September was World Kid Lit Month, a time to notice if global stories are reaching kids in the form of translations. The month ended on International Translation Day, September 30—itself an opportunity to seek and share #worldkidlit.
I learned of many translated children’s titles (picture book through young adult) in a post that Marcia Lynx Qualey wrote for World Kid Lit Month 2016:
During World Kid Lit Month 2017 I wondered, could I come up with 100 more?
Turns out I could—with some help from Marcia.
Below are 100 recommendations I compiled last month, drawing on my work as a kidlit translator and posts by Marcia and friends at the September is #WorldKidLit Month public Facebook group. My list draws on info from the Global Literature in Libraries Initiative, and from threads on the SCBWI Translation listserv of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (learn more by writing firstname.lastname@example.org). Finally, this list draws on the January 2017 booklet Riveting Reads: A World of Books in Translation by the School Library Association.
Feel free to recommend more titles in the comments, taking care to #namethetranslator!
For more on why #worldkidlit, see “Outlandish: Braving New Perspectives Through Books in Translation” by Elizabeth Bird, School Library Journal cover story, April 2017.
1) Press Here by Hervé Tullet, translated from French by Christopher Franceschelli. New York Times bestseller and preschool hit. Press the yellow circle and see what happens.
2) Everyone Poops by Taro Gomi, translated from Japanese by Amanda Mayer Stinchecum. Appeared in the movie Dan in Real Life. Comic relief for toilet trainers and -ees.
3) Me Tall, You Small by Lilli L’Arronge, translated from German by Madeleine Stratford. Playful vignettes about two weasels that incorporate rhyme, onomatopoeia, and wordplay.
4) Lines, Squiggles, Letters, Words by Ruth Rocha, translated from Portuguese by Lyn Miller-Lachmann. A child sees words as squiggles until he goes to school and begins to read.
5) Hedgehog’s Home by Branko Ćopić, illustrated by Sanja Rešćek, translated from Serbo-Croatian by S. D. Curtis. Hedgehog shows a bear and a boar what home means.
6) Sky Blue Accident/Accidente celeste by Jorge Luján, illustrated by Piet Grobler, translated from Spanish by Elisa Amado. A short poem about crashing a bicycle into the sky.
7) The Story of Babar, by Jean De Brunhoff, translated from French by Olive Jones. First book in the series beloved by generations, featuring Babar, Celeste and the rich old lady.
8) Animals at Night: A Glow-in-the-Dark Book, by Anne Jankéliowitch, illustrated by Delphine Chedru, translated from French by Eve Bodeux. What do animals do when we’re asleep?
9) Hot Air, by Sandrine Dumas Roy, illustrated by Emmanuelle Houssais, translated from French by Sarah Ardizzone. Empoweringly informs young children about global warming.
10) The Wonderful Fluffy Little Squishy by Beatrice Alemagna, translated from French by Claudia Zoe Bedrick. Winner of the Batchelder Award, and a touching birthday story.
11) The Orange House by Nahid Kazemi, translated from Persian by Azita Rassi. The old brick Orange House is about to be torn down, but she finds some surprising new friends.
12) Hannah’s Night by Komako Sakai, translated from Japanese by Cathy Hirano. Hannah (about four) wakes at night and enjoys a host of adventures while her parents and sister sleep.
13) Nora the Mind Reader by Orit Gidali, illustrated by Aya Gordon-Noy, translated from Hebrew by Annette Appel. Bubble wand photo overlay magically reveals people’s thoughts!
14) Samira and the Skeletons by Camilla Kuhn, translated from Norwegian by Don Bartlett. After learning about the skeletal system, Samira wants to escape her skeleton.
15) Line Up, Please! by Tomoko Ohmura, translated from Japanese by Cathy Hirano. This has been called “the perfect book about queuing.” Double page gatefold at end.
16) You Can’t Be Too Careful by Roger Mello, translated from Portuguese by Daniel Hahn. Mello became the first Latin American illustrator to win an Andersen Award in 2014.
17) The Family of Fourteen series by Kazuo Iwamura, translated from Japanese by Arthur Binard. Inviting books about a clan of mice who live in ways quintessentially Japanese.
18) Don’t Cross the Line! by Isabel Minhós Martins, illustrated by Bernardo P. Carvalho, translated from Portuguese by Daniel Hahn. Slapstick tale of a peaceful revolution.
19) Walk with Me by Jairo Buitrago, illustrated by Rafael Yockteng, translated from Spanish by Elisa Amado. Recently shortlisted for the fourth annual Kirkus Prize.
20) Rain Won’t by Kenji Miyazawa, illustrated by Koji Yamamura, translated from Japanese by Arthur Binard. In bilingual form, a classic poem of strength. “Rain won’t stop me.”
