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Five Translators on the Joys and Challenges of Translating Children’s Books

By Emma Ramadan

Emma Ramadan, whose recent translations include Who Left the Light On? and The Boy (co-translated with Tom Roberge), spoke with five top translators—of Spanish, Japanese, Portuguese, German, Italian, and Dutch—about their experiences bringing children’s books from around the world into English.

In recent years, more and more children’s imprints have cropped up within US publishers of translated literature. To name a few, Elsewhere Editions from Archipelago Books, Yonder from Restless Books, and Europa’s YA publications have now joined long-established children’s imprints at Aurora Metro Books, Pushkin Press, and Enchanted Lion Books. At a time when understanding different perspectives seems like our best hope for a kind and sane world, exposing the youngest members of our society to different viewpoints seems like the perfect place to start.

When I was asked to translate Who Left the Light On? by Richard Marnier and Aude Maurel for Restless Books, I knew that it would be difficult, but I didn’t understand exactly in what ways. 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.

I felt a ring of satisfaction when I finally was able to get all the lines to rhyme the way they did in the original, until I considered that not only did the lines have to rhyme, not only did they have to correspond to the images, and not only did they have to sound good in English, but they also had to be appealing to children. Obvious, yes, but something I had no idea would be so difficult. What do American readers of picture books want to hear? How do we judge what children will enjoy? Will children in the US respond to the same ideas as children of the original language culture? This was new territory for me, and it opened my eyes to just how complex the process of translating children’s literature really is.

The other challenges and joys of translating international children’s literature are numerous. Working with the minimal text on the page, how the words work with the images, the assumptions publishers have about what children want, the puns, the wordplay, the nicknames, the titles, the invented languages. Needless to say, I have great respect for translators such as Daniel Hahn, Denise Muir, Lawrence Schimel, Ginny Tapley Takemori, and Laura Watkinson, who have made so many delightful titles for young readers available in an exciting English that begs to be read aloud again and again.


Emma Ramadan: What draws you to translating children’s literature and how do you choose your projects?

Daniel Hahn:
I was very involved in the world of children’s books some time before really getting into translation, in fact; but the two things ran in parallel for a while, before I was able to actually combine them and translate children’s books. Children’s/YA books are probably the books I understand the best. Of late, I’ve been doing a lot of picture books in particular, which are a special delight and a special challenge—due to the precision required in an incredibly spare text, combined with the importance of maintaining all the read-aloud workings and, most vital of all, the constraints/opportunities presented by the relationship with the images. There’s nothing I enjoy translating more, really. In more general terms, my choice of projects depends on all kinds of criteria—it might be a writer I love, possible someone I’ve worked with before, or an editor I’ve always wanted to do a book with, or just something that is quick and easy and will help to pay the rent when I’ve got a little gap in the schedule. I mostly do love the books I translate, but this is also what I do for a living, so I’m not precious about my practice either!

Denise Muir: When my daughter was young, I was living in Italy and working in commercial translation to earn a living but reading stories to children in primary schools and libraries to stay sane. We did so many fun things with the books that I was selecting—usually English books I had at home that I would translate into Italian or find Italian versions of—that one of the teachers asked why I didn’t do it as a job. Children’s stories instead of washing machine manuals? Why, of course, why didn’t I? The decision to make the move into literary translation was a bit of a no-brainer! I passionately believe that by letting children explore and experience stories—in whatever format the child is most comfortable with—you open up a world of possibility and trigger thoughts and conversations that would otherwise be difficult to access. 

Even as an adult reading stories out loud or just reading them to myself, I feel like I can step out of my adult persona and go back to seeing the world through a child’s eyes—a world in which anything can happen and where people can be whoever they want to be. I find it refreshing, relaxing, exciting, and absolutely in tune with who I am as a person. I like to be entertained by what I read, and I love translating books that were written to engage and entertain, which means I tend to go for action stories with a strong plot, lots of twists and turns, and strong characters, and that are very dialogue-driven. And stories that take me to places that I have never traveled to! As a child I wasn’t a big fan of history. I found remembering dates and places really difficult (I still do!). But when I come across them as part of a story—in a historical novel, for example—it becomes so much easier. Because it’s contextualized and you have fun while you’re learning it. That's what children’s books mean to me. 

