Putting the World into World Book Day

Thursday 5 March is World Book Day in the UK. Across the country, school children are making #bookinajar scenes or going into school dressed up as their favourite book character.

Yes, the UK is odd: the rest of the world celebrates on 23 April!

Whenever you celebrate, World Book Day seems an excellent time to explore World Kid Lit – children’s and YA books in translation or originally published in other countries.

On Twitter and Facebook we asked for recommendations: what’s your favourite translated picture book // junior/MG novel // teen/YA novel, and why?

We had SO many recommendations – thank you to everyone who has suggested books, and reminded us of old classics as well as recent favourites!


ON A MAGICAL DO-NOTHING DAY by  Beatrice Alemagna, translated from Italian by Jill Davis (Thames & Hudson). “A reminder of what really matters” – Laura of Planet Picture Book

VALDEMAR’S PEAS by Maria Jönsson, translated from Swedish by Julia Marshall (Gecko Press). “A family favourite!” Laura of Planet Picture Book
WALK WITH ME by Jairo Buitrago, illustrated by Rafael Yockteng, translated from Spanish by Elisa Amado (Groundwood Books) – Laura of Planet Picture Book
THE LION AND THE BIRD by Marianne Dubuc, translated from French by Sarah Ardizzone (Book Island) – recommended by school libarian, @LibraryMice
MY PICTURES AFTER THE STORM by Eric Veillé, Translated from French by DanielHahn (Gecko Press) – recommended by LibraryMice & seconded by Danny: “one of my favourites, too!”
OSCAR SEEKS A FRIEND by Pawel Pawlak, translated from Polish by Antonia Lloyd-Jones (Lantana). Recommended by LibraryGirl&BookBoy: “Don’t be fooled by the rather gorgeously gothic cover, Oscar is the sweetest little skeleton you’ll ever meet!” 

THE LITTLE BLACK FISH Samad Behrangi, translated from Farsi by Azita Rassi (Tiny Owl) – recommended by Laura Canteros

STILL STUCK by Shinsuke Yoshitake, translated (by whom?) from Japanese (Abrams). “Sure to make any kid, and kid at heart, giggle” – librarian Karen Van Drie. “My second favorite of his books is WHAT HAPPENS NEXT? Just the back cover alone makes me giggle.”

IT MIGHT BE AN APPLE and CAN I BUILD ANOTHER ME? by Shinsuke Yoshitake – recommended by ten million hardbacks: “they’re both great for old and young readers too!”

BARBAPAPA, a 1970 children’s picture book series by the French-American couple Annette Tison and Talus Taylor. Recommended by Margaret Morrison, who says they’re “Very much due a revival, I think – they have great messages without being preachy, and whimsical without being annoying. Best of all they do not feature anyone or anything pooing.” 
NINA BONITA by Ana María Machado, illustrated by Rosana Faria, translated from Portuguese by Elena Iribarren (Kane/Miller) – recommended by Laura Canteros

ottoOTTO by Tomi Ungerer, original German. Translator not known (please tell us if you know!) Recommended by Laura Canteros, and seconded by English teacher and children’s literature expert, Rich Charlesworth: “LOVE Otto! I can still remember the ‘indelible stain’ – a powerful story across some very mature subject matters.”

WHEN I COLOURED IN THE WORLD by Ahmadreza Ahmadi and Ehsan Abdollahi from Iran – recommended by Hong Kong based English and Humanities teacher David Robinson. Described by publisher Tiny Owl as a “simple, yet profound poem about changing the world”

A NEW YEAR’S REUNION by Li-Qiong Yu from China – also recommended by David Robinson.

MADIBA MAGIC: Nelson Mandela’s Favourite Stories for Children. Stories translated by Darrel Bristow-Bovey, Dianne Stewart, Marguerite Gordon, Leila Latimer, Margaret Auerbach. “A lavishly illustrated collection of stories translated from African languages” – Laura Canteros.

WHOSE IS THE SUN? by Yuri Averenkov, illustrated by Valentin Andrievich, translated from Russian by Irina Zheleznova (Progress)


LAMPIE AND THE CHILDREN OF THE SEA by Annet Schaap, translated from Dutch by Laura Watkinson (Pushkin). Recommended by Kim Tyo-Dickson: “My recent favorite, longlisted for the Carnegie Medal this spring. #LittleMermaid meets the #femalegothic.”

TELEPHONE TALES by Gianni Rodari, translated from Italian by Antony Shugaar (Enchanted Lion). “Surprising, witty and funny bedtime stories Mr. Bianchi tells her daughter by phone when he is away from home. Recommended for children and adults alike,” says Laura Canteros

THE SWALLOW AND THE TOM CAT “tells us that love will always find a way” (Laura Canteros). By Jorge Amado, translated from Brazilian Portuguese by Barbara Shelby Merello.

ROSE BLANCHE by Christophe Gallaz, illustrated by Roberto Innocenti. Translated from French by Martha Coventry and Richard Graglia (1985), with a British adaptation by Ian McEwan. “Rose Blanche was the name of a group of young German citizens who, at their peril, protested against the war. Like them, Rose observes all the changes going on around her which others choose to ignore…” There are some great teaching resources for this powerful holocaust story, including a Key Stage 2 lesson plan at History.org.uk

when the world was newWHEN THE WORLD WAS NEW by Jürg Schubiger, illustrated by Rotraut Berner, translated from German by Anne W. Millyard – an old classic recommended by Laura Canteros.