21) Cry, Heart, But Never Break by Glenn Ringtved, illustrated by Charlotte Pardi, translated from Danish by Robert Moulthrop. Winner of the 2017 Batchelder Award.
22) The World In A Second by Isabel Minhós Martins, illustrated by Bernardo P. Carvalho, translated from Portuguese by Lyn Miller-Lachmann. One second, 26 places worldwide.
LONG PICTURE BOOKS, CHAPTER BOOKS
23) My Valley by Claude Ponti, translated from French by Alyson Waters. Journey through imaginary landscapes inhabited by Touims (monkey-like), giants, flying buildings . . .
24) Flame by Chengliang Zhu, translated from Chinese by Helen Wang. After her cubs are trapped, a mother fox tracks their hunters. Themes of conservation, parental love.
25) The Midsummer Tomte and the Little Rabbits by Ulf Stark, illustrated by Eva Eriksson, translated from Swedish by Susan Beard. Midsummer story in 21 short chapters.
26) Yours Sincerely, Giraffe by Megumi Iwasa, illustrated by Jun Takabatake, translated from Japanese by Cathy Hirano. A penguin tries to become a giraffe like his pen pal.
27) Mister H by Daniel Nesquens, illustrated by Luciano Lozano, translated from Spanish by Lawrence Schimel. A hippo tries to escape the zoo and make his way back to Africa.
28) My Happy Life by Rose Lagercrantz, illustrated by Eva Eriksson, translated from Swedish by Julia Marshall. The daughter of a single father goes to school for the first time.
29) Lilly and Fin: A Mermaid’s Tale by Cornelia Funke, translated from German by Oliver Latsch. Full-color illustrated novella about two sassy, smart merpups. Part of series.
30) As Time Went By by José Sanabria, translated from Spanish by Audrey Hall. A steamship and a family journey through time, encountering everything from loss to luxury.
31) Detective Gordon: The First Case by Ulf Nilsson, illustrated by Gitte Spee, translated from Swedish by Julia Marshall. Detective Gordon must catch the thief stealing nuts in the forest!
32) Bicycling to the Moon by Timo Parvela, illustrated by Virpi Talfitie, translated from Finnish by Ruth Urbom. Funny chapter book about a cat with ideas, and a dog with patience.
33) Clementine Loves Red by Krystyna Boglar, illustrated by Bohdan Butenko, translated from Polish by Antonia Lloyd-Jones and Zosia Kradomska-Jones. A quest in the woods.
34) Totto-chan: The Little Girl at the Window by Tetsuko Kuroyanagi, translated from Japanese by Dorothy Britton. One of the world’s most-translated books, about a unique school.
35) Who Built That? Bridges by Didier Cornille, translated from French by Yolanda Stern Broad. Nonfiction. Ten famous bridges and their designers. Spine on top—book opens up!
36) The Pasta Detectives by Andreas Steinhöfel, illustrated by Steven Wells, translated from German by Chantal Wright. Funny mystery starring two improbable boy detectives.
37) The Treasure of Barracuda by Llanos Campos, illustrated by Júlia Sardà, translated from Spanish by Lawrence Schimel. The swashbuckling adventures of pirates who . . . read!
38) Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi, illustrated by Fulvio Testa, translated from Italian by Geoffrey Brock. A light, humorous treatment of the tale known worldwide thanks to Disney.
39) The Story of a Seagull and the Cat Who Taught Her to Fly by Luis Sepúlveda, translated from Spanish by Margaret Sayers Peden. International bestseller, subject of feature film.
40) Catlantis by Anna Starobinets, illustrated by Andrezj Klimowski, translated from Russian by Jane Bugaeva. A house cat turns out to be descended from the magic Catlanteans.
41) The Birth of Kitaro and sequels by Shigeru Mizuki, translated from Japanese by Zack Davisson. Manga by a legendary artist who revived interest in yokai spirits in Japan.
42) A Faraway Island by Annika Thor, translated from Swedish by Linda Schenck. Batchelder Award winner about two Jewish sisters who flee Nazi-controlled Vienna for Sweden.
43) The Lily Pond by Annika Thor, translated from Swedish by Linda Schenck. Batchelder Honor winner and sequel to A Faraway Island. Sisters grow in exile during World War II.
44) The Friends by Kazumi Yumoto, translated from Japanese by Cathy Hirano. Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for Fiction. Three 12-year-old boys befriend a man they once spied on.
45) Mekong Kids by Khemachat, translated from Thai by Peter Ross. Nine-year-old Boom lives in a village in northeastern Thailand and wonders how to make friends.
46) J-Boys: Kazuo’s World, Tokyo, 1965 by Shogo Oketani, translated from Japanese by Avery Fischer Udagawa. Nine-year-old Kazuo grows up in Tokyo after the 1964 Olympics.