However, I have to mention the developmental aspect as well. From my classroom experiences of using diverse and inclusive stories as a springboard for conversations about identity, rights, or any moral issue that might be important at a particular point in time of their development, I am also very drawn to “issue books,” or books which challenge stereotypes and invite reflection on the world around us. 

Ginny Tapley Takemori: This is where I throw up my hands and confess I feel something of a fraud, since I am primarily a literary translator, not specifically a children’s literature translator. The two books that I have translated for children came to me when a publisher I was working with (Pushkin Press) asked me if I would be interested. Another book not yet published was also proposed to me by the publisher. Having said that, there are a few children’s books that I am interested in and might pursue at some point. These are books that I’ve either noticed in reviews or browsing bookstores. Another way I hear about children’s books is by translating (with two other colleagues) a yearly catalogue showcasing Japanese children’s literature published by the JBBY (Japanese Board on Books for Young People).

Lawrence Schimel: Children’s literature is often presented as a single entity or concept, but it’s actually a big sprawling thing, encompassing everything from board books for the very young to YA fiction dealing with some very “adult” issues or themes. We’re talking about nearly two decades of very different life experiences, and reading experiences, which don’t neatly or easily fit within that catchall rubric. Although I, as a reader, am interested in all of it.

And I’m lucky enough to be able to read in more than one language and to become enthusiastic about books I find and want to share with readers in another tongue. I tend to translate mostly picture books and middle-grade novels. (Age ranges, however, don’t map exactly between languages and cultures; sometimes, a book might win a YA award in the original Spanish but my translation into English will be published as middle grade in the US.) I’ve published over sixty picture books as an author, so it’s an area I’m very drawn to as a creator as well.

I think I’m sometimes asked to translate books (by publishers looking to publish and/or sell rights, agents, authors themselves, etc.) primarily into English or into Spanish because I am known as someone who writes kidzbooks in both languages and also as a translator. (Lately, most of the kidzbooks I’ve been asked to translate into Spanish have been in rhyme, even though I had never written a rhyming children’s book in Spanish until just recently, after having been asked to translate a half dozen of them; I am also a poet for adults and kids and have translated over thirty books of non-rhyming poetry, as well.) So there is some recommending going on by others within the field or publishers finding me because of my own books or other books I’ve translated.

But I also fall in love with projects and try and contact the publishers to see if the rights are available and pitch them to publishers. Children live in the world and ideally should have access to cultures and stories from all over. Since publishing worlds tend to be much more insular, often the books I fall in love with and go to bat for are the stories that aren’t otherwise being told. Although I find that one of the issues I run up against, translating from Spanish into English, is that editors tend to only want books in translation that are performative about the country or language they’re from. That is, if they’re not stories that are somehow about latinidad, it’s a really tough sell. Although I think that those other stories are precisely the ones publishers need to be interested in, because they offer new perspectives and new visions on universal themes. So I keep trying!

Laura Watkinson: I’ve never really stopped reading children’s literature, and I’m always drawn to a good plot as well as beautiful writing. Plots do tend to be quite important in children’s literature, of course. I’m also a huge fan of illustrated books and can spend hours looking through the picture-book sections of bookshops. So I guess I’m drawn to translate the kind of literature that I enjoy reading. That also applies to the books that I translate for older readers, a.k.a. adults. When I’m deciding which books I’d like to work on, I always ask myself if I’ll be happy to spend a good few months, or even a year or more, with that book and those characters.

My approach as a translator of children’s lit is the same as my approach as an author of children’s lit: respect the reader’s intelligence.

