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November Reading Round-up

It’s been over a month since we finished our World Kit Lit Challenge and my thoughts have turned to other projects. On my quest to find new texts for translation and more generally for enjoyment, I’ve read a fair few books over the last few weeks and I thought I’d write a round-up of some of those I’ve particularly enjoyed.

Still leben by Antonia Baum

In this non-fiction text, Baum discusses the difficulties of being a mother in today’s society. But this isn’t some sob story about the hardships of motherhood; Baum tackles some of the big topics – gender equality, the taboo of breastfeeding or rather not breastfeeding, the decision to have a baby in the first place, guilt and mental load. This book really spoke to me as a mother and there have been several conversations with friends where I’ve found myself discussing issues that Baum raises.

Las Princesas Dragón, El misterio del huevo dorado by Pedro Mañas

The mystery of the Golden Egg is the first in the Dragon Princesses series. Usually I’m really very anti-princess so I was intrigued by the strapline for the series: ¿Es que no te has enterado? ¡El cuento ha cambiado! (Haven’t you noticed? The story has changed!). No more princesses waiting to be saved, no more prince dashing in on his horse to save the day. Oh no, these princesses are taking the lead. Adventurous, brave and daring, this is the sort of book I’d encourage my daughter to have on her shelf.

Do you speak chocolate by Caz Lester

This is an English-language mid-grade novel that introduces year 7 pupil Jaz to a new classmate, Nadima, who has recently arrived with her family from Syria. Over the course of the story, Jaz makes several attempts to “help” her new friend, most of which blow up in her face. Lester cleverly weaves into her story acts that we might be tempted to do to “help”, for example, raising money for a particular family because they are “poor”. She explains through her narrative that Nadima’s family don’t want charity, they are proud people who want a chance to be respected in their new home. Aimed at early secondary-school children, I thought this was a really insightful story to help youngsters understand how they can help their new peers.

Apfelblüten und Jasmin by Carolin Phillips

Another title on a similar theme to Do you speak chocolate, but this time in German and aimed at a slightly older age-group. In the opening pages of the book, we encounter Talitha, a 16-year-old Syrian refugee who, it transpires, is at risk of being deported. In order to stay, she has to tell her story. Apfelblüten und Jasmin goes on to tell her story. Written in the first-person, it is a moving account of her journey and how she has become separated from the rest of her family – the jasmine flower representing her past and the apple blossom her future.

The Hypnotist – Lars Keplar translated from Swedish by Ann Long

Something completely different now. My friend and mentor Ellen Worrell recommended this book to me. From the beginning I was hooked. This fast-moving thriller was cleverly written with the middle section flashing back to a previous period before the current action. I didn’t expect the twist at the end which I always enjoy. At times it was bloody and gory though – if you are of a delicate constitution, this one’s probably not for you!

The Taxidermist’s Daughter by Kate Mosse

Set in 1912, this is another dark thriller. Connie Gifford lives with her alcoholic father in a decaying house at the edge of a village. As a child, Connie suffered an accident leaving her with no memory of her childhood. Following her father one evening, she witnesses a gathering of the villagers in the local churchyard. Shortly after that, the body of a young woman appears. It appears that a chain of events has been started and it begins to reawaken Connie’s memory. Another grisly ending to this one, I’m afraid, but the pages turned quickly to find out who the culprit was and why they did it. I particularly enjoyed the descriptive language in this book – the pouring rain and the wind have stayed with me in my mind.

I’ve got some more books sitting next my bed waiting for me, so watch out next month to see which titles make it into my review.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

World Kid Lit Book Review – Daddy Long Legs

We’re at the end of the half-term holiday here in Derby and we’ve had time to do things that we haven’t done for a while, like go to the local library. Since it was converted into a community library earlier this year, the new opening hours mean it’s more difficult to get there. But today we made it! And I was excited to come across this fab title in translation: Daddy Long Legs by Nadine Brun-Cosme and Aurélie Guillerey (Two Hoots) – no translator mentioned.

Emma (5): I like the cover because someone is having a piggy-back. The story is good because Daddy had to run all the way to nursery. I think Daddy would run to school to get me!

Dominic (8): It’s about this car that didn’t work but then it started and Daddy drove Matty to nursery. When they got there, he was worried the car would break down so his Dad told him lots of things that he could do to get to him if the car didn’t work, but Matty always had something to say, like “but what if”. It’s funny because some of his ideas are ridiculous, like the birds picking him up and flying him to nursery.

The bright, bold cover of this book jumped off the shelf at me and the title reminded the kids of their very own Daddy Long Legs at home. The use of colour throughout the illustrations is fantastic. We really enjoyed Daddy coming up with far-fetched suggestions of how he could get to nursery to pick Matty up and then came up with some of our own. Having been in situations with an anxious child, I like that Daddy has opted for trying to make Matty laugh, to giggle his worry away. He doesn’t tell him not to worry or tell him to stop being silly. But when his humorous efforts fail, he opts for soft, caring reassurance and on the last page we see them safely arrived back at home. The last page is clever, with Guillerey bringing all the hilarious options together, meeting in Matty’s house for tea – Martin the bear, the birds, the next-door neighbour. There’s so much to look at!

