Translators do an amazing job of sharing beautiful books from around the world with speakers of their native language, but there are so many we haven’t yet read. Living in both the UK and France, I see so many gorgeous books that I wish would cross the borders to enlighten new audiences with stories and cultures they do not know. According to a survey by Literature Across Frontiers, a mere 587 translations were published in the UK in 2011 and only 60 of those were children’s books.
The survey said “…are translations of books for children and young adults not of cultural importance? They are, particularly when we take into consideration the impact of translations from English on young readers abroad. Do we not wish that more children’s books from other cultures were available to young readers in Britain?”
Here are three wonderful French picture books I think should be translated into English.
Le Secret des fleurs de neige by Nancy Guilbert, illustrated by Nina Missir
Published by Editions Courtes et Longues, this is the story of a little girl amazed by the beauty of the “snow flowers” that fall from the sky. It is her friend Wilson Bentley who shares nature’s magic with her, showing her that no two snowflakes are the same. Inspired by the scientific work of Bentley who captured the snowflakes he called “ice flowers” on black velvet to photograph them before they melted, this story is the transmission of a secret that all children come to discover.
L’histoire extraordinaire d’Adam R. – Le nain qui devint géant by Didier Lévy, illustrated by Tiziana Romanin.
Beautifully illustrated, this is the story of Adam, a dwarf who suddenly began to grow and never stopped. Told by Adam’s neighbour, who becomes his personal shoemaker because of Adam’s ever growing feet, it talks of friendship and differences and the impact those we love make on our lives. Again, this book is inspired by a real person, Adam Rainer who was born with dwarfism but who, after a dramatic growth spurt, reached a height of 7 ft 8 inches! Published by Éditions Sarbacane.
Le Vilain Défaut by Anne-Gaëlle Balpe, illustrated by Csil
The protagonist, a little boy, was born with a difficulty, a difference that has been called a “flaw”. The nature of this difference, represented in the pictures by a yellow scribble, is never revealed, but is some sort of mental disability. It stops him from making friends and concentrating at school, but with the doctor’s encouragement and “magic spell” he learns to control it and flourish. A book that shows how people can live with difficulties that don’t necessarily show on the outside, and one that encourages perseverance, acceptance and kindness. Published by Marmaille et Compagnie.