After the nonstop activity on this platform throughout September, we confess we were pretty much burned out. Deadlines and real life took over and we didn’t manage to post during October. Sorry! But a lot happened in the world of translated children’s books, so here’s a look back on the highs and lows of a month in world kid lit.*
On 18 October, the literary world was shaken by the sad news that Anthea Bell OBE had passed away. Aged 82, she had long been the empress of the literary translation scene, the go-to person for any publisher bringing out translations from German and French. During her long and prolific career she translated authors as various as Kafka, E.T.A. Hoffmann, Sebald and Stefan Zweig. As the magnificent translator of Asterix and other children’s books such as Nicholas (by Asterix author Reńe Goscinny & Jean-Jacques Semṕe), Cornelia Funke’s Inkheart trilogy and several books by Erich Kästner, her legendary contribution to the English language and literary canon will live on for generations. I can’t do justice to the life of such a deeply admired and inspiring person, so I recommend you read some of the wonderful words written about her in her obituaries in The Economist, The Guardian and DW.
In other sad news, we learned that the Marsh Award for Children’s Literature in Translation would not be awarded again. This prize, won three times by Anthea Bell and three times by Sarah Ardizzone, has played a major role in recognising and promoting translations of children’s books from overseas to UK audiences and raising awareness of these titles in schools with their outreach programmes. While it is disappointing news, it perhaps reflects the change in status of translated children’s books: entries went up considerably in recent years and with many more publishers taking a punt on authors writing in languages other than English, world kid lit has moved from being a niche interest into the mainstream. The winner of the final award in 2017 was Helen Wang with Bronze and Sunflower by Cao Wenxuan which Helen translated from Chinese.
There is some compensation for the loss of this award in the form of the recently expanded criteria for the Batchelder Award which now accepts entries from publishers outside of the US to make the award more inclusive. The updated criteria for the ALSC Batchelder Award are listed here.
Meanwhile, over at the blog for Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCWBI), Avery Fischer Udagawa wrote about the stats on gender, cultural representation among Batchelder Award and Honor winners from 1968-2018 in these two posts: On Women in Translation and On Men in Translation. Avery notes that “most of the world’s languages have been absent entirely from the Batchelder lists, including Arabic, Bengali, Chinese (China), Croatian, Hindi, Hungarian, Korean, Malay, Nepali, Persian, Polish, Punjabi, Swahili, Thai, Ukrainian, and Urdu. These are all languages of countries with national sections of IBBY, suggesting that children’s literary scenes exist.”
It was Frankfurt Book Fair in October, of course, and although we weren’t there, we were delighted to see that dPictus had curated a stall celebrating the best international picture books, which is available as a PDF list here: 100 Outstanding Picturebooks. The list was produced by dPictus, an exciting new platform where picture book publishers can showcase their latest titles and network with like minded indie presses with the intention of getting more high quality illustrated children’s books crossing borders and getting international recognition. The team behind dPictus also blog at picturebookmakers.com
A new initiative was launched this month by a group of translators seeking to get precisely this sort of global recognition for the exciting children’s and YA books coming out of the Arab world. The website ArabKidLitNow was launched on 2 October by a team led by Marcia Lynx Qualey (also the driving force behind this blog, so another reason we’ve been a bit quieter here lately!). Various obstacles mean that a shockingly low number of Arabic children’s books have ever been translated into English and the ArabKidLitNow collective (also on Facebook) is seeking to change that by highlighting new titles, including the winners of this year’s Etisalat Award for Arabic Children’s Literature (announced this week), publishing samples, interviews and reviews.
October is Black History Month – a celebration of African history, heritage and culture. Above all it is a time to learn about and honour the achievements of black men and women throughout history. One of my favourite contributions to this year’s #BHM was a blog post by Ugandan American author Nansubuga Nagadya Isdahl, about the history behind her picture books, Sing to the Moon and Sleep Well, Siba and Saba (by fab indie press Lantana Publishing) and why it’s important to read stories celebrating the history and heritage of cultures that may or may not be our own.
Speaking of small and lovely kidlit publishers, the Bristol-based publisher of picture books in translation, Book Island, is one of only 5 UK presses to be awarded a Creative Europe grant from the EU. I say ‘publisher of picture books in translation’ but in fact Greet and her tiny but passionate team are actually branching out into books originally written in English and are this week starting a crowdfunding campaign to fundraise for Mum’s Jumper, a story about grief by illustrator and comic books artist Jayde Perkin. As a dedicated publisher of global kids books, Book Island gets a lot of love from us, so go and sign up!
And last but definitely not least, children’s (and grown-ups’!) literature translator extraordinaire Daniel Hahn has recently announced an initiative aimed at encouraging commissioning editors at a broader range of publishing houses to take a punt on books and authors from overseas. Hahn has secured Arts Council England funding to fly a group of editors to Bologna Children’s Book Fair (1-4 April 2019). More details here but the key information is that the deadline to apply is 19 November, so if you’re an editor, haven’t dabbled much in translated books but would like to do so, then get your skates on!
Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp is a translator from German, Arabic and Russian and co-editor of this site.
If you have world kid lit news or resources you’d like Ruth to include on this site, please contact her here. And if you’d like to write a guest post for the blog please contact M. Lynx Qualey. Thanks!