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!
PICTURE BOOKS ~ YOUNGER READERS
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
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
OTTO 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)
JUNIOR FICTION / MIDDLE GRADE
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.” – Laura Canteros)
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 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!”
TEEN FICTION / YA
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!