January 30th was a big day for children’s books as the American Library Association announced this year’s award winners. In today’s post, Paula Holmes introduces the winners of one of World Kid Lit’s favorite awards – The Batchelder!
by Paula Holmes
I am getting ready to place the shiny seals on my copies of this year’s Batchelder Award Winner and Honor Books. It is the award I cherish the most. This award, which honors Mildred L. Batchelder’s belief “in the importance of good books for children in translation from all parts of the world,” is given by the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC). I appreciate ALSC which has allowed the award to have flexibility, to grow and change, to stay relevant.
This award often shines a light on small publishers who bring outstanding books to children, for instance, this year’s honorees, Elsewhere Editions and Eerdmans Books for Young Readers. I think Mildred Batchelder would be thrilled that her award continues to encourage the publication of translations in the US of books read by children around the world. The Mildred L. Batchelder 2023 Committee’s selections were announced at the American Library Association (ALA) Youth Media Awards on Monday January 30th in New Orleans. A recording of the entire award presentation can be found here. The presentation of the award happens at ALA Annual Conference on Monday, June 26, 2023 in Chicago, where I will be loudly clapping in the audience. I am especially grateful to the authors, translators, and publishers who shared quotes and links with me for this blog post. Here is the rundown.
Mildred L. Batchelder Award Winner
Just a Girl: A True Story of World War II
Publisher: Harper Collins
Written by Lia Levi
Illustrated by Jess Mason
Translated from the Italian by Sylvia Notini
This is the first Batchelder Award for a Harper Collins’ imprint. In 2021 HarperAlley, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, received a Batchelder Honor for Catherine’s War, written by Julia Billet, illustrated by Claire Fauvel, and translated from the French by Ivanka Hahnenberger.
Since the announcement of the awards, translator Sylvia Notini graciously shared this for the blog;
Translating has at times been referred to as ‘a little art,’ but there is nothing ‘little’ about translating. It’s hard work, and perhaps even more so when you are translating a children’s book. You have to get the voices just right. The story may be something that the reader has never experienced personally, but if it is told well, they will identify with it, engage with it, be enriched by it, learn from it.
I began translating Just a Girl. A True Story of WWII in March 2020, when the pandemic was at its peak. As I worked everyone in the world was experiencing the same thing, learning to behave in a certain way and to be patient. Italy was under a very strict lockdown. The airport near my home in Bologna was closed. I couldn’t take a train to see my son in Milan. We couldn’t even take a walk on the street outside our house. I found myself thinking that much like Lia was waiting for the war to end, for ‘the Americans’ to come and free her country and her family so they could just go back to the way things were before, I, too, was waiting for something to happen. The story made me think about my parents who grew up in Italy and were adolescents under Mussolini. They weren’t Jewish, but they told me stories about what it was like to be a child under a dictatorship. Lastly, when the book was finally published in March 2022, the war in Ukraine had just begun. Again, I thought about Lia’s story and how other children like her, like my parents, would once again be forced to sacrifice their childhood.
Lia remains hopeful as she tells us her story. Let us learn from her.
Batchelder Honor Books
Different: A Story of the Spanish Civil War
Publisher: Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
Written by Mónica Montañés
llustrated by Eva Sánchez Gómez
Translated from the Spanish by Lawrence Schimel
Eerdmans Books for Young Readers has received a call from the Batchelder Committee seven times! I am especially thrilled for editor Kathleen Merz, who consistently brings outstanding translations to the US, and for translator Lawrence Schimel, who I don’t think ever sleeps, to receive the Batchelder Honor for Different.
Lawrence Schimel says:
“The English translation of Different has all the art and text of the original picture book but reformatted at my suggestion as a middle grade novel, which gave the text more space to breathe and would, I felt, be a better match in terms of age range for English-speaking readers. Kathleen Merz, my editor at Eerdmans, agreed with me (and actually the original Spanish-language publisher is considering doing the same thing when they sell through the current print run of the picture book format). In many ways the Batchelder Honor for Different feels like a confirmation that our instincts were right and all the editorial work we did on this project were solid decisions. (There is also new backmatter written in English that is original to the Eerdmans editions, giving some contextual background to the historical events in the book, and a glossary of Spanish-language terms that we agreed to leave in the original and gloss for readers.)”
WKL Meet the Publisher Interview with Kathleen Merz
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Written by Cao Wenxuan
Translated from the Chinese by Helen Wang
This is a first Batchelder for award winning author Cao Wenxuan and a first for Candlewick Press. Candlewick previously published Bronze and Sunflower by the same author/translator duo of Cao Wenxuan and Helen Wang in 2017. Dragonfly Eyes benefits from the changes to the Batchelder award terms in 2018 to allow books translated first in other countries to be considered. Published in the US by Candlewick Press in 2022, Helen Wang’s English translation was first published in the U.K. by Walker Books in 2021. Along with Helen, I am grateful that this important change was made in response to requests from translators. It is a significant development that recognizes realities in the translation world and expands the number of books that are eligible for the award.
WKL Interview with translator Helen Wang
João by a Thread
Publisher: Elsewhere Editions
Written and illustrated by Roger Mello
Translated from the Portuguese by Daniel Hahn
This is the third honor award for Elsewhere Editions, an Imprint of Archipelago Books, “devoted to translating luminous works of children’s literature from around the world.” It is also the second honor for the team of Roger Mello and Daniel Hahn, who were previously honored for You Can’t Be Too Careful.
On winning the Batchelder Honor for João by a Thread, Roger Mello shared this thought:
Through the company of librarians, children’s dreams from all over the world are brought together in a fabulous embroidery. I’m delighted to receive the Batchelder Honor, which has gathered together such wonderful stories over the years and given many dreams and wonders the chance to be stitched into the blanket.
WKL Meet the Publisher Interview with Elsewhere Editions
Congratulations to the teams behind all four titles and a huge thank you to the ALSC Mildred L. Batchelder Committee for their hard work in selecting these titles. I hope that the awards encourage the reading of more translations for children, beyond those that win. See you all in June for the Award Presentation.
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.