Tag Archives: children’s books in translation

Marking International Women’s Day II: Eugenia l’ingegnosa

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EUGENIALINGEGNOSA_bassa (1)

Following on from last night’s story of the princess who was too busy studying to accept a marriage proposal, I’d like to present this little gem – Eugenia l’ingegnosa (Eugenia the Ingenious) as part of my celebration of female protagonists, female authors (Anne Wilsdorf), and female-run indy presses (Sinnos Editrice). Oh, I do love a story with a positive takeaway. Not only is it a bargain (two things for the price of one) it’s also excellent for girls to see different role models in their books. You know, princesses are nice, but they don’t always have to be marrying princes.

So, this book’s about Eugenia. Eugenia lives alone with her family on Nascondoni Island. Until she discovers another island – Nonsodove – that looks far more interesting.  Eugenia wants to go there. She tries with a plank of wood first, and fails. She tries again with a sort of floating bridge, and fails. Try and try again, Eugenia finally makes it to the island.  All sorts of things happen there, the most important of which are making lots of new friends and discovering she has a skill for building things. 

Suffice it to say this this is not a book about princesses and pink ribbons. If you want your little girl reading stories about building bridges and revelling in the wonders of the world around us, then this is the book for her. It’s definitely going on my list of books to take into schools and libraries, translate into English and maybe stick under someone’s (publisher person’s) nose. But for now, I’m sticking it under yours as I mark International Women’s Day. 

The idea for this story came from a group of feisty female engineers and architects in Switzerland who have been fighting for women’s rights for years. “We want our book to encourage girls to be curious and not settle for the games and toys they’re supposed to play with just because they’re girls.” Valérie Ortlieb, spokesperson for the group, said, “We  need to give girls activities and models of women that they can identify with. So that when they grow up and start thinking about who inspired them, they’ll think of a woman.” 

Switzerland (and Italy) both have a gender problem in the professional, technical world. Girls make up 50% of students in Architecture faculties but ten years later, that figure drops to 20%.  Maybe if we start our daughters, nieces, grand-daughters or friend’s children reading empowering stories like these when they’re young, they maybe we can inspire the confidence and self-belief to make it where society in general expects/wants/forces them to fail.

Fact or fiction for kids. Or both?

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Fact or fiction for kids. Or both?

 

I have a ten-year old.  We both love to read. Only she likes facts and I prefer fiction. This makes if quite hard when you’re at the biggest children’s book fair in the world (honest, BCBF really is that big) and you’re supposed to bring the little person back something “cool”. It might seem like an innocuous little word, but for a nearly fifty-something who doesn’t really do non-fiction, it could’ve been quite a headache. If I hadn’t discovered a cracker of wee book at the book fair, that is.   Suonare il Rock a Teheran [Playing rock music in Teheran].  Where fact meets fiction and a middle-aged mum has a chance of appearing cool with her kid.

 

Are facts fun?

Some brains were made to flutter freely through words, visit imaginary places, frolic in fantasy land,  hang on cliffhangers and marvel at twists and turns.  Others were made to seek out and retain information. I’ve always known which category I fall into. No times, no dates, no historical settings in my comfort zone. Until fact became fashionable, that is, and I had to pick up something cool at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair.

So, what does a moth-eaten mother who craves a half-hour of pure concoction give to a middle-grader who has not only read but also remembers who ran the fastest 100-metre hurdles wearing swim fins and why bottom farts are smelly.

giraffe

 

Fictionalized fact: the compromise.

suonare il rock2

I’d die without music, singing is the only thing that makes life bearable.

Well, they say go with what you know.. so I went to Bologna Children’s Book Fair and I didn’t head for the non-fiction shelves. I didn’t hang out in the discovery hall. I just did what you normally do at book fairs. I wandered. Into the Feltrinelli stand. And that’s where I found Suonare il rock a Teheran (Playing rock music in Teheran).     Read the rest of this entry

Us and Them

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Books good

Reading is good, right? It enlightens and informs and opens up new worlds to us? It takes us on journeys and makes us feel good.  I’m definitely one of those people who wholeheartedly subscribe to the maxim that, “The reading of all good books is like a conversation with the finest minds of past centuries“.   I also like to run in my spare time, but I find climbing inside a good book is a little less demanding on the ageing achilles and a lot more enriching for the mind. Which gets a pretty good work out too.

