Translation of Children’s Books on the Rise

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kids_reading_translation_books.pngEven though the adult UK book market seems to be a little weary of translations, the launch of a new children’s book publisher that focuses on translated novels indicates the children’s book market is welcoming foreign books with open arms.

Recently, the children’s book market in the UK has seen the rise of a new children’s book imprint. In an article on the website of The Independent the reasons for the founding of this new publishing house are explained: Adam Freudenheim and Stephanie Siegmuller founded Pushkin Children’s book when they discovered their favourite children’s books weren’t available in English. Even though the imprint has not been around that long, its first publication has already seen the light of day.

The imprint’s first publication is called The Story of the Blue Planet by author Andri Snaer Magnason. Magnason has written ‘an eco-fable with a Roald Dahl-ish dark twist.’ The story takes place on a blue, happy planet without grown-ups. One day, a rocket ship arrives that promises to make life even more fun by creating a world in which no-one has to bathe ever again. Abroad, the book has already been embraced by the public: it has won the Icelandic Literary Prize and has been translated into 12 languages. Moreover, it has been turned into a play as well.

The next book the publishing house will launch is Oska Pollock, a novel about a teenage girl with magical powers written by Anne Plichota. The imprint sure knows how to pick its books, as this one has already been dubbed ‘the French Harry Potter.’ The film rights of Oska Pollock have been sold to the makers of Twilight, so it is very likely that the book will become a hit. Success guaranteed!

According to Literature Across Frontiers, translations only make up for 2.5% of all books in the United Kingdom and Ireland (and 4.5% of all fiction, poetry and drama). By contrast, this is about 14% in France. However, contrary to other European countries, the UK does not keep track of the number of translated children’s books that is published, so this number might be a little higher. It is remarkable that the number of translations for children’s books isn’t documented, as a number of the UK’s most beloved children’s books are actually translations.

Take for example the Kinder- und Hausmärchen (Children and Household Tales) of the Grimm Brothers. Even though the book wasn’t originally intended for children, sales really took off when an illustrated edition with drawings made by brother Ludwig was published in 1825. And what about Tintin? The originally French comics were first translated in 1951. In this translation, many French elements were kept: Snowy, for example, had retained its French name, which was Milou. When The Adventures of Tintin were again translated in 1958, the translators often consulted Hervé Leger to ensure the comics featured the word play of the original.

In 2013, the Marsh Award, for Children’s Literature in Translation was awarded to Howard Curtis. He received this prize for his translation of Fabio Geda’s In the Sea There Are Crocodiles. Daniel Hahn presented the prize and stressed that translation ‘isn’t less important for children, but more. How could it not be vital for readers who are uniquely open to explorations of their own language; how can it not be essential for readers who, just now, are beginning to define the horizons of their experiences of the world.’ We at Kwintessential couldn’t agree more!

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