By Avery Fischer Udagawa
During #WorldKidLitMonth 2020, I had the pleasure of moderating a panel of translators of Hans Christian Andersen Award (“little Nobel”) winners for a Digital Workshop organised by the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI).
The 1.5-hour session, “How and Why We Translate Children’s Books,” was pre-recorded and then streamed with live American Sign Language interpretation on 1 October 2020. It is viewable now by SCBWI members worldwide, until it is taken down on 1 November 2020.
The three featured translators?
- Cathy Hirano, translator from Japanese of The Beast Player and The Beast Warrior by Nahoko Uehashi, winner of the 2014 Andersen Award for Writing.
- Helen Wang, translator from Chinese of Bronze and Sunflower and Dragonfly Eyes by Cao Wenxuan, winner of the 2016 Andersen Award for Writing.
- Emily Balistrieri, translator from Japanese of Kiki’s Delivery Service by Eiko Kadono, winner of the 2018 Andersen Award for Writing.
Yes, the winners of the biennial Andersen Award for Writing for three consecutive cycles, before US author Jacqueline Woodson won in 2020, were novelists from East Asia and I got to talk to their translators all at the same time.
What did we talk about? Well, I asked the translators these questions and got an answer from every translator for every question (really!):
- Could you introduce yourself, telling us your background and how you connected with the language from which you translate?
- Could we also hear from you about why you translate children’s literature from your source language, and what your process is?
- Would you please describe your Andersen author?
- Why do so few translations get published in English in the US (SCBWI’s birthplace)—and why so few books from your area of expertise, East Asia? And, why do you keep translating even though the market is historically resistant to these translations?
- I’d like to ask you each to recommend one book to our listeners—one book they can order or pre-order now to begin getting to know your Andersen laureate author.
Our conversation incorporated publishing and award statistics and touched on the joys and challenges of translation, editors and checkers, #namethetranslator, representation of humanity on children’s bookshelves, the supportive #worldkidlit community, singular authors and stories, and cake—what kind of cake, you must watch to see! Hint: it has zero calories.
If you are a children’s book maker of any stripe, I hope you will consider joining SCBWI and checking out this session in the next two weeks. See also the full series, Digital Workshops 3.0, for Fall 2020.
Watch our session with cake!
Avery Fischer Udagawa serves as International Translator Coordinator and Japan Translator Coordinator for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Her translations from Japanese for children and teens include J-Boys: Kazuo’s World, Tokyo, 1965 by Shogo Oketani and “Firstclaw” by Sachiko Kashiwaba at Words Without Borders. She lives near Bangkok.