Emma Ramadan: What is your approach to translating children’s literature? If you also translate literature for adults or other kinds of books, how does your approach differ?

Laura Watkinson:
I don’t think my approach to literature for children or adults differs that much. I generally do a quick first draft to get an idea of the general shape of the text and of the issues it might present. At that point, there’ll still be quite a lot of the original language left in the document so that I can refer to it on the next pass. The second draft takes considerably longer, and that’s where I’ll start polishing the text. There might still be some tricky bits and alternatives left at that stage. Then I’ll read and reread the translation over and over, chopping and changing and gradually moving toward the version that will go to the editor. After the editor’s looked at the translation, there’ll then be another round or two of tweaks. One thing that I do like to do is to read the text aloud. That’s not so practical for longer books, but I’ll always do it with picture books, for example. I don’t like to think of some poor soul trying to read the book out loud and stumbling over the words! My audience is typically my husband, Pete, who’ll sometimes read the story to me too, and my two cats, Bear and Sasha.

Lawrence Schimel: My approach as a translator of children’s lit is the same as my approach as an author of children’s lit: respect the reader’s intelligence. I don’t think there are any taboo subjects, as long as one approaches them in a way that brings the issue to a young person’s frame of reference. I don’t automatically “tone down” my vocabulary because I’m writing for younger readers, although on rewriting, I might make sure that enough context is given to bring the reader by the hand to the meaning. (I certainly loved, and still love, learning cool, new words when I read, whether fiction or poetry, and I will often jot down ones with nice euphony or unexpected meanings—or if I’m reading on public transport, I’ll take a picture of the paragraph with my phone so as not to “lose” that new word.)

I will sometimes flag things that may be or become problematic in translation. Spanish, for instance, tends to be very descriptive in a way that in English can be offensive or insulting. So you might have a character named El Calvo, or someone will address someone else as “Oye, calvo,” and calling someone “Baldie” in English comes across quite differently. Even more problematic, in one middle-grade novel there was a character who was simply called El Negro, whereas all the other characters had nicknames based on their origin: the Russian, the Spaniard, etc. I discussed it with my editor and we asked the author to rename the character in English, giving him an origin-based nickname to be consistent (and less offensive/insensitive), which the author (eventually, after listening to our reasoning) agreed to do. (It is so hard these days for books to be translated, so anything that might flag a gatekeeper—reviewer, librarian, etc.—to block a book on otherwise avoidable grounds should be avoided.)

Ginny Tapley Takemori: I think for novels or short stories for older children or young adults, my approach doesn’t fundamentally change: I translate the book the way it speaks to me, trying to capture its voice, and recreating its world in a way that it will speak to English readers, in much the same way the original speaks to Japanese readers. In the case of a picture book I have translated but which is not yet published, I found that because there are fewer words, the way those words are used are much more playful, so I also had to be playful in my translation. For example, I had to consider the meaning behind the names of characters and places and come up with new names in English to reflect those. The dialogue was also more playful than in novels, so I had to work to bring that across too. This was a lot of fun, and it made me want to do more picture books too!

Daniel Hahn: In the most basic sense, my approach is no different—figure out what the words are doing and write something that does that same thing. Deconstruct a sentence in, say, Portuguese (voice, rhythm, register, meaning) and then reconstruct it identically, except now built from all new words. There are particular things that children’s books require or allow—how much I might gloss, for example, or what does this sound like when read aloud, or how solidly does my new pun relate to the old image?—but the principle’s no different. But also, of course, “children’s literature” can be The Hunger Games or The Very Hungry Caterpillar, so it’s pretty hard to generalize. (I’ve done pretty much everything across that span, I think.)

Words and pictures talk to each other . . . Just making a new text is only a part of it—you’re weaving something into a whole in which words, pictures, sound, and architecture should all work together.

Emma Ramadan: What are some of the challenges of translating children’s books? What’s a specific challenge you’ve had to face in one of your projects? What are some of the joys of translating children’s books?

