Hoorah for comics!

Had another great day at the Stripdagen comics festival in Haarlem yesterday with Michele Hutchison, my fellow comic-book translator and partner in crime. A couple of the highlights were Guido van Driel’s exhibition and getting books signed by Ype Driessen and Floor de Goede. Hmm, so many comic books waiting to be translated… Hoorah!

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Hidden Like Anne Frank

Today was the launch of Hidden Like Anne Frank at the American Book Center in Amsterdam. Marcel Prins gave a fascinating talk and told us about the research that he and co-author Henk Steenhuis carried out for about the Hidden Like Anne Frank project. The book tells the stories of fourteen Dutch Jews who went into hiding during the war and who survived to talk about their own experiences. We were very privileged to have four of the survivors attend the event and to hear from them in person. Thanks to the American Book Center for hosting the launch!

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A new arrival!

Hoorah! My copies of a great little book that I recently translated just arrived in the post this week, which is always exciting. It’s a Little Golden Book/Gouden Boekje from Uitgeverij Rubinstein, published in collaboration with the Rijksmuseum. The Girl in the Golden Dress, written by Jan Paul Schutten and illustrated by Martijn van der Linden, tells the story of the mysterious little girl at the centre of Rembrandt’s famous painting The Night Watch. Jan Paul’s imaginative and humorous take on the figures in the painting has made me see them in an entirely new light. It’s a beautifully illustrated book that will give young readers a really entertaining introduction to this important work of art.

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Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival

I’ve just returned from a fascinating and eye-opening trip to Sharjah, one of the United Arab Emirates, for the Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival, part of the Sharjah International Book Fair. The festival was huge, featuring around 1700 events, with 124 publishing houses from 17 different countries participating. Unlike book fairs, such as the annual children’s book fair in Bologna, the focus is primarily on children and on encouraging them to read. This meant that the halls were teeming with young readers, and publishing professionals were in the minority. It was great to see such enthusiasm and energy!

One highlight of the visit was a trip to the American University of Sharjah to talk about my work and translating children’s books. I also participated in a very lively panel discussion about translation and cultural issues. It was a pleasure to meet fellow panellists Valérie Le Plouhinec, Musharraf Ali Farooqi, and Heba Fahmy, and moderator Zakaria Ahmad, and it was wonderful to hear so many interesting questions and opinions from the floor.

Many thanks to the Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival for the invitation. It was a great experience and a real meeting of minds and cultures.

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Go, Vincent!

I hear that Barbara Stok’s Vincent, which I translated for SelfMadeHero in the UK, is doing well and has received enthusiastic reviews in the TLS and the Guardian. That’s great news! I really admire Barbara’s work and would love to see some of her autobiographical stories translated into English, too. She’s witty, honest, and easy to relate to. Her recent anthology contains episodes from her life from the age of 20-ish to 40-ish, dealing with relationships, jobs, disappointment, and a whole range of emotions. It’s a book that deserves a wide audience, as her experiences are so very familiar, and her reflections, both light-hearted and serious, are sure to strike a chord with many readers.

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Back from Bologna

Phew! Gosh! Crikey! Just had a fantastic week at the children’s book fair in Bologna. I caught up with some old friends, met some new ones, and saw lots and lots of fabulous books. The scale of the fair and the quality of the books on offer reminds me once again how many great titles out there deserve to be translated, and it’s great to discuss plans for bringing more translated books across the language borders with like-minded publishers, writers, translators and readers. Feeling energized!

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Sydney Taylor Book Award blog tour

I’ve just taken part in the Sydney Taylor Book Award blog tour, along with the authors and illustrators of this year’s winning books. Together with Aline Sax, the author of The War within These Walls, and illustrator Caryl Strzelecki, I made my first stop at Joyce Hostetter’s great blog The 3 R’s – Reading, ‘Riting & Research. We ended the tour today with a great big virtual round table featuring all of the winners at Barbara Krasner’s very appropriately named blog, The Whole Megillah. Thanks very much to Joyce and Barbara for being great hosts!

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Angoulême – there and back again!

I’ve just spent a fine few days in Angoulême at the Festival international de la bande dessinée, the largest comics festival in Europe. My fellow translator Michele Hutchison and I decided that a visit to Angoulême was well overdue, as we’re both big fans of graphic novels and, having worked together on translations of two of Brecht Evens’ books (The Making Of… and The Wrong Place), we thought the comics festival would be the ideal opportunity to check out new books and possible translation projects.

In addition, this year was a big year at Angoulême for the Dutch contingent. With the support of the Dutch Foundation for Literature, the Creative Industries Fund NL, and the Dutch Embassy in France, around twenty big names from the Dutch comics scene created silkscreen prints of their work and made a poster exhibition throughout the city: La bédé est dans la rue. Here’s me very helpfully pointing at some of their work!

And here’s Michele with a more strategically placed pointer…

We had a couple of days of comics, fun, meetings, lunches, watching great interviews with Rutu Modan and Alison Bechdel, and buying books and souvenir mugs. Then we capped it all off with a long and leisurely morning at the fabulous Cité de la bande dessinée, an incredible complex of buildings dedicated to the exhibition of comic books and graphic novels. An absolutely incredible place to visit for any comics fan! I’m sure we’ll be going back to the festival another year. Vaut le voyage!

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Prizes and surprises

Blimey! What an exciting and surprising month it’s been. One of my recent translations, The War within These Walls, written by Aline Sax, illustrated by Caryl Strzelecki, and published by Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, has won a hat-trick of amazing awards in the United States: the Jewish Book Award for Children’s and Young Adult Literature, the Sydney Taylor Book Award silver medal, and a Mildred L. Batchelder honor award. Check out the book trailer for this chilling and important story.

Truus Matti’s Mister Orange, which I translated for the multiple-award-winning Enchanted Lion, won the 2014 Mildred L. Batchelder Award for “the most outstanding children’s book originally published in a language other than English in a country other than the United States, and subsequently translated into English for publication in the United States”. Jenni Desmond designed the beautiful cover.

Both of these books were very deserving winners and I’m so pleased that they’ve received this recognition. Congratulations to everyone involved, from the original publishers, Leopold (Mister Orange) and De Eenhoorn (De kleuren van het getto), to the fabulous US publishers who have enthusiastically selected and published these books in translation. Let’s hope that this encourages more English-language publishers to consider great Dutch and Flemish books for translation!

In other news, I recently had a chat with Mina Witteman, my good friend and SCBWI Regional Advisor for the Netherlands, about translation and about the SCBWI. The interview is on the SCBWI NL website.

I also talked to the lovely Zoe Toft, who’s a keen reader of Dutch children’s literature, about books and about The Letter for the King in particular. Zoe’s posted the interview over at her website Playing by the Book.

Thanks, Zoe and Mina!

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The Letter for the King: More news and reviews

To round off 2013, there have been a couple of lovely articles about Tonke Dragt and The Letter for the King. Philip Womack wrote in Friday’s Guardian that “Tiuri’s search is gripping, delightful and true”. Meanwhile, over on the Dutch side of the water, Pjotr van Lenteren wrote this fine piece in de Volkskrant about Tonke Dragt, Pushkin Press, translated books, and the reception of The Letter for the King.
Here’s to Pushkin Press and to 2014! Cheers!

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