Our favorite way to celebrate September is to remember that it’s World Kid Lit Month all month long! To help you join the celebration, we’re stacking up a tower of kids’ books in translation and fresh from their publishers this year.
Let’s start with Albatros Media’s The Hand Book by Magda Garguláková, illustrated by Vítězslav Mecner, and translated for English language readers by Andrew Oakland. Albatros is a Czech publisher that has been bringing great kids’ books to readers for decades. Like The Hand Book, many of these are informational books for middle grade readers that provide exquisitely detailed illustrations as well as amazing facts.
Looking for funny fiction instead of encyclopedic facts? Arctis Books, a relatively new publisher with offices in Germany and in the United States, has just released the first of an early chapter book series originally written in French. Meet Dagfrid, Viking Girl: No More Ear Buns!, by Agnès Mathieu-Daudé, illustrated by Olivier Tallec, and translated to English by Nanette McGuinness. The humor crosses language readily, thanks to McGuinness as well as to the feisty and impatient heroine.
New Zealand’s Gecko Press brings readers regular servings of chuckles in both picture book and chapter book containers. Tuck into When Dad’s Hair Took Off, the latest from author illustrator Jörg Mϋhle and translated from German by Melody Shaw. Ask a small friend to read this one aloud to you so that everyone can get involved in the laugh-inducing escapades together.
Spain’s NubeOcho Books almost always publishes its new picture books simultaneously in both Spanish and English for readers in North America. Such is the case with The Flock by Margarita del Mazo and illustrated by Guridi (available also in Spanish as El rebaño), and translated to English by Cecilia Ross. While sheep generally seem to hang out together, we meet one here more interested in individualism.
The Collector of Heads arrives from Tapioca Stories with a visual display that will intrigue school-age readers and could inspire a range of classroom extensions. Written and illustrated by Ana Matsusaki and translated from Portuguese by Bruna Dantas Lobato, each page spread offers the artist’s idea of what might, indeed, be going on metaphorically inside the heads of many different characters.
Looking for more to pique the imaginations of younger readers through both concept and stunning imagery? Red Comet Press will soon publish Hideaway by Melania Longo, illustrated by Italian Children’s Laureate Alessandro Sanna, and translated from Italian by Brenda Porster. Its celebration of the natural world as two small children turn their leafy den into their own means of imagining places far and wide across the Earth.
Escaping Earth itself, Swiss publisher Helvetiq has a new science-themed sequential art narrative, Big Bangs and Black Holes, written by theoretical physicist Jérémie Francfort and made visual through the art of Herji, translated from Swiss French by Jeffrey K. Butt. Here “translation” has a variety of meanings as Herji and Francfort bring their skills to translating the concepts of Nobel Prize-winner astrophysicist Michel Mayor in a manner that curious tweens and teens can grasp while Butt moves that work into English without losing the skill and nuance author and artist have invested in being true to the science.
Younger readers have new picture books in which translation plays a role in the story as well as in bringing a publication from one text language to another. Letters in Charcoal, published by England’s Lantana Publishing, brings young readers a story about reading, which, of course, is an activity that translates language from spoken to visual. This picture book by Colombian children’s author Irene Vasco and illustrated by Mexican artist Juan Palomino, has been translated from Spanish by Lawrence Schimel.
Floris Books has brought us an English translation of Mina Belongs Here, a picture book written by Sandra Niebuhr-Siebert, illustrated by Lars Baus, and translated by Polly Lawson from German. This story features an immigrant child who finds herself at a loss in her new classroom and confronted by a new language. Mina’s experiences as she adjusts give young readers a sense of how language—and finding oneself in a new one—truly shapes our sense of our own as well as others’ experiences.
And that is what World Kid Lit Month spotlights: the richness and diversity of books, and the power of translation to expand each reader’s understanding of self as well as others in our shared world.