Denise Muir:
I am very aware of readability when I translate children’s books (if the text stumbles or uses a register or construction that doesn’t flow perfectly, then young readers will be quick to switch off!) and also of the authenticity of the characters. I make sure I step away from what might be “my voice” and am extremely attentive to the voices that the author has given the characters. It’s important to always remember who is speaking and thinking and reacting in the story. Is it a ten-year-old girl protagonist? When I write her dialogue, I try very hard to visualize her in my head, then imagine how her English-speaking equivalent would say and do the same thing. Making the characters sound real means making sure the language and references I use in the translation are relevant to the context and experience of a ten-year-old in the way the author imagined her (for example, if she’s like Mina in David Almond’s books, she’ll have her very own way of seeing the world!). In practice, one of the first places you would see this is in the word choices. The differences between English and Italian are even more noticeable in children’s writing. You have to remove a lot of the higher register Latinate words and find more idiomatic English equivalents to suit the voice you’re translating, to make sure they sound like they would believably come out of the mouth our ten-year-old protagonist. Secondly, sentence-structure. Italian syntax is generally more complex, and while this can make for a poetic or literary read in adult prose, in children’s writing I think this characteristic has to be reined in a little.

Finally, a lot of the children’s books I translate have humor in them, and this can bring a whole new set of dilemmas. The same things are not always funny in different cultural contexts, so it’s important to be familiar with both and try to find something equivalent to elicit the same laughs in the target context. The language in which the joke or punch line is framed is equally crucial: you have to use all the tools you have at your disposal in order to pitch it just right: rhythm, cadence, register, literary devices, musicality. It all has to slot in seamlessly. This is where the experience of reading aloud is useful. When I read my translations back, if they make me giggle or make my daughter smile, then I know I’ve got it right. But if I end up garbling it and the joke falls flat, then I know it needs more work. 

Daniel Hahn: Picture books are often the hardest because their workings are incredibly sophisticated (if they’re any good) and multidimensional. Words and pictures talk to each other—or against each other—in interesting ways. Just making a new text is only a part of it—you’re weaving something into a whole in which words, pictures, sound, and architecture should all work together.

Laura Watkinson: I think it’s important to get the title right, and there seem to be differing opinions on what that means in various markets. One-word titles are quite common in the Netherlands, for example. I recently translated a fantastic Dutch book by Annet Schaap for Pushkin Press, which is called Lampje in the Dutch, the diminutive form of “lamp,” which is the nickname of the book’s heroine. Firstly, I played around with various versions for her nickname, before eventually deciding to keep close to the original and go with “Lampie.” Then the editor, author, and I had a big old email discussion about how well that would work as a title in English, just that one single word, and whether it might prove a barrier for some readers. We settled on a longer title: Lampie and the Children of the Sea, which I believe was the editor’s suggestion. I think it’s an evocative title with a nice rhythm to it, and it also serves the story well.

Rhyming picture books are a fun challenge too. I recently had a great experience translating Hey, Who’s in the Loo? by Harmen van Straaten, a lovely guy whose work is a delight to translate. It’s a cheeky story about a bunch of animals who are waiting to use the bathroom, which worked quite nicely for the UK publisher Red Robin Books, as “poo” handily rhymes with “loo” in the UK.

One of the real joys of translating children’s books is when a young reader says that your translation is their favorite book. It’s happened to me a few times now, and every time I get that warm glow.

Lawrence Schimel: The most challenging things to translate are definitely rhyming, illustrated books. What rhymes in one language often doesn’t rhyme in the target language, so you need to pick one of the key end words and find new rhymes for it. Always keeping in mind the existing illustrations and not contradicting the visual narrative that’s going on. It can be quite tricky, but it’s so satisfying when you manage to pull it off.

The joys: recreating puns or wordplay in the target language. So much fun! Especially rewarding are things like inventing a nickname in the target language that works as well as the original.

