We are pleased to welcome back Gülşah Özdemir Koryürek and Ece Citelbeg to tell us more about books from Turkey. Following on from their introduction to works already available in English, today they introduce us to books that are yet to be translated.
by Gülşah Özdemir Koryürek and Ece Citelbeg
On February 6, 2023, Turkey experienced a great distaster. In the aftermath of the earthquake and while trying to heal our wounds, we have been journeying through the rich landscape of Turkey’s children’s literature, a tremendous voyage to rediscover these treasures and take shelter in the healing power of children’s literature.
In our first article, we presented Turkey’s children’s titles that are already available in English. While writing that article, we realized how few of our works have been translated into English. The books we are discussing today are not yet available in English but occupy an important place in Turkish Children’s Literature. Many are bestsellers, long-time-sellers or simply make a different sound regardless of sales. While curating this selection, we considered receommended reading lists, sales figures, literature sites, as well as including our own observations and experience.
TOMBIŞ KITAPLAR SERIES
Written and illustrated by Behiç Ak
Publisher: Günışığı Publications
Architect and cartoonist Behiç Ak is one of Turkish Children’s Literature most important living writers. In each book he invites children to consider differences and possibilities through a philosophical question. The Tombiş Kitaplar series consists of five books.
One of Ak’s most distinctive and admired features is the humour and visual richness he adds to his stories through his work as a cartoonist. It is thanks to these features that Ak’s books have received many national awards. They have also been translated into German and Japanese.
OH NO! MY HEART IS BROKEN!
Written and Illustrated by Elif Yemenici
Publisher: Redhouse Kidz, 2016
Elif Yemenici won the admiration of her readers thanks to her writing and work as an illustrator. In this book, she combines the two, telling the story of her efforts to mend a young girl’s heart after her friends didn’t let her play.
The book suggests that common disagreements among children can be resolved with the kindness of their peers and is valued as a universal story with the contribution of the author’s impressive visuals. This book by Yemenici was selected for The White Ravens 2016 list and has been published in Spanish, Catalan (Flamboyant Editorial), Korean (Charlie Book), Chinese (Beijing Bright Culture Development), and Macedonian (anthology).
THE TALE OF THE GREEN SAHMERAN
Written by Handan Belivermiş
Illustrated by Mustafa Delioglu
Publisher: Nesin Publications, 2020
Academic and writer Handan Belivermiş processes children’s stories layer by layer and decorates them with questions. Her works enable children to realize the basic concepts that affect our lives and judge them accordingly. Belivermiş uses the same method in her book The Tale of the Green Sahmer, questioning the pattern of ‘limitless human needs’. The beautiful drawings by master illustrator Mustafa Delioglu make this story even more original.
MAY YOUR DREAMS GROW
Written by Refik Durbas
Illustrated by Soner Hızarcı
Publisher: Dogan Egmont
SONG OF THE LEMON TREE
Written by Arslan Sayman
Illustrated by Deniz Ucbasaran
Publisher Red Cat Boy
MY BIRD HANDS
Written by Gulbahar Aygun
Illustrated by Aren Selvioglu
Publisher: Arden Publications
These poems written by poets Refik Durbaş, Gülbahar Aygün and Arslan Sayman enrich the children’s world of thought in the form of poetry’s refined art.
Books for school-aged children
A SERIES OF RHYMING TALES
Written by Memo Tembelçizer
Artists: Memo Tembelçizer, Zeynep Özatalay, Oğuz Demir, Murat Kalkavan, Emre Karacan
Publisher: Tekir Kitap
Memo Tembelçizer is an experienced cartoonist. These books are his humourous retellings of Grimms’ fairytales: Little Red Riding Hood, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Hansel and Gretel, Puss in Boots, Bremen Town Musicians. Memo – who also illustrated Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs – worked with other talented illustrators for the other four books. The series is colourful, fun and adaptable, yet highly original.
THE NOISY RESIDENTS OF CALM STREET
Written by Melis Avci, Bulent Avci
Illustrated by Sezen Aksu Tasyürek
Publisher: Red Cat Boy
Bülent and Melis Avcı are two experienced educators and demand attention with the different perspectives they display in every story they publish. The Noisy Residents of Calm Street is a delightful picturebook that focuses on the culture of living together. The children and older residents who live in the same street diagree about the noise levels in the street. This story shares how the residents come up with a creative resolution to conflict.
SECRET OF SPACE SERIES
Written by Ilkay Marangoz
Illustrated by: Rıza Turker
Publisher: Green Dinosaur
This is a funny adventure which starts with the discovery of “aliens” by three alien children. The series continues with an effort to understand the secrets of the universe. The stories, written in Ilkay Marangoz’s humourous language, appeared alongide Rıza Türker’s original illustrations and have been very popular.
OH NO, BOOKS!
Written by Mine Soysal
Cover Image: Favorite Finish
Publisher: Sunshine Library, 2006
With the aim of raising children as good readers, this entirely different title explores books and reading from the perspective of children and young people, issuing a challenge to adults who put obstacles in the way of children’s reading adventures. This book consists of 33 essays and reveals Soysal’s perspective on creating a reading culture and her mastery of language.
This is a best seller in Turkey and has also been published in Albanian.
LILI MAY SERIES
Written and Illustrated by Hatice Aksüt
Publisher: Zero Publications, 2018
Hatice Aksüt embarks on a hero’s endless journey in a fantasy world with her young female protagonist Lili May. Aksüt’s immersive adventure created with her gentle language integrates with her illustrations and offers a different experience for the reader.
Living in a small town with her grandmother, Lili’s life changes after some surprise guests arrive during the spring festivals. The mysterious events she experiences lead her to form new friendships and she embarks on a magnific adventure of self-discovery. The adventure allows us to fully experience the elements of fantasy genre in a perfect narrative and with it creates a young female heroine.
Gülşah Özdemir Koryürek was born in 1984 in Istanbul. She worked in theatre for fifteen years writing scripts and plays and has also written and directed documentaries. She conducts creative drama and writing workshops with children. Since 2015, she has been working as a writer, designer and editor at Sıfırdan Publishing, of which she is co-founder. Her work focusses on environmental issues, trying to make the Climate Crisis a subject of children’s literature. www.sifirdanyayinlari.com/sifirdanpuplishinghouse Instagram: @gulsahozdemirkoryurek
Ece Citelbeg was born in Ankara in 1988. She is a literary translator and copyright representative based in Cambridge, UK. She is currently studying for an MA in Modern and Contemporary Literature at the Birkbeck University of London. She attends many literary translation workshops worldwide and is a member of the Emerging Translators Network UK (ETN) and Çevbir (Translators’ Association Turkey). Animal welfare and preserving cultural heritage are the principal matters she cares about. She adores cats, queens of pop and literature. www.citelbeg.com Instagram: @ececitelbeg