F O L K L O R E
C H I L D R E N S' B O O K S
P O E T R Y
It feels better now, to know that she is only partly gone. When I lived in Paris, I used to sit on sunny mornings in a little park behind Notre Dame. It was the quietest place to read and write and get away from my living space chez Shakespeare and Company bookstore, where for several months it was my job to supervise the itinerant writers and artists who traded a few nights' stay for cleaning duties. My bunk was in the children's book cubby—I think it's still there, with its little curtain. And I am so happy that Notre Dame's rose windows, those luminous creatures, are also still there, not just memories. My favorite gargoyle? I am afraid to google it.
Five Translators on the Joys and Challenges of Translating Children’s Books
Words without Borders (April 3, 2019)
Emma Ramadan interviewed five translators of children’s books into English—from Spanish, Japanese, Portuguese, German, Italian, and Dutch. According to the translators, their job is the best job in the world. I always thought being a children's librarian was the best job in the world. I guess it depends on whether you prefer solitude or hubbub.
Emma Ramadan: I had translated rhyming poetry before and was up for the challenge of a rhyming picture book. But with rhyming poetry, you can generally permit yourself to adjust a particular image or word choice to maintain the rhyme scheme, while in picture books, the original images correspond to the original text in ways that you might disrupt with even a minor change in translation.”
May there always be a melodious multitude of human languages, if only because translating children’s books sounds like such a wonderful occupation. Could it require such nuanced skills that it won’t be taken over by AI? Puns? Wordplay? Nicknames? Invented languages? Most adults are terrible at these, never mind robots. And wherever book publishing puts profit first, a sameness of content and style evolves. A children’s book from a different country, language, culture can provide readers with new ways of seeing and understanding.
Still, I wonder if a translation of a rhyming picture book can ever be more than a best effort. My rhyming picture book Antarctic Antics was translated from U.S. to British English, seven words changed in all. I agreed to the changes but I’m not happy about the results. My voice, along with subtleties of rhythm, plunge off tiny cliffs. Therefore it’s probably best that I can’t completely appreciate—or even read—the translations of my picture books into other languages. When I receive author copies in Spanish or Danish or Japanese or Korean, I set one copy on a shelf and donate the others to the library.
in The Conversation
March 18, 2019 6.47am EDT
Cora Lynn Deibler
The University of Connecticut Archives houses the Maurice Sendak Collection of original sketches, book dummies, artwork and final drafts —nearly 10,000 items in all. In this article, UConn professors Capshaw and Deibler trace the evolution of Where the Wild Things Are, beginning with a 1955 dummy (title: Where the Wild Horses Are) to early trial versions of the book’s jacket. In the 1955 dummy, a child pulls the tail of a horse, and the horse kicks him right out of his clothes, foreshadowing a later book, In the Night Kitchen).
The online article features reproductions of Sendak’s early artwork for the book.
I read Where the Wild Things Are aloud hundreds of times to all sorts of groups, and I wound up loving Sendak’s writing as much as his art. The text is so dramatic. And it’s a composition in verse, with a mesmerizing slow beat, repetition, alliteration. Like any good poem, the text of the book inscribes itself in memory. When you read a picture book aloud, it’s so nice to be able to “read” your audience rather than always focusing your eyes on the page.
For terrific rhyming Sendak, of course, you can’t beat Pierre, which is also easy to learn by heart.
I am an author and folklorist based in Portland, Oregon.
The Great Dictionary Caper, illustrated by Eric Comstock (Paula Wiseman Books, Simon & Schuster, 2018)
**Starred reviews from Publishers' Weekly, Kirkus, and Booklist.
Wild About Books, illustrated by Marc Brown. (Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2004). New York Times Bestseller, ALA Notable Book, and winner of the E.B. White Read-Aloud Award.
Imagine That! How Dr. Seuss Wrote 'The Cat in the Hat"
(Random House, 2017). Illustrated by Kevin Hawkes.
*Starred reviews from Publishers' Weekly and Kirkus.