KARLSON ON THE ROOF and PIPPI LONGSTOCKING by Astrid Lindgren (translated from Swedish many times! In 1950 by Florence Lamborn, in 1954 by Edna Hurup, in a recent PRH edition by Susan Beard, and 2007 for OUP by Tiina Nunnally) – recommended by Russian translator Maria Wiltshire. (Who’d like to write a blog post for us about the myriad of Pippi translations?!)

AN ELEPHANTASY by María Elena Walsh, translated from Spanish by Daniel Hahn (Pushkin)

The MOOMINS stories by Tove Jansson, translated from Finland Swedish by various translators including Elizabeth Portch, Thomas Warburton, Kingsley Hart, Ant O’Neill. Recommended by translator and publishing professional Ilona Chavasse, who also recommended THE THREE FAT MEN by Soviet Russian author Yuri Olesha, translated from Russian by Hugh Aplin. Ilona says, “Of its time (1924) and didactic but nevertheless completely magical.”

ANIMAL TALES FROM THE ARAB WORLD, translated from Arabic/adapted by Denys Johnson-Davies (recommended by translator Melanie Magidow)

THE ISLAND OF ANIMALS, translated from Arabic by Denys Johnson-Davies and illustrated by Sabiha Khemis (Quartet Books, 2014) – also recommended by Melanie

THE LETTER FOR THE KING by Tonke Dragt, translated from Dutch by Laura Watkinson (Pushkin). Recommended by Greet Pauwelijn, translator and director of Book Island, “For fear of sounding like a broken record, but this is my favourite translated children’s novel of all times.” ***COMING SOON ON NETFLIX! ***

HEIDI – The new Puffin in Bloom version of Swiss writer Johanna Spyri’s Heidi, with its charming, feminine book design by artist Anna Bond – recommended by Karen Van Drie: “My whole family read it and had a book discussion together for my mother’s 80th birthday because it was her favorite book as a child. We all loved it!”


BRONZE AND SUNFLOWER by Cao Wenxuan, translated by Helen Wang. This has loads of recommendations including from Kirkus Reviews editor Laura Simeon, teacher and librarian Nadine Bailey, Chinese translator and editor of Words & Pics magazine’s Translation column, Julie Sullivan: “Helen Wang’s translation of Cao Wenxuan’s Bronze and Sunflower is fantastic. I often still find myself thinking of it”

THE BEAST PLAYER by Nahoko Uehashi, translated from Japanese by Cathy Hirano. Recommended by LC, and many others

THE CASKET OF TIME, “a fantastical tale of time travel and environmental calamity from celebrated Icelandic author Andri Snær Magnason.” Translated from Icelandic by Björg Arnadóttir and Andrew Cauthery (Restless Books). Recommended by Hilary Mansell

IN PARIS WITH YOU by Clementine Beauvais, translated by Sam Taylor (Faber) – recommended by LibraryMice

CODE NAME BUTTERFLY by Ahlam Bsharat from Palestine, translated from Arabic by Nancy Roberts (Neem Tree Press)

AGNES CECILIA by Maria Gripe, translated from Swedish by Rika Lesser

SOHPIE’S WORLD by Jostein Gaarder, translated from Norwegian by Paulette Moller

SAGA OF THE BORDERLANDS by Liliana Bodoc, translated from Argentinian Spanish by Nick Caistor/Lucia Caistor Arendar

THE NEVERENDING STORY by Michael Ende, translated from German by Ralph Manheim

THE SERVANT by Fatima Sharafeddine, translated by the author from Arabic (Lebanon) – recommended by Melanie

SIRAAJ by Radwa Ashour, translated from Arabic by Barbara Romaine – recommended by Melanie

THE JOURNEY OF IBN FATTOUMA by Naguib Mahfouz, translated from Arabic (Egypt) by Denys Johnson-Davies – recommended by Melanie

RASHA by Muhammad Zafar Iqbal; translated from Bengali by Arunava Sinha – recommended by Laura Simeon, YA reviews editor, Kirkus Reviews 

THE SECRET OF THE BLUE GLASS by Tomiko Inui, translated from Japanese by Ginny Tapley Takemori

Of Rasha and The Secret of the Blue Glass, Laura Simeon said: “I love the latter two but don’t see them getting as much attention as I think they deserve!”


Vadim Levin and Evgeny Antonenkov’s SILLY HORSE, recommended by translator Dmitry Manin. “Originally written in Russian as imitations of English nonsense verse, it’s been available in an English translation (by Tanya Wolfson and Tatiana Zunshine) for a while. Nicely illustrated, too.”

POEMS THAT THE WIND BLEW IN by Karmelo C. Iribarren, translated from Spanish by Lawrence Schimel and illustrated by Riya Chowdhury (The Emma Press). Recommended by Laura of Planet Picture Book (and seconded by me – my boys loved the toilet humour of the poem about the poor streetlamp)

THE TALE OF TSAR SULTAN by Alexander Pushkin, translated from Russian by Louis Zellikoff (Progress)


Please keep your recommendations coming by commenting below or on Twitter with the hashtags…




Happy World Book Day, everyone!


  1. Putting in my vote for Andreas Steinhöfel’s ‘The Pasta Detectives’ translated by Chantal Wright: a quirky tale of two boys’ friendship, teamwork and combining their very differing abilities to solve a mystery.
    The ‘Inkheart’ series by Cornelia Funke, tr. Anthea Bell. Fabulous fantasy, my children loved the books and the film.
    And ‘Doctor Proctor’s Fart Powder’ by Jo Nesbø, tr. Tara Chace. What can I say? I have two boys. What was there for them not to like?


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