47) Nine Open Arms by Benny Lindelauf, illustrated by Dasha Tolstikova, translated from Dutch by John Nieuwenhuizen. Ghost story/history/fantasy about moving into an old house.
48) Night Guard by Synne Lea, illustrated by Stian Hole, translated from Norwegian by John Irons. Poetry collection that explores friendship, fear, and loneliness in a family.
49) The Mystery of the Scarlet Rose by Irene Adler, translated from Italian by Nanette McGuinness. Part of the Sherlock, Lupin, and Me series about a teen who sleuths with his friends.
50) The Wild Book by Juan Villoro, translated from Spanish by Lawrence Schimel. From a prominent Mexican author, a literary fable in the spirit of M. Ende’s The Neverending Story.
51) The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss, translated from German by William Godwin. Another for the category of “I never knew this classic was a translation.”
52) Samir and Yonatan by Daniella Carmi, translated from Hebrew by Yael Lotan. Novel of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict that won a Batchelder Award.
53) Somos como los nubes/We Are Like the Clouds by Jorge Argueta, illustrated by Alfonso Ruano, translated from Spanish by Elisa Amado. Poems about Central American child refugees.
54) The Happiness of Kati by Jane Vejjajiva, translated from Thai by Prudence Borthwick. International bestseller. A girl in Thailand must come to terms with her mother’s ALS.
55) The Pull of the Ocean by Jean-Claude Mourlevat, translated from French by Y. Maudet. A modern, dark play on Charles Perrault’s Tom Thumb. Shudders guaranteed.
56) The Ballad of a Broken Nose by Arne Svingen, translated from Norwegian by Kari Dickson. Coming-of-age story about an impoverished teenager with a talent for singing opera.
57) A Time of Miracles by Anne-Laure Bondoux, translated from French by Y. Maudet. A refugee boy makes a harrowing, five-year journey through the Caucasus to France.
58) The Number Devil by Hans Magnus Enzensberger, illustrated by Rotraut Susanne Berner, translated from German by Michael Henry Heim. A mathematical adventure.
59) The Story of the Blue Planet by Andri Snær Magnason, illustrated by Áslaug Jónsdóttir, translated from Icelandic by Julian Meldon D’Arcy. A magical ecological cautionary tale.
60) Maps by by Aleksandra Mizielińska and Daniel Mizieliński, translated from Polish by Antonia Lloyd-Jones. An atlas that is also a visual feast, with sumptuous illustrations.
61) Under Earth, Under Water by Aleksandra Mizielińska and Daniel Mizieliński, translated from Polish by Antonia Lloyd-Jones. From the Maps team, a book that delves “under.”
62) Jackal and Wolf by Shen Shixi, translated from Chinese by Helen Wang. Two natural enemies develop a bond. Riveting read by China’s bestselling “king of animal novels.”
63) Are You An Echo? The Lost Poetry of Misuzu Kaneko by David Jacobson, illustrated by Toshikado Hajiri, translated from Japanese by Sally Ito and Michiko Tsuboi. Mesmerizing.
64) The Oxford India Illustrated Children’s Tagore, translated from Bengali, edited by Sukanta Chaudhuri. Tales of both daily life and fantasy by 1913 Nobel laureate Rabidranath Tagore.
65) Night on the Galactic Railroad & Other Stories from Ihatov, by Kenji Miyazawa, translated from Japanese by Julianne Neville. Six stories focused on space, the galaxy, and life’s meaning.
66) The Secrets of the Wild Wood by Tonke Dragt, translated from Dutch by Laura Watkinson. The further adventures of knight Tiuri in this sequel to The Letter For the King.
67) The Secret of the Blue Glass by Tomiko Inui, translated from Japanese by Ginny Tapley Takemori. A family of Little People rely on a girl who evacuates Tokyo during wartime.
68) The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank, edited by Otto H. Frank and Mirjam Pressler, translated from Dutch by Susan Massotty. The diary kept by Anne Frank for two years.
69) Hidden Like Anne Frank by Marcel Prins and Peter Henk Steenhuis, translated from Dutch by Laura Watkinson. True stories of children hidden away during World War II.
70) The Girl with the White Flag by Tomiko Higa, translated from Japanese by Dorothy Britton. True story of young girl struggling to survive the Battle of Okinawa on her own.
71) Bronze and Sunflower by Cao Wenxuan, translated from Chinese by Helen Wang. Author is the current Andersen Award (“little Nobel”) laureate. 2017 Marsh Award winner.
72) I Remember Beirut by Zeina Abirached, translated from Arabic by Edward Gauvin. Sequel to A Game for Swallows; memories of childhood, Lebanese civil war.
73) Zlata’s Diary, by Zlata Filipović, translated from Bosnian by Christina Pribichevich-Zoric. Published at the height of the Bosnian conflict. Portrays war engulfing Sarajevo.
