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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A right royal reception

Thanks very much to Rick and the team at the American Book Center in Amsterdam for providing such a great location for the Dutch launch of The Letter of the King on Saturday. I teamed up with translator David Colmer to give a short presentation of some Dutch children’s books that we’ve translated. David gave a reading of some of his fabulous translations of Annie M.G. Schmidt’s poems from A Pond Full of Ink, and I read the brief first chapter of The Letter for the King, which has a great cliffhanger of a final sentence.

The ABC put on a fine party, with Jip and Janneke treats for the children and drinks for everyone. I hope it’s the first of many celebrations of translation in this wonderful setting!

Buy the book! (subliminal advertising)

The Letter for the King has been getting some great reviews. I’m so pleased to have been part of bringing this book to an English-speaking audience and I hope it does very well for Pushkin Press.

A selection of reviews:

The Guardian said: “Set in the Middle Ages, this delightful book reads like a grown-up version of the ‘classic’ children’s books (think Swallows and Amazons, Black Beauty, The Hobbit, King Arthur etc) I devoured when younger. The plot is central, and extremely gripping, but the writing also delivers lovely detail and evocative description, which makes the story seem very real, offering you so much more than many of today’s teen page-turners.”

Over at Love Reading 4 Kids, the wonderful Julia Eccleshare said “Gripping from its opening moment onwards, this award-winning book doesn’t miss a beat from its thrilling beginning to its satisfying ending.”

Eileen Battersby at the Irish Times also gave The Letter for the King a lovely review. “A fast-moving, wonderful old-style adventure… cinematic in its visual detail… a European classic … far loftier than Harry Potter and beautifully presented in this most attractive edition.”

Amanda Craig at The Times said that “Pushkin Press deserves every praise for publishing this beautifully translated, well-presented and captivating book.” Unfortunately, the review isn’t available online and, even more unfortunately, The Times have just made the huge mistake of firing Amanda, one of the UK’s greatest experts on children’s literature. Her reviews are always a fascinating read and her recommendations are well respected by readers and within the industry. The Children’s Writers’ and Illustrators’ Group (CWIG) at the Society of Authors is organizing a petition to support Amanda. Let’s hope that the financial people listen. Rather than trying to save a little cash, consider the value of children’s literature. Reinstate Amanda Craig!

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Super Fantasy Zone

No, not the excellent game for the Sega Mega Drive, but the most excellent World Fantasy Con 2013, which was held this year in Brighton. I’ve been going to British Fantasy Con for years, but World Fantasy Con is its very big sister, with over a thousand writers, agents, publishers and, of course, translators from all over the world, including big names such as Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett, Susan Cooper, Joanne Harris and Joe Hill. It’s been such a whirl and great fun to see old friends and meet people from Twitter and Facebook in person. My highlights include Patrick Rothfuss’s booming reading of his story “How Old Holly Came to Be” and Rob Shearman’s awe-inspiring happy dance. The low point was perhaps a translation panel called “Lost in Translation” (sheesh, tired cliché) consisting of six white males, which was quite an achievement, considering the number of female translators in every branch of the translation industry. Griping aside, however, it was a fantastic fantasy convention and I was grateful for the opportunity to present my translation of Tonke Dragt’s The Letter for the King (to be published on 14 November!) as part of the Reading Café’s programme. Thanks, everyone. See you next year in York!

In other news, The Letter for the King will be having parallel launch parties in Amsterdam and London on 23 November: one at the American Book Center in Amsterdam, and the other at London’s Inner Temple. I’ll be in Amsterdam and there’s going to be a fun programme in London too. If you can make it along to the ABC, it’d be great to see you!

You heard it here first! The Letter for the King at WFC13

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The Letter for the King

Pushkin Press sent me a very exciting parcel this week, hot off the press. A young messenger. A secret mission. A kingdom in peril… Yes, it’s Tonke Dragt’s The Letter for the King.

Originally published by Uitgeverij Leopold in 1962, this book is a firm favourite with Dutch readers of all ages and was even voted the best Dutch children’s book ever. Huge thanks to Pushkin Press for making this wonderful story available to English-speaking readers – and for giving me the opportunity to translate a book I love.

The American Book Center in Amsterdam is planning a window display to celebrate the release, and also hosting a launch party on 23 November. It’s the perfect gift for Sinterklaas!

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The War within These Walls

Hoorah for the postman! I was delighted with the parcel he brought this morning, which contained six lovely, fresh copies of Aline Sax’s The War within These Walls, illustrated by Caryl Strzelecki, published by Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, and translated by me. It’s a beautifully written and visually stunning story about a young man who grows up in the Warsaw Ghetto.

The book has already received a number of starred reviews and very positive reactions. Kirkus Reviews gave the book a star and describes the book as “gripping, powerful, shattering”, saying that “Strzelecki’s pen, ink and black-and-white pencil illustrations graphically depict pain and despair as they accompany text printed on stark white or black backgrounds. With the events of the Holocaust growing ever more remote with the passage of time, Sax gives modern readers an unrelenting, heart-rending insight into the hell that the Nazis created.” Publishers Weekly starred review says, “Strzelecki’s monochrome drawings use rich blue-gray lines on cream pages to portray faces furrowed with pain, then builds to nightmarish conflagrations, battles, and corpses. Sometimes a single sentence appears on a blue-gray page, the better to emphasize it: ‘I had never felt so Jewish before,’ the narrator says. Sax’s achievement is to have made every reader feel this with him.” Nancy Silverrod from San Francisco Public Library writes in School Library Journal that “The combination of the illustrations and the author’s spare prose make this a good choice for reluctant readers and an outstanding example of Holocaust fiction.” Booklist’s Kat Kan says, “Everything about the format of the book—its tall and narrow shape, the somber blue-and-white illustrations that work together with the spare prose, the alternating white and black pages—makes the reader pause and take notice of what is happening. This very personal viewpoint of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising makes a powerful impact that will last long after reading.”

I hope that Aline Sax’s book will bring home the story of the Warsaw Ghetto to a new generation of young readers in America. The War within These Walls is a powerful story with hard-hitting words and images, and a tale that needs to be told.

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