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.
This new study from University of Michigan's C.S. Mott Children's Hospital and involving 37 parent/toddler pairs, found that adults and children interacted with one another less with e-books than with print books. The research was published in the journal Pediatrics, from the American Academy of Pediatrics, and has gotten a lot of media attention, including Perri Klass' article in the New York Times.
I guess you could file this study under D for "Duh!" but it can't be said enough times. Picture books are the very best way for an adult to have an interesting conversation with a toddler.
Todd Bol, the founder of the Little Free Library movement, has passed away, and far too soon. The Little Free Libraries—75,000 of them worldwide—are a tribute to the power of one good person with one good idea.
My Portland neighborhood is blessed with at least five Little Free Libraries. There is the tiny Tardis that plays the Dr. Who theme when you open the door (apparently one of many such Tardii, a reminder that books are time travelers). There are two little libraries on the main business street of our Multnomah Village neighborhood. Hopeful children check them often, although these boxes frequently offer only religious screeds and adult self-help titles. I try to add picture books whenever I can.
Our poodle Keiko is fond of the Little Free Library that includes a drawer filled with canine treats. Another library, a miniature replica of the owner's house, offers a water dish for dogs.
These little book stands have vastly expanded the promise of all libraries and bookstores, that a book you find there might change your life!
For the 30th anniversary of the publication of Roald Dahl's Matilda, Dahl's long-time illustrator Quentin Blake imagined what Matilda might be doing at the age of 30.
“Since, as a small child, Matilda was gifted in several ways," said Blake, "it wasn’t very difficult. I imagined that for each version of our grown-up Matilda one of her extraordinary talents and achievements would have come to the fore and shown her a role in life."
Unions have been good to me. At the Los Angeles Public Library, SEIU negotiated to get us librarians’ paid at the same rate as other city employees with masters’ degrees. At the time, librarians' salaries were lower than, say, city planners and employees in other male-dominated professions. When I worked on children’s television, I joined the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. After the show ended and went into reruns, the residuals I earned qualified me for full family medical benefits, thanks to the union. This safety net helped me get started as a freelancer.
When I began getting paid for my writing, I couldn’t wait to join the Authors Guild. It was a matter of pride at first: I was officially part of the literary establishment. Later, the Guild’s legal services advised me on two contracts. With help from their fantastic tech support staff, I used the AG website service to build my first author site. And like any good union, the Authors Guild made it possible for me to be a part of something much bigger than myself, fighting for the rights of all writers to control and to be fairly compensated for their work. The Guild is a legal powerhouse.
To any authors who read this: Please, please, join. Dues are on a sliding scale based on income.
A patas monkey and its preferred tree, the whistling thorn acacia, may have inspired Dr. Seuss's famous character and his Truffula trees.
The New York Times ran a piece about this, but it's definitely worth looking at the source, a paper in the journal Nature, Ecology and Evolution. The authors—three anthropologists (Nathaniel J. Dominy, Sandra Winters ,and James P. Higham) and a Dr. Seuss biographer (Donald E. Pease)--build their case on both scientific and literary detective work. The article is fun, it's convincing, and it will no doubt become a popular resource in middle school and high school classes. For example, the authors' applied facial recognition-type technology to certain monkeys, along with both the Lorax and a character from Dr. Seuss's The Foot Book. Graphics are included. The authors created a timeline of notes and sketches to argue that Dr. Seuss's encounter with African plants and animals played a pivotal role in the development of the book.
The Nature, Ecology and Evolution article could easily be the basis for lessons about artistic creativity, historical sleuthing, scientific method, and academic vocabulary. And we writers may wonder if and how Dr. Seuss missed making an important connection in the story.
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.