Are you a publisher on the look out for great books for children and young adults from across the globe? Are you excited about publishing fantastic stories in English translation? Then look no further! This week, World Kid Lit celebrates Bologna Children’s Book Fair by bringing you a few suggestions we think readers (of all ages) will love!
Sample translations and contact details available as downloads.
A Nice Stone (En fin sten)
by Anne Sofie Allerman, illustrated by Anna-Margrethe Kjærgaard
Recommended by: Sinéad Quirke Køngerskov
About: In A Nice Stone we meet Oscar playing happily with a nice stone. To Oscar it’s a penguin. But to Olivia and Otto it’s a seal and a shark. Only when the children are called for dinner does the reader discover Oscar is transgender. Each child perceives the stone as something different, and each child accepts what the other two have seen. A Nice Stone captures the delicate complexity of transgenderism in an exceptionally elegant and modest manner. In 2020, A Nice Stone won the Grundtvigskforum’s Children’s Literature Competition: ‘A Nice Stone [is] a poetic pearl … a gem of children’s literature.’
The Man Made of Water (L’uomo d’acqua e la sua fontana)
by Ivo Rosati, illustrated by Gabriel Pacheco (Zoo Libri)
Recommended by: Georgia Wall
About: “Try sitting in the freezer – with any luck you’ll become more normal.” A lyrical picture book for all ages about finding your place. Ivo Rosati’s thought-provoking tale of a man who is “tall, blue and completely see-through” and the prejudice he faces in a world of houses and cars is brought to life by the illustrations of acclaimed Mexican artist Gabriel Pacheco. Shortlisted for Italy’s Premio Andersen for Best Children’s Picture Book in 2008, The Man Made of Water is currently on its fourth reprint, and has been translated into Catalan, Chinese, Galician, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, Slovenian, Spanish and Turkish.
How I Defeated The Nightmare Monsters With 32 Farts (我用32个屁打败了睡魔怪)
by Peng Yi, illustrated by Tian Yu (Jieli Publishing House)
Recommended by: Kelly Zhang
About: A spunky, resourceful 7-year-old boy is tormented by a terrifying, monster-filled nightmare. Receiving little help from the grown-ups, he devises several brilliant strategies to battle the monsters. But they keep coming back—until he defeats them once and for all with his ultimate secret weapon (see title). This rambunctious tale about how a child overcomes his own fears and anxiety is sure to delight pre-schoolers. The gorgeous artwork juxtaposes delicate, luminous watercolours with bold, opaque backgrounds to enhance the comical and fantastical elements of the story. Upon publication, this potty-humour story was an instant hit with readers and a national bestseller. Due to popular demand, it was developed into a 3-book series.
In a Hundred Years (Hyakunenn tattara)
by Mutsumi Ishii & illustrated by Hiroshi Abe (Alice-kan)
Recommended by: Yui Kajita
About: In a Hundred Years is a sweeping tale that spans many lifetimes but begins with one unlikely friendship. Lion lives all alone in a deserted savannah. One day, a scrawny nightingale flies down. Lion almost eats her, but they become close. Just before her death, Bird promises Lion that they will see each other again in a hundred years. The story follows their many reincarnations until they are reborn as a boy and a girl. A moving book that widens your world and asks big questions about life and death, told with a light, unassuming grace.
Bunches // むれ (Mure)
by Akira Hirota (Kadokawa)
Recommended by: Emily Balistrieri
About: There are all sorts of bunches in the world… A bunch of sheep, a bunch of ghosts, a bunch of flowers—but there is always one who is different from the others. Can you spot them? And what does an ant find upon walking away from the bunch? Comedian Akira Hirota debuts as a children’s author with a funny, interactive picture book that delivers its heartfelt message in simple text and adorable illustrations.
Cappy and the Whale (Шапочка і кит)
Written by Kateryna Babkina, illustrated by Julia Pilipchatina (Old Lion Publishing House)
Recommended by: Hanna Leliv
About: An eight-year-old boy nicknamed Cappy is fighting leukemia. The boy, living with his Mom and Grandma, can’t do lots of fun things, but he doesn’t despair. One day he spots a mysterious whale hovering over the park outside his window. This cheeky whale becomes his friend, and the story gets started. This beautifully illustrated story told by a thoughtful, cheerful boy is full of touching, simple-hearted dialogues between Cappy and the whale. Issues of illness, anxiety, and life with divorced parents are skillfully handled against the backdrop of boy’s daydreams and philosophical ideas sprinkled with unconditional love, optimism, and sincerity. More info on the book can be accessed here.
