Kiddosphere: September is National Translation Month!
When we speak about the need for diverse books for children and teens, we should also include acquiring, reading and promoting books originally published in countries other than the United States.
While having a selection of bilingual books or books written in languages other than English is important, having translated books is also a great way to incorporate diversity. Children’s books originally published outside the United States often have a very different feel in terms of illustrations and storytelling techniques. In honor of National Translation Month (originally celebrated in February, but moving to September in 2016), here are some of my favorite books that were translated into English:
Beach Feet (translated from the Japanese by Yuki Kaneko) is one of my recommendations whenever patrons ask for a book about beaches (a very popular request in the summer). The freedom of running through the warm sand and splashing in the water is a universal joy. The sights, sounds and smells of the beach come to life in this terrific book for young beach-goers.
Hans Christian Andersen’s original fairy tales have suffered with weak translations in the (distant) past, but The Emperor’s New Clothes (translated from the Danish by Naomi Lewis) is one of the better ones published in the last several decades. The arrogance of the emperor and the gullibility of his subjects are brilliantly conveyed.
Hidden: A Child’s Story of the Holocaust (translated from French by Alexis Siegel) is a powerful graphic novel for young elementary students about the Nazi terror in France. Framed as a grandmother telling her grandchild and son (who has never heard the full story) about her life as a hidden Jewish child in France, this is an unforgettable story of the courage faced by little Dounia and the neighbors and friends who kept her safe.
Mr. Postmouse’s Rounds (translated from the French by Yvette Ghione) is a darling and intricately illustrated story of a mouse mailman delivering mail and other goodies to his neighbors. His neighbors live in some unusual places (an octopus lives in a sunken ship, the birds live in a tall tree and so on), which makes his route rather difficult. This doesn’t deter Mr. Postmouse from doing his duty!
Pippi Longstocking (translated from the Swedish by Tina Nunnally) is considered to be a more authentic translation of Astrid Lindgren’s Pippi stories, so it’s worth a reread if this was a childhood favorite. Lauren Child’s vibrant illustrations add to the wackiness and fun of the series.
Press Here (translated from the French by Christopher Franceschelli) is Herve Tullet’s first interactive picture book, and my favorite Tullet title. Readers (this is more fun to read one-on-one) are asked the press the yellow button, tap the page, shake the book, and more. It’s had many imitators since its release, but few rivals.
It’s officially Hispanic Heritage Month, so I must include Salsa: un poema para cocinar/Salsa: A Cooking Poem (translated from Spanish by Elisa Amado). A young boy and girl (siblings, probably) prepare and make a recipe for salsa, using traditional methods. There’s plenty of breaks for singing and dancing, as well. Illustrator Duncan Tonatiuh’s immediately recognizable style is influenced by ancient Mexican art (Mixtec codex).
Sequoyah: The Cherokee Man Who Gave His People Writing (translated into the Cherokee by Anna Sixkiller Huckaby) was originally written in English, but the presentation of both English and Cherokee is so intriguing that I wanted to include it. This picture book biography of the man who created a writing system for the Cherokee Nation is an inspiring read.
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For book lists, reviews and staff suggestions for children published prior to January 2015, visit Kiddosphere, our blog about children/young adult fiction and non-fiction.
∼Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library