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From The Guide: Picture Books in Translation

martins_world in a secondIn her article “Translator: Trafficking Between Cultures,” Elena Abós compares translators to travel guides, successfully delivering a book from one culture to another. With universal relevance and appeal, the following picture books — all originally published in languages other than English and all recommended by The Horn Book Guide — exemplify sound “culture trafficking.”

—Katrina Hedeen
Associate Editor, The Horn Book Guide

Martins, Isabel Minhós  The World in a Second
56 pp.     Enchanted Lion     2015     ISBN 978-1-59270-157-5

Gr. K–3  Translated from the Portuguese by Lyn Miller-Lachmann. Illustrated by Bernardo P. Carvalho. A series of colorful, graphic double-page spreads with brief captions offers profound commentary on what can happen around the world in the matter of one second. Elegant understatement of text considers a host of possibilities, from the mundane to the suspenseful (“Something important slips from a woman’s fingers”) to the ruminative, while the illustrations offer delightful, novel perspectives on events.

Meschenmoser, Sebastian  Mr. Squirrel and the Moon
48 pp.     North-South     2015     ISBN 978-0-7358-4156-7

Gr. K–3  Translated from the German by David Henry Wilson. When a wheel of cheese rolls off a cart, over a cliff, and lands in Mr. Squirrel’s tree, Mr. Squirrel concludes that someone stole the moon and left it with him. A frantic brown squirrel and an enormous yellow “moon” stand out against intricate black-and-white illustrations, including several wordless spreads that contribute to the quiet tone of this gently humorous German import.

Oral, Feridun  The Red Apple
32 pp.     Minedition     2015     ISBN 978-988-8240-00-5

Gr. K–3  One winter day, Rabbit discovers a tempting apple hanging too high for him to pick. Other animals join him one by one, and they finally reach the apple by standing on one another’s shoulders. In the attractive illustrations for this quietly amusing Turkish import, the apple is a spot of bright color against the falling snow and the rich earth tones of the trees and animals.

Posthuma, Sieb  Where Is Rusty?
24 pp.     Gecko     2015     ISBN 978-1-927271-45-2

Gr. K–3  Translated from the Dutch by Bill Nagelkerke. Curious canine Rusty is mesmerized by a display in the department store and gets separated from his mother. Can he elude the scary uniformed watchdogs on the prowl for stray pups (“we’ll lock them in the pound!”) as he searches for his family? Colorful cartoon illustrations with lots of clever details will delight readers as they search for Rusty in various store settings.

Steven, Kenneth  Why Dogs Have Wet Noses
32 pp.     Enchanted Lion     2015     ISBN 978-1-59270-173-5

Gr. K–3  Illustrated by Øyvind Torseter. In this quirky secular version of the Noah’s ark story from Norway, Noah gathers “as many creatures as he could” (not in pairs, but the story isn’t concerned with that matter). When the ark springs a leak, his dog’s nose serves as the plug, ensuring that all dogs henceforth shall have wet noses. The cutaway cartoon illustrations show animals playing cards, eating, and making merry.

Suzhen, Fang  Grandma Lives in a Perfume Village
48 pp.     North-South     2015     ISBN 978-0-7358-4216-8

Gr. K–3  Translated by Huang Xiumin. Illustrated by Sonja Danowski. In this Chinese import, young Xiao Le and his mother visit his dying grandmother. He’s saddened by her death soon after, but when he views the setting sun, he says, “Look, Mom, Grandma is frying an egg in heaven!” The author treats a difficult topic with compassion and humanity, but adult guidance and explanation may be necessary. Danowski’s realistic illustrations are expressive and somber.

Wagner, Anke  Help, I Don’t Want a Babysitter!
32 pp.     North-South     2015     ISBN 978-0-7358-4214-4

Gr. K–3  Translated from the German by Erica Stenfalt. Illustrated by Anne-Kathrin Behl. When Ollie hears that he is getting a babysitter, he and his blue bear-like “cuddle buddy,” Stubbs, are concerned, imagining all sorts of terrible possibilities for who the babysitter might be. But their worries prove unfounded when they meet Ella. Originally published in Switzerland, the translated text and cheery cartoon art acknowledge a common fear while providing gentle reassurance.

Zoboli, Giovanna  Animal Supermarket
32 pp.     Eerdmans     2015     ISBN 978-0-8028-5448-3

Gr. K–3  Translated from the Italian by Laura Watkinson. Illustrated by Simona Mulazzani. This entertaining Italian import describes a supermarket with “only natural foods,” where all the animals — from snails to elephants — come to buy their favorite provisions. “A three-for-two sale on crumbs? The birds twitter and the ants form a long line. What a bargain!” Imaginative, humorous touches draw the reader in (e.g., a mongoose steals eggs by hiding them under his cap).

From the May/June 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine. These reviews are from The Horn Book Guide and The Horn Book Guide Online. For information about subscribing to the Guide and the Guide Online, please click here.

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