In Translation: Celebrating World Kid Lit Month, Part 1

Migrants spread 1September is a time to celebrate how diverse and welcoming children’s book exploration proves to be. As we open the doors to World Kid Lit Month, we particularly want to focus attention on the work of translators who help make international reading experiences possible.

Translation, like writing and illustration, is an art in itself.  When we provide children (and adults) with stories and information that come from languages other than our own, we make the whole world a little wider and a little more welcoming to readers as well as creators. This holds true when we can have access to folk tales and other traditional stories from cultures beyond our own and it’s also true when we can read new and imaginative work that only just became a book somewhere else in the world.

Gecko Press, which is at home itself in New Zealand, shares a plethora of children’s books with English language readers who might not be able to enjoy them without these excellent translations. Pulling from contemporary catalogs in various European countries, Gecko Press always has something new, fun, and often insight-provoking to share with English language readers. Rosa Lagercrantz writes early chapter books in Swedish and thanks to Julia Marshall, the translator, English language reading kids have come to love her series featuring Dani, a middle grade girl who leads a happy life with some realistic downs as well as ups. With illustrations by Eva Eriksson, we follow Dani through My Happy Life, My Heart Is Laughing, Where Dani Goes, Happy Follows, and All’s Happy That Ends Happy. You can also explore the stand-alone, Life According to Dani, of which Horn Book says: “The world according to Dani is one that holds disconcerting surprises, drama, humor, play, and flashes of pure joy. This excellent series shows no signs of losing steam.”

In addition to the rich catalog of translated children’s titles Gecko Press provides English language readers, check out this brand new
wordless picture book by Peruvian artist Issa Watanabe. Migrants invests trust in storytelling with images that offer both metaphor and beauty.

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Barefoot Books, at home in the United States, has begun an impressive program of including high quality translations and productions from South America and the Caribbean. From My Window, written by Otávio Júnior and illustrated by Vanina Starkoff, offers American and other English language readers an insider’s, #OwnVoices visit to a Brazilian favela, courtesy of translator Beatriz C. Dias:

What on Earth Books, already well recognized for their English language nonfiction for kids, also provides English language readers with fascinating informational books in translation. From France, you can explore all that happens Every Second, according to author and illustrator Bruni Gibert, and thanks to translator Patrick Skipworth.

Lantana Publishing and Tiny Owl Books, both at home in the United Kingdom, have rich translation programs. From Lantana, English language readers can discover Polish author and illustrator Pawel Pawlak’s Oscar Seeks a Friend thanks to Antonia Lloyd-Jones’s translation. School Library Journal calls this picture book a delightfully unique and heartwarming story about friendship.” It’s also an entrancing exhibit of unusual and delightful images that appeal up and down the age spectrum. Find out more about the translator’s work here.

From Tiny Owl Publishing, English language readers can discover both Persian classics and new and original picture book stories in translation.  Felix After the Rain, written and illustrated by Dunja Jogan, comes to English language readers from Slovenian, thanks to the translation provided by Olivia Hellewell. This picture book is particularly fitting for our current season with its mixture of uncertainty and relief as we experience, with Felix, feelings of potential happiness after a time of sadness.

Need even more ideas to get you going in an exploration of translated gems for your children?  Dive in!


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