 

However.409a1984298d5a85c4ba483491782f44_650x

Newspapers bad

Today I was reading an Italian local newspaper (I know, not a book, but still words on a page) and instead of feeling all nice and warm and fuzzy, it made me want to roll up the paper and bang a certain Salvini, Farage or similar foreigner-bashing politician on the head with it. Certainly not one of those “keep calm, read a book” experiences.

I won’t bore you with the details because I think just mentioning Nigel Farage and foreigners in the same sentence is too much publicity for a xenophobe in a suit.

As I said before, books are always the answer. So maybe I was reading in the wrong place? Back home, I scanned the tomes piled up on my desk for something more soothing that would prove that not everyone is bad. That humanity is more than corrupt politicians, mafia bosses,  swindling public officials, self-appointed elite and immigrant-hating Italians, Brits, etc. etc. (“raze the Roma camps to the ground” shouted hate-filled Matteo Salvini, leader of Italy’s Northern League). Surely there must be someone, somewhere who recognizes who’s really to blame for our dwindling bank accounts, shrinking salaries and flourishing food banks?  Not to mention our depleted planet and rabid greed that keeps 95% of the worlds wealth in the pockets of about 1% of the global population. (Note to self: check statistics).  But that’s another story.

Us and Them

noicopThe story on my desk that caught my eye was this delightful one. Noi (us) written by Elisa Mazzoli and illustrated by Sonia Maria Luce Possentino. But don’t worry, you can read on. It has nothing to do with politics or capitalist corruption. It’s simply a compassionate, poetic story, written in Italian, about children learning to see beyond diversity and make friends with the wonderful people they find behind the barriers. Barriers that we ourselves raise because we’re scared of what’s different. Because we want to protect what’s ours.  Only by doing that, we often don’t realize what we’re missing out on, or what we’re not seeing.

 

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We call him Big Eye.
He’s got one huge eye, so big that the other eye,
the normal one, kind of disappears.
Sticky drool dribbles from his big eye.
But it’s not tears.
It’s a slimy trail just like the one snails make.
It grosses us out. 

 

 

NOI

Little by little, we started to talk,
we talked about everything,
the world, the sky, the sea.
about us, about everyone else,
about the snail that was looking at us with its feelers up.
We laughed, and we got our hands dirty.

 

Two boys who once thought of each other as “them” and “us” end up digging in the dirt for secret treasure. Together. They discover all the things they didn’t know that the “other” does. They discover the joy of sharing. They find time for “us” instead of them. They realize that it’s more fun to work together.

Now I feel all warm and fuzzy.

Thanks to Elisa Mazzoli and to Bacchilega for publishing this wonderful picture book. You can also buy it here. And no, I’m not getting any commission for this. I just loved the book a lot. It made me feel good again.

Proverbi Abruzzesi – 3 – Power struggles

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Scottish Enlightenment

Well, it’s been a long time since I’ve had time to think about this blog. My head’s been full of all sorts of other stuff, like Scotland nearly becoming independent and the reawakening of a nation to claim its identity and voice within the United Kindgom. Oh and work too.  There’s been quite a lot of that too.

For anyone following me on Facebook, you might have noticed a slight surge in the number of political posts I’ve been tacking up on my timeline. Yes, I’m one of those people who were energized by the referendum campaign, one of the sleeping electorate who finally woke up to smell the (burnt) coffee of national and international politics.

Happily, my  own personal Scottish enlightenment has involved a lot of reading too, both online and in books. When I don’t understand something, I go straight to a book in search of answers, or when I’m reading for pleasure, I constantly come across things that tie into real-life experience, shedding light on it or expressing it perfectly in words.  Nothing really changes in human nature.  We just keep doing the same old things, and since many great writers of the past saw it all before us, we just have to look to their words for help in understanding what we’re still seeing today.

Books are always the answer

Like last night, flicking through Michael Rosen’s version of Aesop’s Fables, I picked the story of the wolf and the lamb to read to my little person. As we got to the moral of the story, I couldn’t help thinking how well it described the abuse slung at the Yes campaign during the Scottish referendum and the ability of the other side (the No people) to come up with all sorts of excuses to  deny their own behaviour and still bring the other side down. Fast forward to the current UK general election and press repeat.  Each side pedalling dreams and ridiculing the other side’s vision as lies.

aesopsfablesint

But since this blog is supposed to be about Italian literature, I’d better stay on topic and get back to the lingo of my adopted land: Italiano/Abruzzese.

There’s nothing better than an Italian proverb for hitting the nail on the head.