 

Derby Refugee Solidarity volunteers meet three World Kid Lit titles

As my youngest child was starting school, one of my aims was to become more involved with local charity, Derbyshire Refugee Solidarity. DRS started off life three years ago as a grass-roots organisation, a meeting of like-minded people who wanted to really do something tangible to help refugees and asylum seekers. Fast forward three years and this amazing group of volunteers is now a registered charity and finally has a home to call their own. It is in this rented church hall that DRS receive and sort through donations given to them by the public.

Just about everything donated has some use. A row of wheelie bins lines up along one wall into which clothes are sorted, their contents heading either in a van to Calais or a container to be shipped to Syria (often as part of a bigger shipment by Muslims in Need). Any unusable clothing is sent to weigh-in to raise funds. Along the same lines, any toys or items that are not required abroad are collected and sold at car boot sales or on e-bay and the money is used to fund fuel for aid runs or to buy food for the Calais kitchens.

As a response to DRS campaigns, in one corner stands a stack of Moses baskets filled with items for new mums and their babies, prepared by members of the public and offered as a complete package. Another campaign asks for simple items like a pair of socks, a packet of dried fruit, a juice carton, packed into small rucksacks, ready to be handed out to those who need them in Calais.

Not only does this group do fantastic good for refugees abroad, it also brings people in the local community together. Some of the volunteers are refugees and asylum seekers themselves, who now give their time to help others. Having recently moved into their new premises, DRS are inviting local residents to join them for a cup of tea and a biscuit (or two!) and to come and meet the volunteers, showcasing the good work being done in their own neighbourhood.

Last Thursday, I decided to take three books with me that I had come across during my September World Kid Lit Challenge: Tomorrow by Nadine Kaadan (Lanatan Publishing), The Journey by Francesca Sanna (Flying Eye Books) and When I Coloured in the World by Ahmadreza Ahmadi (Tiny Owl Publishing). All three of these beautiful books deal with the themes of war, fleeing and hope. Knowing that some of the other volunteers at DRS have children or grandchildren of their own, I thought it would be interesting to share these stories with them; I had only come across these titles as part of my challenge and I wondered whether others had heard of them or other stories for children. During our 10:30 tea break, I was invited to show the books I had brought along.

In our discussions afterwards, it transpired that several people had come across titles for an adult readership but not really books aimed at children. The books were admired (“beautiful illustrations”) and the general consensus was that these books are a really good idea. Several refugee families have been placed in Derbyshire and one lady, in particular, was keen to write down the titles with a view to sourcing them for her local community, to help British children to understand a little more about their new school mates or as a starting point for discussion.

Trustee and volunteer coordinator Julie James sums it up nicely: “Every volunteer at Derbyshire Refugee Solidarity brings along their own stories. We have volunteers from Syria, Afghanistan, Iran, Sudan, Libya and many other countries. Sharing each other’s stories is the way we begin to connect and understand each other better. I would love these fabulous books and others like them to be available in every school library to inspire children and adults alike to share their own stories.” She followed this up with a quote by Neil Gaiman:

“The one thing that you have that nobody else has is you. Your voice, your mind, your story, your vision. So write and draw and build and play and dance and live as only you can”.

For more information about how you can help DRS and about their current campaigns, please visit http://www.derbyshirerefugeesolidarity.org/

ITI IgnITIon article out today

I get so excited when I see my name in print. Today, the Institute for Translation and Interpreting’s student publication, IgnITIon, published an interview I did with my award-winning mentor, Ellen Worrell. The ITI has been really important to me as I have started out on my path to becoming a freelance translator and it’s nice to be able to help others along that same path. The mentoring I receive from Ellen not only helps with practical issues, like record keeping and discussions about rates, but also offers support and friendship along the way. It’s also great to have someone to be accountable to; working on your own means it can be easy to let some things slide. So when I say I’m going to do this, that and the other, I feel I have to get on and actually do it.

Ellen and I met through our local East Midlands Regional Group of the ITI. Anyone looking for support as they start out in translation, I would highly recommend joining one of your local groups. It brings you into contact with other translators and interpreters in your local area. While it’s great that there’s so much information available online, there’s nothing quite like a face-to-face conversation.

World Kid Lit Challenge – What we have learnt

So we did it. 30 books in 30 days. I’ve definitely enjoyed it and I think the kids have too. Sitting here today with an empty house I’ve got time to reflect on the challenge and what we have learnt.

