Child’s Play: International Children’s Literature in Translation at Words Without Borders

ibbyIt’s International Children’s Books Day and what better way to celebrate than sitting down with the special Words Without Borders feature on children’s literature in translation?

Edited by Daniel Hahn, this month’s edition features fiction for children and teens in translation from Arabic, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Norwegian and Polish – seven extracts from children’s books not yet translated into English.

As Daniel says in his superb introductory essay, in the seventeen years since Words Without Borders began publishing contemporary literature in translation, this is only the second issue dedicated to writing for children, and the first since 2004. We’re grateful to Daniel for his tireless efforts to fill this gap and for curating this excellent global selection of writers whose work spans the age range from preschoolers to young YA.

astridOf the seven writers, only Maria Parr (Raur Gives His Blanket a Hug) has work available in English already: Waffle Hearts and Astrid the Unstoppable, both translated from Norwegian by Guy Puzey, have been big hits in our household.

dragonDragons abound in this edition of Words Without Borders, but in two stories with very different flavours: there’s “Firstclaw” a magical short story by Sachiko Kashiwaba, translated from Japanese by Avery Fischer Udagawa, and in translation from Arabic by M. Lynx Qualey there’s a chapter of Huda al-Shuwa’s The Dragon of Bethlehem. See our sister site ArabKidLit now for more about this MG/YA borderline novella set in Palestinian refugee camp, which was recently adapted as a musical by composer Faraj Sulaiman.

Two of the extracts are by literary translators who talked to us recently about their experience of Hahn’s week-long children’s literature translation workshop at the BCLT Summer School: see here for our interview with Jane Roffe (who has translated Sandrine Kao’s novella The Park Bench from French) and and Melody Shaw (translator of an extract from the German novel Heaven Can Wait by Angelika Glitz).  We look forward to many more publications by graduates of Danny Hahn’s #worldkidlit translation workshops.

The edition is rounded off with Justyna Bednarek’s rib-tickling Mr. Gimbal’s Incredible Invention (translated from Polish by Zosia Krasodomska-Jones) and a glimpse of a novel set in 1930s Italy: an extract of Pietro Albì’s  Farfariel: The Book of Micù, translated from Italian by Denise Muir. For a more eloquent appetiser, read Daniel Hahn’s introduction to this month’s special edition and do set aside your evening to savour this fabulous feast of fiction.

Over at Words Without Borders:




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