When you’re searching for cultural diversity in literature, translated works can be the perfect choice. They give us the unique opportunity to explore new genres and styles that we might otherwise have missed. For this reason, we thought it would be fun to highlight a selection of our favourite translated children’s books.
Riikka Jäntti is a Helsinki based author and illustrator from Finland. Her Little Mouse books are delightful - reminiscent of Axel Scheffler’s Pip and Posy series – they follow the daily trials of Little Mouse and his antics. It’s the perfect book for young readers aged 0-4, and the fact there are more in the series means you can add to your collection if it turns out to be a hit in your household. Her works have been translated by Lotta Dufva.
'Lampie and the Children of the Sea' is by Dutch author and illustrator Annet Schaap. The story of Lampie has been translated beautifully by Laura Watkinson. When it comes to translated fiction, there is the very real concern that the meaning can become lost and the effect of the story lessened, but I do not believe that is the case with this book. The voice felt so big and clear and the characters wonderfully relatable; I adored it. It reminded me a little of 'Malamander' (another recent big hit in middlegrade books) in that it’s a dark fairytale set by the sea, with two wonderfully unique main characters - a boy and a girl - but there’s a whole lot more to discover, magic and legends galore! I found myself racing through this one as I absolutely had to find out how it would end.
'The Murderer’s Ape' is by Swedish author Jakob Wegelius, another writer and illustrator. His illustrations are truly lovely (I took much delight in going back to check his depiction of each character). What’s even more fascinating about this story, is that the first part is set in Lisbon, Portugal, and part two in India, so there’s a lot of culture to be seen. The tale is narrated by Sally Jones, a gorilla, and she is as unique as they come. She’s one of the most beguiling and interesting protagonists, on a noble quest to solve a mystery and clear the name of her friend, the Chief, who has been wrongly accused of murder. I’m not sure I’ve ever read a book from the perspective of a gorilla, let alone in a novel as captivating as this one, so I thoroughly enjoyed that. A truly fascinating multicultural book and a joy to read.
One of the most interesting aspects of reading translated works, is that you’re actually being exposed to two voices instead of one; that of the author, and of the translator. It gives us such a privileged insight into another world and culture that might previously have slipped under the radar. When I read adult fiction I enjoy seeking out translated works for myself, so we’re always striving for the same kind of diversity in our children’s book selections as well. If you have any favourite translated books, we’d love to hear about them.