Ginny Tapley Takemori: My two published children’s books are both about World War II. I think it’s important that children do read about the war, and it is useful for them to read about it from different perspectives. Ultimately, wherever you live, whichever “side” you’re on, ordinary lives are disrupted in terrible ways. Tomiko Inui’s The Secret of the Blue Glass is very much a children’s book, while Akiyuki Nosaka’s The Whale That Fell in Love with a Submarine is a collection of fables featuring children and animals, told largely from the perspective of a child (which is how the author experienced the war), but the stories are very hard-hitting and I did not really feel they were originally intended for children. It appears that the translator of the French edition, which is how the publisher came to know about it, had adapted it considerably for children, but personally I consider my job is not to adapt but to translate a book as close to the way the author intended it as possible. I absolutely love these stories and think they are suitable for older children/young adults, but young children would certainly find them too upsetting. And Pushkin has now also released a new edition featuring all twelve stories under their regular imprint.

I love seeing and hearing children discuss deeper issues . . . seeing how empowered they feel when you ask their opinions about things.

Emma Ramadan: Have you noticed any trends or ideas in kids’ books in the language you translate from that are missing from the kids’ books currently being published in English?

Lawrence Schimel:
In picture books, original English books tend to have very few words per page. Many other cultures, and most of the Spanish-speaking world, tend to have longer texts, with more story.

I think that non-English books tend to also deal with what in English is considered “older” subject matter at much younger age ranges. That is to say, there is less “protecting” children from the world and more acknowledging that they live in the world, and hence any real world issue or problem or concern can be a subject for a kidzbook (so they can learn how to deal with it).

Curiously, I think that YA in the English market is much more advanced and progressive in terms of these sorts of social issues and concerns and definitely tends to push the envelope on a global scale.

Laura Watkinson: I would tentatively say that children’s books from Flanders, the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium, can tend to be a little more dark and daring in terms of their themes (sex, death, dementia) and also in their illustrations. Marita De Sterck has written some great books that combine gripping plots with dark and hidden aspects of folklore and Belgian history. Some Flemish illustrators create real works of art in the form of picture books, often producing images that are more challenging and sometimes more abstract than young readers would typically see in English-speaking countries. I think it’s very refreshing when these great art books enter and enrich the English-language market, and I’d love to see lots more picture books in translation, as I think that’s perhaps where the differences between markets are clearest. One fabulous wordless picture book I’ve seen recently is Tierenduin (Whose Zoo?) by Geert Vervaeke—lots of images of animals that merge with other animals in a fun and puzzling way. It’s great fun figuring out which animals are on each page. The Flemish illustrator Carll Cneut is a personal favorite too. I’ve just finished an interesting project for the amazing and innovative publisher Book Island, based in the UK: The Golden Cage, a fabulous and very dark picture book by the Italian author Anna Castagnoli, illustrated by Carll Cneut in a fantastically appropriate and very artistic style, which isn’t like any books I’ve seen in the UK and US, and I think and hope that readers will be blown away by both the writing and the illustration.

It’s tricky to generalize about trends though, I think. Flanders also has great artistic illustrators who create really bright and cheerful work, such as Tom Schamp, Fatinha Ramos, and Pieter Gaudesaboos. And that’s just Flanders. There are also things I could say about the Netherlands, Italy, Germany. Oh, and Iceland and the Faroes, where I spent some weeks last year, and I obviously couldn’t resist nosing around in the children’s literature sections of the bookshops there and coming home with a stack of new books.

Daniel Hahn: I don’t know the children’s book world in all my source cultures very well—it would be impossible, really—but it’s a fair guess that we’re missing out! It’s true that there are great things being published across the Anglophone children’s book world, probably more interesting than ever in some respects, which is of course excellent news; but there are still lazy (and exclusivist) assumptions about what children want, there are still entrenched old taboos, there are still risk-aversions right up the chain—so yes, we need a whole lot more coming in from outside, which is something I’m working on right now.

