Books to look forward to!

Happy 2023! We are already excited about many new World Kid Lit titles coming this year. Today Paula Holmes tells us about three great ones to anticipate. If you can pre-order them or suggest them to your library, it’s always a big help to publishers and creators…

by Paula Holmes

Just like a Magpie, I am attracted to the bright and shiny. I am writing this post during the time when the shiny “best of” lists are starting to pop up and the bright new catalogs for Spring 2023 are arriving. They are distracting me from my nest of books I just purchased. Luckily my TBR pile is a manageable height, so that I can ignore it without fear of it falling down upon me.  But my desk is overflowing with sticky notes and spreadsheets; one details a future blog post on books with maps; another is an “on order list” as I am notorious for ordering titles twice, and another is an ever-growing need list. (Note that I typically only read translations, and this chaos on my desk is pleasure reading.) From out of this wreckage, I am highlighting three bright and shiny 2023 titles, that gave me that wonderful feeling that this book was meant for me to share. 

Bear is Never Alone from Eerdmans Books for Young Readers
Written by Marc Veerkamp
Illustrated by Jeska Verstegen
Translated by Laura Watkinson
Translated from Dutch
Release Date April 4, 2023

When I started looking at 2023 publications, searching for translations and noticing trends, I noticed that bears are definitely tracking in the picture book category. Thinking back to my ‘story times for two’s’ days, we always had a bear-themed story time. What makes Bear is Never Alone stand out is the illustrations. Jeska Verstegen’s philosophy that the page is a stage, the gray and black palate, the expert use of white space, and the tiny red accents which invite engagement are all fabulous. The text becomes part of the illustrations. Look closely, and you will see that Zebra’s stripes are made of words.

The story begins with a piano-playing bear performing for all the animals, but he needs a break. However, his audience only wants more and more. It all becomes too much; he growls out all his frustration and then curls up into a tight ball telling all the animals he is not there. Bear has difficulty knowing who his friends are. Bear is skeptical of Zebra’s gesture of friendship and pushes Zebra away.  It pulls on your heartstrings and provides conversation on pressures to perform (whether in music, art, or sports), emotions, friendship, and taking time for yourself to be alone… or alone with a good friend.

The Invisible Elephant from Yonder: Restless Books for Young Readers
Written by Anna Anisimova
Illustrated by Yulia Sidneva
Translated by Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp
Translated from Russian
Release Date April 18, 2023

When The Invisible Elephant advance copy arrived in my inbox, I thought it was a story of an invisible friend. I could pull together a few other invisible friends’ books and that would make a nice little blog piece.  But what Yonder sent to me was so uniquely incredible because it felt authentic, a character with dimension, imagination, and frustrations. As someone with a disability, sometimes, portrayals of characters with disabilities (and those around them) end up disappointing me. Anna Anisimova, in crafting the main character, who is blind, in The Invisible Elephant avoids the common tropes that often frustrate me. The book is comprised of small everyday stories from playing hide and seek, to art classes to sled riding. Especially touching are the stories with her grandfather and his cane, Speedy. Yulia Sidneva’s bold use of patterns on clothing, flooring and sidewalks adds wonderful texture to the story and many of the pages highlight an adventurous bright sunny yellow elephant outline.

The backmatter provides further conversation and an opportunity to explore the services in your own community. My city is home to LAMP: the Library of Accessible Media for Pennsylvanians. Not only does it provide and ship materials around the state, but it also features its own recording studio.  The facility design is such that there are even changes in the textures of the flooring to identify sinks and toilets. Yes, I will be ordering this title more than once and it will not be in error.

Rosie Runs from Elsewhere Editions
Written and illustrated by Marika Maijala
Translated by Mia Spangenberg
Translated from Finnish
Release Date July 18, 2023

I have tweeted and blogged about the first book I ever tried to translate from Finnish to English.  I worked on it for weeks, reading my attempts aloud to my family and our little Italian Greyhound Sophie, whose long life was coming to an end. Ruusun Matka by Marika Maijala was a book that pulled my whole family into my Finnish language learning. It brought back memories of my son as a small child who had plans to rescue all the greyhounds from the racetrack not far away by carrying them out under each arm. In my September 5, 2021, WorldKidLit blog I wrote, “Ruusun Matka/Rosie’s Journey deserves a wider audience, I’m crossing my fingers for an English translation.”  After that blog, translator Mia Spangenberg reached out to me because she did an English translation and was looking for a publisher but had not been successful.  It was delightful to chat about Finnish Kid Lit in general and passionately about a white greyhound named Rosie and then to later share in the excitement, when Mia found a publisher.  Mia highlighted author/illustrator Marika Maijala, “Finnish illustrator Marika Maijala flourishes as an author” as part of the “Translate This” WKL blog series on August 7, 2020.  Just as I was thrilled when Rosie sailed past the finish line to escape the confining life to find a new life full of friends, I am thrilled that Mia and Elsewhere Editions have given Rosie a new opportunity to find friends. 

I can’t wait to discuss these titles.  I am also looking forward to discussing my other 2023 translations on order, especially those with a map, and the announcement of the Mildred Batchelder Awards at the end of January.  I am pondering on how to host an Unruly Imprint book group, especially for my friends, who, when I talk about books, ask, “Is it on Netflix?”


About Paula Holmes

Paula Holmes is strong supporter of #worldkidlit translations. She has served in a variety of volunteer capacities for the Association for Library Service to Children (a division of the American Library Association) and USBBY. She is currently a University of Alabama School of Library and Information Science MLIS National Advisory Board Member.  When not championing translations you can find her at the ballet barre, creating tiny collage art, or learning the Finnish language, slowly but with SISU.