I like to think of myself as a linguist. I’ve been involved in languages for years and recently made the switch to translation. I’ve always loved books and made a point of ensuring we have lots (and lots) of books at home. I’d been down the lists of what they “should” be reading and made sure we have some of those too. As I started this challenge, I thought it would be easy to find suitable books in among my shelves. How wrong was I?! We had about 5. Even as someone who cares about what their kids read and about languages, I still haven’t been representing different cultures, different perspectives and different people. Well, we do now!

And it’s been interesting to see how Dominic and Emma have reacted to them. For the most part, they haven’t blinked an eye. They have just accepted these books as books that they either like or don’t like, not because they are set elsewhere, but just because we all have different tastes. While I have searched for books specific to the challenge, they just enjoyed them as stories, particularly Emma.

That saying, I have loved some of the discussions I have had with Dominic. Being that bit older, we’ve been able to discuss concepts and situations a bit more in depth. Some of the titles, those dealing with war and fleeing, I may well have shied away from, but both kids have embraced these books. Emma now regularly asks to read The Journey and Mama’s Nightingale.

I’ve also had conversations with other people about the ways that cultures and people are depicted in books. My friend from Zimbabwe told me she had been inspired to go and hunt out some African folktales to share with her children and that they were really enjoying sharing them together. That sort of conversation makes this whole challenge worthwhile.

A review of our challenge is being included in the Nov/Dec issue of the The Bulletin from the Institute of Translation and Interpreting here in the UK. Hopefully we can inspire others to read some of the titles we have enjoyed.

So what next? One friend suggested I should continue the reviews, so I will. Not at the same rate, but I will aim to post at least one review a month of a World Kid Lit title. And I am on the look-out for new, untranslated material to prepare as samples with the hope of convincing a publisher to commit to offering more translated fiction to our English-speaking children.

Thanks for joining Dominic, Emma and me on this global journey through books!

 

World Kid Lit Challenge Day 30

We’ve made it! Day 30! And it just so happens to coincide with International Translation Day, celebrating the work of translators across the world.

The last book in our 30 day World Kid Lit Challenge is Queen of Seagulls by Rūta Briede, translated from Latvian by Elīna Brasliņa (The Emma Press).

Lottie (Dominic and Emma’s cousin – 6): I thought it was really good. The best bit in the book is when he was trying to show her how to love seagulls.

Dominic:  It was a bit awkward that she forgot that she was the Queen of Seagulls. The writing was a bit hard to read in the middle but it looked nice. The pictures only had a few colours in – I liked them!

I went the London Book Fair this year and attended a talk about picture books, where The Emma Press was discussing this book. I felt inspired to come home and order it.

The book tells the story of a lady called Renata (it’s fair to say she’s quite a grumpy lady) who is enraged by seagulls and cannot understand why they won’t leave her alone – it’s as if they’re trying to tell her something. Just as she is despairing at the arrival of a nuisance neighbour, the narrative cuts to a time gone by, cleverly using a different font to highlight the distance between the narrative voices. This middle section tells of her previous life as Queen of Seagulls and how she came to be where she is. All of which in the current narrative, she has no memory.

As the story unfolds back in the present, an accident involving the nuisance neighbour, a fishing rod and an accordion brings the two together with music acting as a catalyst to unlock her memories. Suddenly, she understands everything and can now hear the message the seagulls have for her.  

The illustrations in this book are wonderful. They are simple line drawings with a splash of colour yet there is such detail contained within them.

Many thanks to everyone who has been following this challenge. Tomorrow I’ll be posting a bit about what we have learnt over the course of the last month and what impact this may have on our reading choices in the future. Look out also for a round up of the challenge and some of our favourite books in the November/December issue of The Bulletin from the Institute of Translation and Interpreting.

 

World Kid Lit Challenge Day 29

We’re nearly there! The penultimate book on our World Kid Lit Challenge is an American book: Runny Babbit by Shel Silverstein (HarperCollins).

Dominic: We listened to this in the car and it made us all laugh. I tried to read some out loud but kept on getting it wrong.

Runny Babbit is written in English, but not perhaps as we know it! Cleverly using spoonerisms, swapping the first letters around, Silverstein creates poems that are both nonsensical yet understandable all at the same time.

This book came with a CD, which as Dominic says, we listened to in the car. The speed that the narrator read these poems with is astounding and really makes these poems come to life. As my husband said, this book is one to be read out. On the page, yes, the poems look funny, but the joy really comes when they are heard aloud. I found if I tried to untangle and understand each one as it went along, I just ended up getting lost and it was much easier to just go with the flow and let it wash over you.

A couple of favourites are Runny’s Mancy Feal and Runny’s Rittle Leminders. In these poems, there would be may repetitions of the same word; however the preceding word changes each time, so for example:

Runny lent to the wibrary,

And there were bundreds of hooks-

Bistory hooks, beography gooks,

And lots of bory stooks (From Runny’s Heading Rabits).

This is definitely one to look out if you want something a bit different! I love the fact we wouldn’t have come across this had we not asked around for recommendations for our challenge. Thanks to Emma Edwards for this one!