Women in Translation warming up for World Kid Lit Month

As we’re coming to the end of August’s celebration of Women in Translation, my thoughts start to turn to World Kid Lit Month starting in a few short days. Thinking back to last year’s 30 books in 30 days challenge, I want to highlight a few of the children’s books in translation written by women that are still firm favourites in our house one year on from the challenge.

Valdemar’s Peas by Maria Jönsson, translated from Swedish by Julia Marshall (Gecko Press). A charming picture book about Valdemar’s plan to get ice cream without having to eat his peas.

Tomorrow by Nadine Kaadan, translated from Arabic by the author (Lantana Publishing). The story of Yazan who lives in Syria and can no longer go to the park because it’s too dangerous. A great one to introduce the plight of other people to younger children.

Hannah’s Night by Komako Sakai, translated from Japanese by Cathy Hirano (Gecko Press). It’s the illustration in this book that make this so special. It tells of a little girl, Hannah, who wakes in the night to find everyone in her family asleep. She decides to go for a wander around the house accompanied by the family cat, Shiro. It is simply delightful.

Banana Skin Chaos by Lilli l’Arronge, translated from German by Daniela Bernardelle (Bloomsbury). This book takes the notion of a boy dropping a banana skin on the floor and the possible (hilarious)implications this could have. This still makes my daughter giggle her socks off.

Inside the Villains by Clothilde Perrin, translated from French by Daniel Hahn (Gecko Press). A sophisticated picture book presenting three infamous characters from the world of the fairy tale: the Giant, the Witch and the Wolf. The unique design has flaps to look under and strings to pull, revealing intricate details. Fold out the left-hand page to reveal a section entitled “More about me” and a story, displayed as if in  a newspaper. This is one I take with me when I want to show people examples of translated children’s books and it hits the mark every time.

The treasure of Barracuda by Llanos Campos, translated from the Spanish by Lawrence Schimel. A side-splitting pirate adventure that elicited belly laughs from my 8-year-old son. Plenty of silliness and adventure as the gang of pirates realise the importance of learning to read.

With World Kid Lit Month nearly upon us, follow me on Twitter and sign up to the World Kid Lit Blog for more reviews, interviews and interesting articles throughout September.

Picture Books, Reviews

Refugee Week Book Blog: Let’s go see Papá by Lawrence Schimel, illustrated by Alba Marina Rivera, translated from Spanish by Elisa Amado

Many thanks to Lawrence Schimel for sending me this book to include on my Refugee Week Book Blog. This picture book is an interesting addition to this week’s selection as it looks at migration from a different perspective, that of the family left behind.

The little girl in the story hasn’t seen her papá for “one year, eight months and twenty-two days.” He’s gone to the United States to work and couldn’t come home for Christmas. She keeps a diary and writes in it every day, telling papá about all the things she’s been doing. And every Sunday, the family wakes up early and waits in anticipation for papá to call.

Then one Sunday papá calls to say that it’s time for his daughter and wife to join him in the USA. They start to pack their belongings, choosing what to take and what to leave behind. The little girl goes to school and tells her best friend that she’s leaving, we feel the worry of the prospect of making new friends in her new home. She realises that Kika, her beloved pet dog, is statying behind with Abuela, who’s too old to start her life over again.

We leave the little girl on the aeroplane, having said good bye to her friend and Abuela. She opens her diary to write to papá but of course, she’ll be seeing him soon. She opens a second notebook and starts to write: Dear Abuela…

The illustrations in this book are wonderful. The detail is incredible. I particularly like the pages where the drawings look like they have been done by a young child, something my son might have drawn.

When I go and volunteer, it is noticeably the young men who have made the journey to a new land. I recently spent an hour doing jigsaws with a young girl who had just recently arrived in the UK to join her father. As I read this, I imagined her receiving that call: it’s time to go and see papá. A useful reminder that migration doesn’t just affect those doing the journeying but also the families back home.

Back to Refugee Week Book Blog

Picture Books, Reviews

Flucht by Niki Glattauer and Verena Hochleitner

In 2018, my kids and I carried out 30 day challenge reviewing 30 books in 30 for #WorldKidLitMonth. This was one of the books we looked at and I think it’s one that’s worth revisiting for #WorldKdiLitMonth 2020. This picture book comes from Austria and is yet to be translated: Flucht (Flight) by Niki Glattauer and Verena Hochleitner (Tyrolia Verlag).