Local Abruzzo dialect: 

Non créde a suònne, ca le suònne ‘nganne

Italian: Non credete ai sogni, perché ingannano. 

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New Anthology of International Children’s Literature

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FOUND IN TRANSLATION

 il mio nonno 3I’ve covered Il Mio Nonno era un Ciliegio before, but I’m back tooting both my own and the author’s horn this time.

Working with the Italian editor, Einaudi Ragazzi, I made a submission earlier this year to Found in Translation, a competition to find the most promising international children’s fiction unpublished in the English language.

Reader’s reports and the material I submitted,   Read the rest of this entry

Luis Sepúlveda The Story of a cat and the mouse that became his friend

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Spanish, Italian..and the English??

Browsing the bookshelf in the newsagents the other day, a slim, orange book with a catching cover jumped out at me. That may have been because it was the only yellowy one in the lineup (fave colour) or because I’m feeling a bit more amenable towards cats at the moment, having just acquired a particularly fluffy feline friend of my own. Something drew me to it anyway, so I picked it up. And brought it home. Kind of the same thing that happened with the kitten.

Luis Sepúlveda The story of a cat and the mouse that became his friend

Luis Sepúlveda
The story of a cat and the mouse that became his friend

I know this is supposed to be a blog about Italian books, and the Chilean writer, film director, journalist and political activist “from the end of the world” writes in Spanish, but have a look at the title of today’s book: Storia di un gatto e del topo che divento’ suo amico.  It’s in Italian. Translated from the original Spanish.  The English version may be coming. Or it may not. Read on in if you’d like a sneak preview.  It really is a lovely story.

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Friendship: more than a word

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Following in the spirit of last week’s Secret Language series… today’s post has something to do with secrets as well, and since it’s Sunday, I thought I’d also relax with an lovely children’s picture book that I found in a bookshop in Pescara.

What is it? I wish I knew.

E' Una Parola Arianna Papini

E’ Una Parola
Arianna Papini

Ask an Italian a difficult question,  one of those one million dollar ones that are so tricky to find the right answer to, maybe a definition for something  that you just can’t put your finger on, and they will reply:

E’ una parola! 

Literally, this translates as “It’s a word” but what it actually means is:  I wish I knew!

It’s also the name of a beautiful book by Arianna Papini, published in Italian by Kalandraka.

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2013 Multilingual Blogging Day

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Speaking a second language… what’s that all about?

Today it’s about Multilingual Blogging, Internet Week Europe and highlighting the multilingual dimension of the web.

The rest of the time it’s normally just work for me, but for my 8-year old… it’s much, more more ……..

Compiti d'Italiano Testo Narrativo.  M. Di Nella, 8 anni

Compiti d’Italiano
Testo Narrativo.
M. Di Nella, 8 anni

Ooh, speaking English, my daughter’s first-second-first language (not sure, she’s bilingual) is like a secret language for her. That makes it sound quite magical (or cloak and dagger, depending on your point of view), but however you see it, the sense is definitely one of getting special entry to a world and to information that would otherwise be inaccessible. 

Speaking a second language, or reading a book in a translated language, opens up new worlds and makes you feel at home in strange lands. And it can set a child’s imagination on fire, as Philip Pullman states in the foreword to Outside In’sChildren’s Books in Translation” publication and as my daughter told her teacher in last night’s homework. She feels like she has special powers, she feels special, that’s certainly got to rate high on the what-to-give-your-child for Christmas list! A second language.

Chiedere …. sempre in incognito

Allora, cogliendo lo spirito da detective di mia figlia, usero’ la mia seconda lingua,  italiano, per indagare un po’ sulla letteratura e vedere quello che scopro.

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Acqua Dolce – a clean&contemporary fairy-tale for young solo readers

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ACQUA DOLCE by Andrea Bouchard, published in the Italian by Adriano Salani Editore.

ACQUA DOLCE … the water baby, is a heart-warming and magically realistic tale about a girl born in the magical waters of an enchanted island in an exotic, faraway land when her father and pregnant mother jump out of a plane into the bewitching waters below. True to the tradition of tragicomic opening scenes, the mum’s parachute doesn’t open leaving her hurtling – tummy and all – towards the sea, and magically, on landing she finds that the sea is not salty, it is fresh water. Ergo Acqua Dolce, the beautiful, blue-eyed water baby, born – as if by miracle – in the fresh water.

Acqua Dolce  by Andrea Bouchard

Acqua Dolce
by Andrea Bouchard

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