlege an English writer and poet who has lived in Belgium for almost 40 years to consider the translation. Marcus was honoured to take it on. Marcus told NCBI News: “My father, Michael Cumberledge, a poet in the 1930s wrote a lot of amusing verses about animals, very much in the style of Jan Dewitte’s own style:

Does the rabbit in its hutch

Suffer very very much;

Is it prone to mal at ease

Or only fleas

and Jan’s verses are humorous in that way, he is not humorous to the disadvantage of the animals, but brings out their lovability through his humour”. Being able to read fluently in Dutch, Marcus was the ideal translator and both he and Jan are very happy with the accuracy and sensitivity of the translation.

“I came across the title Snizzly Snouts partly because animals with snouts, like the tapir, the elephant and the pig are included” says Marcus.

“Snizzlys goes back to my days at school at Sherbourne in Dorset, England, when I was the editor of the school magazine and I edited an article called Snizzly Snouts by a boy of 13 from America, who wrote about a Snizzly Snout. That stuck in my mind and I borrowed that title from him, I can’t remember his name now”.

Writing and translating the actual poems came sporadically to Marcus, but over a period of two years he completed them to his entire satisfaction. The poems in the original Dutch are very fine poems and Jan has captured the imagined feelings of the animals very well — with an enormous amount of humour, the kind of humour that Marcus could easily latch onto. He is extremely happy with the translations and thinks that they are suitable to be read by children of all ages and for parents to enjoy as well.

“I am very pleased that the English edition is out and launched here in Dublin, I spent eight years of my life in Ireland, six years as a child on a farm in Cork, surrounded by animals of all sorts, and my Irish background is very strong, When I met my now second wife, we went to live in Connemara for two years, and we wanted to buy a cottage and stay there, but we ran out of money and had to go back to Belgium to work”.

It was Blindenzorg Licht en Liefde’s Chief Executive, Gerrit Vonck who asked Des Kenny and NCBI to consider a collaboration for the English language production, and so the partnership was born. Lina Kouzi, NCBI’s Library and Media Service manager and her team of Niamh MacAlister, and reader Karl Brown worked closely with their Flemish partners, and they have produced a fine English language edition. Niamh, who is a Braille Editor at the NCBI library worked very closely with Jan, Marcus and Martin Burke editing and helping with the translations and the audio script and proof-reading the Braille. “We worked very closely,” says Niamh, “ironing out the tricky bits, as we searched for just the right word or turn of phrase to bring the script to life for our English language readers”.

Snizzly Snouts can be bought in the Chester Beatty shop or ordered from the NCBI Shop in Drumcondra (01-8307033) and Kilkenny (056-7786816) or on-line at for €29.95 per copy — CD included).

There is no shipping charge. This price just covers the production cost. Snizzly Snouts is a non-commercial project. Our only aim is to promote the great value of an inclusive approach to learning and tactile experience.
(text taken from the NCBI News)

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