This book is a little unusual in as far as the story is told from the cat’s perspective. His name is E.T. like the alien in the film who calls for help. E.T. leads us through the family’s preparations to leave their war-torn home and make the journey across the sea. We are told and shown an illustration of what is on Daniel’s packing list:

1 pencil case with pencils, crayons and felt-tip pens, 1 notebook, 1 bag of Lego Minecraft, 3 shiny stones, 1 mobile phone, 1 laptop, 1 pair of jeans, 2 pairs of shorts, the Messi T-shirt, 5 other T-shirts, 1 black leather jacket, shoes with the green flashing lights, 1 other pair of shoes, pants and socks, 4 large bottles of water, 1 small envelope of documents and
1 large envelope of old photos. 

Seeing these items laid out with the rucksack underneath really brought it home for me how very little this family are taking with them, but also what they are taking. For Daniel, the Lego and his Messi T-shirt, but photos, a phone and a laptop. Sometimes we have an image of refugees as people who had nothing to begin with. We perhaps picture them as poor, living in a rundown hut in the middle of nowhere. Of course, some people do live like that, but many come from societies which are, or were, just like ours. And if I were leaving in a hurry, I know I’d grab my mobile phone – it’s a map, a torch, a phone, a camera and I can use it to access my emails – an essential piece of kit!

The illustrations are very powerful – one page shows a single small boat on an expanse of blue.

What is really powerful about this book comes right at the end (spoiler alert!). Throughout the book, we as the reader make assumptions about who these people are and where they come from. Perhaps it’s Syria, perhaps it’s Africa. But Glattauer and Hochleitner turn this on its head, revealing that the family are not fleeing from Africa to Europe, but from Europe to Africa. It challenges us to consider how we would respond to such events: what would we do? And I think it’s really important to do this, to put ourselves in other people’s shoes and empathise with them.

What my (then) eight-year-old son had to say:

They are leaving their home because their country is in war. It must be bad where they are living. They are not taking much stuff with them. I think travelling on the sea must be a bit scary.

For any interested publishers, the English rights for this book are still available from Tyrolia Verlag and I have a mocked up book with my translation available. Please get in touch!

For more World Kid Lit titles, you can also visit the World Kid Lit blog.

Back to Refugee Week Book Blog


Refugee Week Book Blog

Links to my book recommendations will be added here throughout the week.

Picture books

Tomorrow by Nadine Kaadan (Lanata Publishing)

The Journey by Francesca Sanna (Flying Eye Books)

Flucht by Niki Glattauer and Verena Hochleitner (Tyrolia Verlag)

Lost and Found Cat by Doug Kuntz and Amy Shrodes. Illustrated by Sue Cornelison

Mama’s Nightingale, A Story of Immigration and Separation by Edwidge Danticat, illustrated by Leslie Staub (Dial Books)

Let’s go see Papá by Lawrence Schimel, illustrated by Alba Marina Rivera, translated from Spanish by Elisa Amado

Chapter Books

When Hitler stole Pink Rabbit by Judith Kerr

Apfelblüten und Jasmin by Carolin Philipps

The boy at the back of the class by Onjali Raúf

Dazwischen: ich by Julya Rabinowich

Do you speak chocolate? by Cas Lester

For more World Kid Lit titles, you can also visit the World Kid Lit blog.

Adult books

Dear World. A Syrian Girl’s Story of War and Plea for Peace by Bana Alabed

The Gurugu Pledge by Juan Tomás Ávila Lauren, trans. Jethro Soutar (And Other Stories)

Crossing the sea with Syrians on the exodus to Europe by Wolfgang Bauer (And Other Stories)

Refugee Tales. A collection of short stories (Comma Press)

Butterfly. From Refugee to Olympian, My Story of Rescue, Hope and Triumph by Yusra Mardini

The girl with seven names by Hyeonseo Lee

From 17-23 June, people around the world will be celebrating Refugee Week, raising awareness of the plight of millions of people around the globe and celebrating the contribution refugees bring to our society. As a regular volunteer for Derbyshire Refugee Solidarity, this is a topic that is close to my heart. With a passion for books, translation and an interest in the subject of refugees and migration, I will be blogging book recommendations on the topic of refugees and migration throughout Refugee Week.

Please join me