The Blagger's Guide To: Children's books in translation

Once upon a time in Icelandic, Danish, German, French ...

Once upon a time, two bookish parents – one German-American and one French – went looking for the books that they had loved when they were little, in order to read them to their own children. But no English translations existed, so Adam Freudenheim and Stephanie Seegmuller set up a new imprint and published the books themselves. The result is Pushkin Children's Books.

The new imprint has already published The Story of the Blue Planet by Andri Snaer Magnason, an eco-fable with a Roald Dahl-ish dark twist. The book is set on a happy blue planet that has no grown-ups on it, until one arrives on a rocket ship promising to make life much more fun "with flying powder and coated skin so that no one ever has to bathe again". The book won the inaugural Icelandic Literary Prize, has been published in 12 languages, was turned into a play, and has sold 100,000 copies in Iceland alone. The next book, to be published on 4 June, will be Oksa Pollock by Anne Plichota, about a 13-year-old girl with magical powers. It is the first of a series of five books, already translated into 26 languages and dubbed, inevitably, "the French Harry Potter", but this is the first time it has been published in English. The film rights have just been acquired by the production team behind Twilight, so it's coming soon to a 12-year-old near you. Pushkin Children's Books will also publish Kim Fupz Aakeson and Niels Bo Bojesen's adventures of Vitello, a mischievous little Danish boy, which are described as "subtly subversive".

In the UK and Ireland, about 2.5 per cent of all books – 4.5 per cent of fiction, poetry and drama – are translations, according to the latest research by Literature Across Frontiers. That's compared with about 14 per cent of books in France. But although most European countries actively monitor the number of translated books that they publish, the UK does not, and there are no current figures for children's books. It's strange, because some of the best loved children's books in the UK were originally published in other languages.

Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm's Kinder- und Hausmärchen (Children's and Household Tales, 1812) was not originally published for children, but the collection of fairy tales really took off when it was printed in a "small edition" in 1825 with illustrations by brother Ludwig. Grimms' Fairy Tales are now available in 160 languages. When The Adventures of Tintin were first translated into English, for The Eagle comic in 1951, Snowy retained his original French name, Milou. The comic described Tintin as "a French boy". Its translators for Methuen in 1958 worked closely with Hergé to ensure that they captured the word play of the original, instead of translating literally into English. Other favourite children's books that first appeared in languages other than English include The Moomins, Asterix, the stories of Hans Christian Andersen, Pippi Longstocking and Emil and the Detectives.

The 2013 Marsh Award, for Children's Literature in Translation, was won by Howard Curtis for his translation of In the Sea there are Crocodiles, by Fabio Geda. It was presented by Daniel Hahn, who stressed that literature in translation "isn't less important for children, but more. How could it not be vital for readers who are uniquely open to explorations of their own language; how can it not be essential for readers who, just now, are beginning to define the horizons of their experiences of the world."

Arts and Entertainment
Jude Law in Black Sea

film

In Black Seahe is as audiences have never seen him before

Arts and Entertainment
Johnny Depp no longer cares if people criticise his movie flops

film

Arts and Entertainment
Full circle: Wu-Tang’s Method Man Getty

Music review

Arts and Entertainment
When he was king: Muhammad Ali training in 'I Am Ali'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film Ridley Scott reveals truth behind casting decisions of Exodus
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Scare tactics: Michael Palin and Jodie Comer in ‘Remember Me’

TVReview: Remember Me, BBC1
Arts and Entertainment
Scare tactics: Michael Palin and Jodie Comer in ‘Remember Me’

TVReview: Remember Me, BBC1
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Arts and Entertainment
Image has been released by the BBC
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Will there ever be a Friends reunion?
TV
News
Harry Hill plays the Professor in the show and hopes it will help boost interest in science among young people
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
A Van Gogh sold at Sotheby’s earlier this month
art
Arts and Entertainment

MusicThe band accidentally called Londoners the C-word

Arts and Entertainment
It would 'mean a great deal' to Angelina Jolie if she won the best director Oscar for Unbroken

Film 'I've never been comfortable on-screen', she says

Arts and Entertainment
Winnie the Pooh has been branded 'inappropriate' in Poland
books
Arts and Entertainment
Lee Evans is quitting comedy to spend more time with his wife and daughter

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
American singer, acclaimed actor of stage and screen, political activist and civil rights campaigner Paul Robeson (1898 - 1976), rehearses in relaxed mood at the piano.
filmSinger, actor, activist, athlete: Paul Robeson was a cultural giant. But prejudice and intolerance drove him to a miserable death. Now his story is to be told in film...
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is dominating album and singles charts worldwide

music
Arts and Entertainment
Kieron Richardson plays gay character Ste Hay in Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Midge Ure and Sir Bob Geldof outside the Notting Hill recording studios for Band Aid 30

music
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

    Christmas Appeal

    Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
    Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

    Is it always right to try to prolong life?

    Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

    What does it take for women to get to the top?

    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
    Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

    Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

    Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
    French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

    French chefs campaign against bullying

    A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

    Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
    Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

    Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

    Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
    Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

    Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

    Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
    Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

    Paul Scholes column

    I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
    Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
    Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

    Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

    The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
    Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

    Sarkozy returns

    The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
    Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

    Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

    Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
    Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

    Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

    Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game