Olga and the Call of the Forest (Olga Et Le Cri De La Forêt)
Written and illustrated by Laure Monloubou (Amaterra)
Recommended by: Sarah Daumerie
About: A sweet and suspenseful MG fantasy novel, in which young Olga manages to save her parents from a forest curse. This smart young girl is hard of hearing, but that doesn’t hold her back from jumping in to save the day in the slightest. She can also count on the help of a worried elf and a grumpy cat who don’t like one another at all!
This novel should be translated into English because the book offers a great quality fantasy with a strong and tender main character, who also happens to be deaf. Children deserve stories that represent us all in our wonderful range of diversity. Foreign Rights Sold In Spanish, German, Italian & Turkish.
The Saï Saï Gang and the Phantom Ship (Les Saï-Saï et le bateau fantôme)
by Kidi Bebey, Edicef (2011), 144 pp.
Recommended by: Johanna McCalmont
About:This middle-grade book is one story in a six-part series set in an African coastal village. Shaka, Lala and Barou are terrified when they realise that Jolie—who walks more slowly because she needs to use a crutch—has gone missing as they fled the ‘ghost’ that appeared on the beach. But with a bit of help from Jolie’s big brother, the Saï-Saï Gang not only find their missing friend, but also bring down a criminal gang! The Saï-Saï series is a welcome, modern, alternative to older classics that is sure to keep readers on the edge of their seats as they follow the friends in each new quest to save the day.
The Night I Fled (La noche de la huida)
by Adolfo Córdova, illustrated by Carmen Segovia (Ediciones Ekaré)
Recommended by: Andrea Shah
About: La noche de la huida tells the tale of a young girl fleeing through the forest to escape unnamed, but armed, assailants. The spare prose shows how her five senses each come into play as she navigates an unknown environment in search of safety. Inspired in part by Snow White, it takes a closer look at the sensations and feelings that children experience as they search for safety. Translated into English, it would be a valuable tool for exploring questions of safety and refuge with school-aged children.
By the Color of Wheat (Por el color del trigo)
by Antonio Malpica (Mexico), illustrated by Iban Barrenetxea (Spain) (Fondo de Cultura Económica-Mexico)
Recommended by: Lorenza Estandía
About: A literary biography of The Little Prince author beautifully illustrated. Brimming with inventiveness and literary hints, it sets off when Tonio, the main character, is still a young man determined to discover the world. Tonio shares with a charming carácter: Bribonzuelo (Little rascal), the stories he writes, the people he meets, and the special friend he ought to find. The story ends with a journey from which Tonio never returned. This book was awarded with a Honorific Mention in the Editorial Art Prizes of the Mexican Chamber of Editorial Industries (CANIEM) 2012, the White Ravens List 2013, and the Book Bank of Venezuela, 2013. The translation of this book into English will allow children of different countries of the world find a sensible and enjoyable tribute to Antoine de Saint Exupery, to imagination and friendship; for nothing really makes much sense in life if one is not able to find a best friend in the world.
by Marta Palazzesi (Il Castoro Editrice)
Recommended by: Nannette McGuinness
About: Set in 1880 Victorian London, Nebbia tells the story of 13-year-old “mudlark,” Clay, who survives by scrounging along the banks of the Thames for objects to sell. Mentored by Old Sal, he and his friends defend their patch of territory while trying to avoid being snatched up for the local workhouse. When a traveling circus comes to town, Clay finds his spirit captured by a magnificent, untamed, caged wolf, naming him Nebbia. Advertised as the last living wolf in the UK, Nebbia is mistreated by the animal handlers, who toss his cage into a ditch, leaving the trapped wolf to perish. But he does not. Clay finds out, saves Nebbia, and returns him to his distant home. With an impeccable sense of time and place, Nebbia is a suspense-filled adventure of friendship and perseverance, of yearning for freedom and finding oneself that will resonate strongly with middle grade readers. The book won the 2020 Premio Strega Ragazze e Ragazzi (Strega Prize for Children’s Literature) for readers age 6-10.
Written and illustrated by Brian Freschi, illustrated by Elena Triolo, (Editrice Il Castoro) Country: Italy
Recommended by: Anna Barton
About: Electra loves reading and just isn’t the sporting type. Her mother says joining a sports club will help Electra make friends at her new school, so she reluctantly tries her hand at volleyball, tennis, archery, swimming…but it’s no use, she’s hopeless at all of them. Meanwhile, she has seen her cousin dancing and her classmate playing the guitar, and she’s desperate to try both. Mum isn’t keen, but Electra is determined not to be defeated this time! A delightfully illustrated fun, approachable and universally applicable story about trusting your instincts and daring to be yourself.
