Getting My Hands on LOTS of Books in Translation

by Jackie Friedman Mighdoll

This week, we’re excited to welcome Jackie Friedman Mighdoll as a new contributor to the World Kid Lit blog. With some fabulous upcoming book reviews for you all to enjoy, Jackie shares her tips on how to get your hands on translated books for children…

Last month, I decided to read as many children’s books in translation as I could. I was excited about the goal, the books I’d seen reviewed, and the idea of reading Latvian! Chinese! French! books in translation. My next big question was how to get a hold of these books.

My first few books were purchases. I was able to get the gorgeous English translation by David Boyd of the Japanese book Every Color of Light (Enchanted Lion Books) from my local bookstore. They even had it in stock. I donated to a fundraiser for Restless Books and received 1,001 Creatures translated from the Finnish by Emily Jeremiah. 

But I soon realized that much as I love having these books around the house, I couldn’t buy all that I wanted. So I turned to the public library for some help. I belong to several public library systems in California. (Most public libraries in California will give you a card if you show up in person with California ID. In the pre-pandemic world, at least.)

My first stop was the digital resources. I’m normally a big user of the Libby and Axis 360 apps. But the hoopla app was my big win, in this case. There are no waiting lists on hoopla. So if a book is in the system, it’s yours for the download. And fortunately, it’s a great source for books in translation.

I started with publishers that I know publish lots of translations. When I asked for books by Gecko Press, I found a wealth of children’s titles – translated from Latvian, Japanese, Chinese, French, Dutch, German, Swedish and Norwegian. Not only does Gecko Press have picture books, but they also have a large selection of chapter books.

by Sara Lundberg, translated from Swedish by B.J. Epstein, Groundwood Books
(also published in the UK as The Bird Within Me, Book Island)

Groundwood Books is a Canadian publisher and I also found their beautiful translations online. (Hint: Use the filter for children’s titles to narrow the search and sort by year if you prefer recent books.) I was able to read a recent Swedish verse novel, a collection of Mayan tales, and picture books from Quebec and Mexico.

It’s not always obvious when looking at a publisher’s offerings on the app as to whether or not a book is translated. The translator isn’t listed in the main listing. Sometimes I went back to the web, to the publisher’s site, and found more info. Sometimes I took a guess based on the style of the art and double checked the copyright page once I’d downloaded the book. It surprised me how often I was right. 

I tried tracking down the books in Betsy Bird’s fantastic Best of 2020 Translated Picture Books. Following a specific search for Marianne Dubuc’s books, I discovered Kids Can Press has many other translated titles. In tracking down Little Fox, I discovered Levine Querido titles are also available. 

To figure out more publishers to search for, you can also check out this list. We’re trying to keep it up to date, so if you find other publishers, let us know.

Another great resource for tracking down international books is Outside in World, a British non-profit that reviews children’s books from around the world. You can choose your country. I was curious about Slovenian books, and delighted to find a recent picture book listed. Unfortunately, it wasn’t at my library – yet. 

Not all books are available digitally, and of course there’s a joy in turning the pages of these picture books. Many of them have exquisite art. So I turned to the physical library when getting books from other publishers such as Eerdmans Books for Young Readers and Pushkin Press. In fact, I used up my full allotment of library holds. Fortunately, the San Francisco library has a great selection and is now offering pick-up service again. So it’s part of my weekly walking route.

My life this winter has been limited to my house and walks around the neighborhood. But thanks to translated books, I’ve been thinking new thoughts about writing, about children’s books, about translation. I’ve been having fun and my horizons have been broadened. That’s what it’s all about, right?

Take-aways:

The hoopla app offered by many library systems has a large number of children’s books in translation available instantly.

Search by publisher, sort by date, and limit your filter to children’s titles.

For a list of publishers who publish translated work, see our publisher page.

If you’re looking for a particular country or region, Outside in World is a good place to start.

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Jackie Friedman Mighdoll writes for children: poetry, picture books, and middle grade. She translates from Japanese to English. In a prior career, she founded a school for teaching world languages to children from newborn to elementary. She loves to explore the world through travel, language, and dessert! On the web at https://jackiefm.com/ On Twitter:@jackiefm