BookTrust today released its shortlist for In Other Words, its inaugural children’s books in translation project, comprising a story of spies and kidnapping set in Stalin’s Russia as well as "laugh out loud" entries from Denmark and South Africa, and entries translated from Afrikaans and Korean.
The project, launched in 2016 and funded by Arts Council England, is designed to showcase writing from outside the UK and to help UK publishers to acquire children’s books in translation.
The shortlist of eight titles was whittled down from almost 400 entries that were received from around the world, each a work of fiction intended for children aged six to 12 years. The judges, chaired by literary critic Nicolette Jones, were translators Sarah Ardizzone and Daniel Hahn; Florentyna Martin from Waterstones; Emma Langley from Arts Council England; Elaine McQuade, children’s books consultant; and Jill Coleman, director for children’s books at BookTrust.
The shortlisted entries were partially translated for UK publishers to review and English language rights are now available to buy (extracts can be read on the BookTrust website). A marketing bursary of £1,500 is available from BookTrust to support the UK publication of each of these titles.
Four Honour Titles will be revealed at a special drinks reception at the Bologna Book Fair on 4th April with Children’s Laureate Chris Riddell and Carnegie Award winning author Kevin Brooks.
Jones, chair of judges, called it an "important" project that would broaden children's horizons, hailing the translations "superb".
“In Other Words is such an important project, opening doors to the rest of the world just as so many doors are being closed. Encountering the best of children’s literature from other countries enables children to think beyond the limitations of a narrow nationalism, and broaden their experience and understanding. The range and standard of entries we saw suggests that there are great riches to be discovered, and the translations were superb,” she said.
Coleman, director children’s books at BookTrust, agreed. "Now, more than ever, children need help to understand the world from a wider perspective,” she said.
Martin, children’s books buyer at Waterstones, and judge, added that the project had accessed titles with "great commercial potential". "Combined with the excellent work of the translators, the titles are immediately accessible and have shown that there are yet still new aspects of storytelling and plots that we can bring to children’s books,” she said.
Emma Langley, Arts Council England, added: “The Arts Council is a longstanding supporter of literature in translation but we continue to receive very few funding applications focusing on children’s literature. We are delighted to be involved in a very practical initiative that addresses the barriers to UK children’s publishers acquiring more great books from overseas.”
Shortlisted entry Jigsaw Puzzle by Maria Fernanda Maquieria, translated from Spanish (Loqueleo) from Argentina, was commended by Ardizzone as "compelling storytelling that will grip young British readers as the experience of the Falklands crisis is told from the Argentine perspective".
Sputterfly by Simon van der Gees, translated from Dutch (Querido Children’s Books) - a story told through the diary entries of a young narrator in the shadow of bereavement - was shortlisted as "a writer who absolutely should be on our radar”, according to Langle.
The Amazing Adventures of Groana Schmitt by Finn-Ole Heinrich, translated from German (Carl Hanser Verlag) appealed to Hahn for the voice of its "strong and frank" central character. "It’s such a spirited, inventive and energetic piece of writing," he said, adding it also was "substantial" in its themes.
A Good Day for Climbing a Tree by Jaco Jacobs, translated from Afrikaans (LAPA) made Coleman on the judges panel chuckle. About a boy stepping out of his older brother's shadow who starts a sit-in to save a tree, she called it "a story with a warm heart and characters you want to spend time with".
Her Name’s Not Cruella de Vil by Anna Lavatelli, translated from Italian (It Battello a Vapore) explores the protagonist's relationship with the older generation. Langley said it showed promise in the sample translation, adding, "I really wanted to read more to see how the story played out”.
Elise and the Second-hand Dog by Bjarne Reuter, translated from Danish (Gyldendal Group Agency), the story of a girl with eccentric relatives who acquires a talking dog, was shortlisted as "evidence that humour can travel". "It had judges laughing out loud," said Jones. "[The dog] is a grumpy Scot, and not as biddable as she hoped. It is quirky, clever and original and plotted to make the most of punch lines.”
Some Kid Lived Here and Other Stories by Mi-kyoung Song, translated from Korean (Sigongsa Co, Ltd) is a collection of short stories, described as “zany, surreal and very fresh" in the vein of Patrick Ness by Ardizzone.
The Raven’s Children by Yulia Yakovleva, translated from Russian (Samokat) rounds off the shortlist, selected for its "world-building detail" and potential across both children and adault readerships, according to Martin.