Why New Kid-lit Publisher ‘Levine Querido’ Will Have a Focus on Translations

The all-new Levine Querido is launching two lists of books for young readers this fall. One, the Arthur A. Levine list, will focus on “building a platform for previously underrepresented voices,” while the other, the Em Querido list, will focus on finding “the most outstanding authors and artists from around the world”:

Books forthcoming from the new Levine Querido this fall.

The publishing house launches their first-ever list today with the YA fantasy Elatsoe, written by Darcie Little Badger and illustrated by Rovina Cai.

Among their initial list of books for young people are a startling five translations for Fall 2020. These are: Little Fox and Bigger than a Dream (both translated by the award-winning David Colmer), The Blue Wings (translated by the similarly award-winning Laura Watkinson), and two wordless picture books: The Wanderer by Peter van den Ende, and Bye, Penguin! by Seou Lee, which follows a penguin on an ice flow that’s broken off Antarctica, which then takes him on a wild and fabulous adventure around the world.

Levine Querido is continuing to expand its search for the best in literature for young people around the world. To mark the launch of their inaugural fall list, we spoke with Arthur A. Levine, who founded Levine Querido in April 2019 after twenty-three years as President and Publisher of Arthur A. Levine Books, an imprint of Scholastic.

So I see that part of your mission is “uplifting diverse voices via excellent writing and artistry” — when did you decide that part of that meant translating books from other world languages? 

Arthur A. Levine: They’ve always been linked in my mind. America is a nation of immigrants; our people come from many cultures, see through many different lenses, experience the world in many different ways. Yet, young American readers have only been shown a fraction of the wealth of talent that exists, both in our own country, and abroad.  I’d like to help change that, in my own small way and with the help of my friends at Querido NL.

How do you go about finding great books in other languages? To begin with, you have Dutch readers at Querido NL. But how do you branch out from there?

AAL: Well, again, I’ve always sought and published books from around the world! While many of of my translations have come from the very excellent list at Querido NL, I have also published award winning books like SAMIR AND YONATAN by Daniella Carmi (from the Hebrew) AN INNOCENT SOLDIER by Josef Holub  (from the German), and MORIBITO by Nahoko Uehashi (from the Japanese.). Before Corona, I traveled regularly to international book fairs such as Bologna and Frankfurt. Before Covid-19 my Senior Editor, Nick Thomas represented LQ at Angoulême and the Shanghai International Children’s Book Fair and I had intended to go to the Guadalajara Book Fair.  We have cultivated trusted readeres in a wide variety of languages and are always looking to expand!!

We are so very delighted to see you crediting your translators! Some children’s-book publishers, I’m afraid, erase the translators from the process. What made you decide to name your translators and feature them as part of the process? 

“The Blue Wings,” translated by the award-winning Laura Watkinson.

AAL: A translation is a work of art that requires the participation of two equally talented writers. Writing itself is a translation of thoughts, observations, feelings, into words. A translator must then be able to share those thoughts, SEE those observations, FEEL those feelings, guided by the words of the original text and then bring them to life in NEW words.  I think that deserves not only credit, but admiration.  I think the practice of “erasing the translator” came from publishers fearing that readers would be turned off — that they would think “a translation is DIFFICULT”. I think/hope that the more Americans see a variety of books in translation, the less they will assume that all translations are the same.

How do you promote translated books differently from how you launch & promote books written originally in English? What are the challenges/opportunities?

AAL: Often (but not always) the biggest challenge is that the original author doesn’t live in the U.S. and therefore can’t promote books in person. But heck, who promotes books in person these days? The more the original writer or artist can communicate in English, the more we can conduct promotion, interviews, etc in the same way we promote books originally written in English.  If the translator is American-based and happy to participate (like the amazing and wonderful David Bowles) we then have an in-person contributor to promote.  But I think beyond that we treat translated books as books. Period. We seek reviews, attention from bloggers, submit for awards, all depending on what the book IS not where it’s from.

What sorts of books can we expect from Levine Querido in the future? How many books does LQ aim to produce each year? 

AAL: You can expect books that you will look back on and say they are “Querido” (beloved.) I hope they will be enormously varied, and yet consistent in their quality.  We expect to be publishing about 25-30 books a year.  The Fall 2020 list had 8 books on the Arthur A. Levine list (which originate in English) and 5 on the Em Querido list (which originate in other languages.) Spring ’21 will have 7 books on Arthur A. Levine and 6 books on Em Querido.  We love them all! And we hope you do too.

More about the Levine Querido books at levinequerido.com/books.

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