Ginny Tapley Takemori: One thing I notice in Japanese literature generally, and this is also true of children’s literature, I think, is that there is less of a clear-cut distinction between good and bad, with more gray areas in between. This makes for more complexity, which I feel is closer to real life.

Denise Muir: A lot of writing in Italian, even for young children, tends to be quite profound and lyrical, metaphorical even, and it is not always as wacky and laugh-out-loud funny as I see in books in the UK. I love seeing and hearing children discuss deeper issues, hearing their take on them, seeing how empowered they feel when you ask their opinions about things, seeing how pleased they are with when they express something that’s important to them and other people listen, and I think there’s a real gap in the market for this kind of thing in the UK. For example, how often do you see a young reader’s novel or a picture book that introduces children to notions of philosophy as part of the story? Or that deals with gender identity? Or that reflects difficult but lesser-known times in European history that are never touched on in UK schools? There is a lot of narrative nonfiction to be tapped into.

I translate the book the way it speaks to me, trying to capture its voice, and recreating its world in a way that it will speak to English readers.

Emma Ramadan: What’s a recent or forthcoming translation of yours that you’re excited about?

Ginny Tapley Takemori:
I’m thrilled that The Secret of the Blue Glass was the first ever translation longlisted for the Carnegie Award, and it was also shortlisted for the Marsh Award and the inaugural Global Literature in Libraries Initiative Award. It’s wonderful to see this book, written over half a century ago and a beloved classic in Japan, get so much attention in translation.

Daniel Hahn: I’ll choose two books (if that’s not too greedy), which couldn’t be more different—both picture books, both from French. The latest is Encyclopedia of Grannies by Eric Veillé, and it’s odd and very silly and full of delightful wordplay and bold block color; the next is The Big Little Thing by Beatrice Alemagna, which is beautiful and quiet and economical and incredibly delicate. They’re different beasts entirely—not sure how I’d go about choosing between them if I had to. (Please don’t make me!) And there are plenty of others besides.

Laura Watkinson: There are a couple that I’ve mentioned already, Lampie and the Children of the Sea and The Golden Cage, for which Book Island are running a Kickstarter. I’m also particularly fond of Spiky by Ilaria Guarducci (Amazon Crossing Kids), a really touching and funny picture-book story about a grumpy little spiky creature who loves being bad, but then he loses his spikes, becoming as soft and pink as a soft, pink marshmallow, and he starts to question his life choices. What makes it such a great book for me is that I can’t help smiling at the pictures and Spiky’s expressions every single time I read it—and who reads a book more times than its translator does?

Lawrence Schimel: While Icelandic is not one of my active languages, when I was an undergrad I studied Old Norse and so a few years ago, armed with my dictionaries, I laboriously undertook to translate a picture book by a friend of mine, the author-illustrator Áslaug Jónsdóttir, into Spanish. Ég vil fisk! (I Want Fish!) is a fun story about a very young girl just learning to speak whose parents think they know what she wants, even though she keeps telling them what she wants. (She wants fish for dinner but they keep feeding her anything but fish and giving her objects with fish on them: a fish doll, a dress with a fish pattern, a puzzle of a fish, etc.) I’ve been showing it to Spanish-language publishers for years and finally found a publisher who bought the rights—in Galician. Again, Galician is not one of my active languages but since I do translate some Galician poets into English and did self-translate my own work into it for four bilingual Galician-English picture books published back in 2010, I asked to translate the project. In many ways the Galician translation is closer to the Icelandic than the Spanish, because Spanish distinguishes between fish to be eaten (pescado) and any other kind of fish (pez) whereas Galician and Icelandic both use a single word. Quero peixe! will be published by Alvarellos Editora in just a few months.