The Path: The Story of a Flight to Freedom (Der Pfad: Die Geschichte einer Flucht in die Freiheit)
by Rüdiger Bertram, cbt Verlag, Random House
Recommended by: Claire Storey
About: The Path is a thrilling, fast-paced historical adventure following the journey of Rolf and his father Ludwig – a journalist fleeing Nazi Germany – as they place their lives in the hands of Manuel, a Spanish shepherd boy, to cross the Pyrenees on foot. Once they reach Spain, Rolf and his father plan continue their journey to meet Rolf’s mother in America. But when Ludwig is captured en route, the two boys have to continue their journey alone. Along the way they’ll have brushes with Nazi officers, wild bears and they’ll encounter resistance fighters on both sides of the Spanish border. The film adaptation of The Path was released in Germany in February 2022.
MILK WITCH (Miss Pissenlit)
by Andrée Poulin
Country: Canada (Quebec)
Recommended by: Charis Ainslie
About: Manouane feels like she’s the target of a whole village’s hatred. Stigmatised by her mother’s mental illness and desperate for her broken father’s attention, she’s ready to take her revenge. But her life is changed by the arrival of two newcomers – one, a vivacious Parisian who opens a lingerie shop in the strait-laced town, the other a teenage boy from Burkina Faso who she is dying to get to know. There’s a first-love frisson, but the main theme is survival. There are no quick answers here, but there is the comfort of friends and the hope of a world beyond a teenage existence. The book – acidic, hilarious, heartfelt – opens a discussion around living with mental illness. The first-person narrative, with its biting teenage dryness, creates a narrowness of perspective that allows glimpses of the pain of characters whose voices are unheard.
When Mum Flew Away (Mamá, los pájaros te saluden)
By Natalia Jiménez Cardozo, illustrated by Julián Ariza (EDICIONES SM)
Recommended by: Clare Gaunt
About: Sebastian (15) lives in two worlds: in one of them his mum is still alive. They were very close, together they could turn words into song. His wonderful friend Cristina teaches him to pay attention to the details as he asks some of life’s biggest questions. Then on a school trip to the Amazon, he discovers it’s impossible to enter the same room twice. Few stories about grief manage to balance the realism of death with the magic of living, and of continuing to live, as successfully as this.
One True Queen: Crowned by Stars (One True Queen: Von Sternen gekrönt)
by Jennifer Benkau, cover designed by Carolin Liepins (Ravensburger Verlag GmbH)
Recommended by: Amy Bojang
About: An epic fantasy adventure set in a destructive parallel world; the series has sold over 50,000 copies in Germany. Mailin, the strong young heroine, wakes up in another world. In Lyaskye, everything is dangerous, even the mysterious stranger who rescues her from a deadly trap. Nevertheless, he protects her whilst hiding who he really is. Only on arriving at the royal court does she realise that she is set to become queen. And in this world, that’s a death sentence. Gripping from start to finish.
A week of Saturdays Eine Woche voller Samstage
Written and illustrated by Paul Maar and Nina Dulleck, Verlagsgruppe Oetinger (1973)
Recommended by: Michaela Pschierer-Barnfather
About: Mr Greenbottle is a timid and unadventurous man. Then, one Saturday, a strange creature appears in his life: a Satur. It’s cheeky and noisy, but despite Mr. Greenbottle’s initial misgivings they spend a marvellously weird and wonderfully mischievous week together. A week of Saturdays, the first in a series of 10, is truly joyful and fun to read, but also challenges some preconceived ideas. Educational and playful, magical but down-to-earth, it has all the ingredients of a modern children’s classic. Millions of copies have been sold and it has been translated into several languages, but sadly not into English – yet.
Wise Little Renaud’s Stories (Les Histoires du Petit Père Renaud)
Written and illustrated by Léopold Chauveau, Éditions Denoël et Steele (1932)
Recommended by: Nat Paterson
About: The book takes its title from the name of the author’s son who died, aged 12, and is remarkable for the fictionalised conversations between Léopold and Renaud, which combine humour and poignancy to convey an egalitarian, anti-didactic approach to childhood. The author and visual artist Léopold Chauveau (1870-1940) was a ‘genius little-known’ (Roland Topor), now enjoying a strong resurgence of interest, with a 2020 exhibition at the Musée d’Orsay attracting over 107,000 visitors. The museum has published a story from the work proposed as a standalone book; and a video based on other abridged stories, together with a written translation (here).
Many thanks to the translators, authors, publishers and agents who helped us compile this list of recommended children’s and YA books from around the world.