The next translations into English that are coming out are a series of four books (one for each season) written and illustrated by Carles Porta, published by Flying Eye Books, called Tales from the Hidden Valley. Daniel Hahn translated two of the books (Autumn and Winter), and I translated the other two (Spring and Summer). It’s a very Moominslike series, in both style and feel.

Denise Muir: I’m working on an epic adventure, set during the Siege of Leningrad, by an absolute master storyteller, Davide Morosinotto. It has everything I love about a story, all of the things I mentioned above: place and period, characters, humor, twists, clever use of dialogue, not to mention a highly original narrative structure. It’s an absolute joy to work on and I feel like I’m out there with the characters as they cross the continent, fighting their battles, feeling their pain, seeing the world through their eyes as I sit in my little living room, in my little house, in my little corner of Scotland. It truly is the best job ever being a children’s book translator! 


Daniel Hahn is a writer, editor, and translator. His translations include fiction by José Eduardo Agualusa and José Luís Peixoto, and nonfiction by writers ranging from Portuguese Nobel literature laureate José Saramago to Brazilian footballer Pelé. He is a past chair of the UK Translators Association and interim director of the British Centre for Literary Translation.

Denise Muir has been translating since 1998 and ventured into literary translation in 2014, when Litro published her first short story. Since then she has published short novels, picture and educational books, and a YA novel with Barrington Stoke’s The Bucket List in 2016. Her translations have been featured in anthologies and guides to outstanding international fiction for young readers. Denise writes a blog about inclusive children’s books, was involved in the Translators in Schools program, works with local libraries to promote reading in the community when she’s in Italy, performs as a storyteller in Italian and English, and collaborates with the Italian Children Writers Association, Outside In World, and a literary agency publishing strong voices for young readers. ​

Lawrence Schimel writes in both Spanish and English and has published over 100 titles as author or anthologist in various genres and for all ages, including the poetry collection Desayuno en la cama; the graphic novel Vacaciones en Ibiza; and many children’s books, including ¡Vamos a ver a papá!, ¿Como se dice?, and Volando cometasUna barba para dos (Spain, Dos Bigotes) is his first book of fiction for adults written in Spanish. His picture book No hay nada como el orginal (Destino) was selected by the International Youth Library in Munich for the White Ravens 2005, and his picture books ¿Lees un libro conmigo? (Panamericana) and Igual que ellos/Just Like Them (Ediciones del Viento) were selected by IBBY for Outstanding Books for Young People with Disabilities. His other awards include the Lambda Literary Award, the Independent Publisher Book Award, and the Spectrum Award. In addition to his own writing, he works as a Spanish-English literary translator.​

Ginny Tapley Takemori lives in rural Japan and has translated fiction by more than a dozen early modern and contemporary Japanese writers, ranging from such early literary giants as Izumi Kyoka and Okamoto Kido, to contemporary bestsellers Ryu Murakami and Miyabe Miyuki. Her translations have also appeared in GrantaFreeman’sWords Without Borders, and a number of anthologies. Her translation of Tomiko Inui’s The Secret of the Blue Glass was shortlisted for the Marsh Award, and her translation of Sayaka Murata’s Akutagawa prize-winning novel Convenience Store Woman was one of the New Yorker’s best books of 2018 and Foyle’s Book of the Year 2018. Her translation of Kyoko Nakajima’s Naoki prize-winning The Little House was published in February 2019. 

Laura Watkinson translates from Dutch, Italian, and German into English. Her projects range from children’s picture books to adult novels and comics. She lives in Amsterdam.  


Read WWB’s interviews with publishers of children’s literature in translation

Read Denise Muir’s dispatch from the 2018 Bologna Children’s Book Fair

Read WWB’s issue of YA writing from around the world

Read WWB’s issue featuring stories of parents and children

Read Michele Hutchison’s “What the Happiest Kids in the World Are Reading”

Read Rivka Galchen’s “A Holiday Gift Guide to Children’s Literature in Translation”


Published Apr 3, 2019   Copyright 2019 Emma Ramadan

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