74) The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly by Sun-Mi Hwang, illustrated by Kazuko Nomoto, translated from Korean by Chi-Young Kim. “A Korean Charlotte’s Web.”
75) Heartsinger by Karlijn Stoffels, translated from Dutch by Laura Watkinson. Tells of Mee, a singer of sorrows, and Mitou, a spreader of joy. Folktale novel full of music.
76) Playing A Part by Daria Wilke, translated from Russian by Marian Schwartz. A coming-of-age, coming-out story set against the backdrop of a Moscow puppet theater.
77) Before We Say Goodbye by Gabriella Ambrosio, translated from Italian by Alistair McEwen. Two families’ lives change completely one day in Jerusalem, 2002.
78) The Head of the Saint, by Socorro Acioli, translated from Portuguese by Daniel Hahn. Quirky story by leading Brazilian author about “love, mischief, and forgiveness.”
79) The Midnight Palace by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, translated from Spanish by Lucia Graves. “Blood-soaked” adventure story for young adults set in 1930s Calcutta.
80) Moribito II: Guardian of the Darkness by Nahoko Uehashi, translated from Japanese by Cathy Hirano. Balsa, a spear-wielding female bodyguard, defends the land of her birth.
81) Tiger Moon by Antonia Michaelis, translated from German by Anthea Bell. Fantasy set in India at the time of the British Raj. A bittersweet Young Adult fairytale.
82) A Hundred Hours of Night by Anna Woltz, translated from Dutch by Laura Watkinson. An Amsterdam teen runs away to New York, only to experience Hurricane Sandy.
83) The Color of Earth by Dong Hwa Kim, translated from Korean by Lauren Na. First book in graphic novel trilogy; evokes two generations of women in early 20th-century Korea.
84) The Ventriloquist’s Daughter by Man-Chiu Lin, translated from Chinese by Helen Wang. In the wake of family tragedy, Luir grows alarmed by a doll her father brings home.
85) The Last Execution by Jesper Wung-Sung, translated from Danish by Lindy Falk van Rooyen. True story of the last execution in Danish history. Did a 15-year-old deserve this?
86) The Murderer’s Ape by Jakob Wegelius, translated from Swedish by Peter Graves. Nominated for 2018 YALSA Books for Young Adults list. Perfect for mystery, detective fans.
87) As Red As Blood by Salla Simukka, translated from Finnish by Owen F. Witesman. First volume in murder mystery trilogy. Nothing shows as red against snow as blood . . .
88) Nothing by Janne Teller, translated from Danish by Martin Aitken. An unsettling YA novel that explores whether life has meaning. Echoes of Lord of the Flies.
89) Deep Sea by Annika Thor, translated from Swedish by Linda Schenck. Young Adult sequel to A Faraway Island and The Lily Pond, following Jewish refugee sisters in Sweden.
90) Letters from Thailand by Botan, translated from Thai by Susan F. Kepner. A young man immigrates from rural China to Bangkok in the 1940s. SEATO Prize for Thai Literature.
91) Joothan: An Untouchable’s Life by Omprakash Valmiki, translated from Hindi by Arun Prabha Mukherjee. An autobiography of life as an untouchable, or Dalit, in India of the 1950s.
92) The Whale That Fell in Love with a Submarine, by Akiyuki Nosaka, translated from Japanese by Ginny Tapley Takemori. Heartbreaking symbolic stories set at the end of World War II.
93) Goat Days by Benyamin, translated from Malayalam by Joseph Koyippally. Migrant Najeeb once longed to work in the Gulf, but a slave-like life awaits him in the Saudi desert.
94) The Rainbow Troops by Andrea Hirata, translated from the Indonesian by Angie Kilbane. Village students strive to escape poverty. Nominated to receive the Alex Award.
95) The Hedgehog by Zakaria Tamer, translated from Arabic by Denys Johnson-Davies and Brian O’Rourke. Collection of simple, elegant stories that fuel discussion of power.
96) Tree of Pearls, Queen of Egypt by Jurji Zaydan, translated from Arabic by Samah Selim. 1914 novel about the only woman in the medieval Arab world to rule in her own name.
97) Aya by Marguerite Abouet, illustrated by Clément Oubrerie, translated from French by Helge Dascher. Children’s Africana Book Award. Graphic novel series opens in Ivory Coast, 1978.
98) Wonderful Feels Like This by Sara Lövestam, translated from Swedish by Laura A. Wideburg. Bullied teen jazz musician in small town meets elderly mentor.
99) Math Girls by Hiroshi Yuki, translated from Japanese by Tony Gonzalez. This unusual novel combines rigorous mathematics with a story of high school relationships.
100) The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa, translated from Japanese by Philip Gabriel. YA/adult novel narrated partly in a cat’s voice. Guaranteed to hook non-cat people.
Avery Fischer Udagawa translated the middle grade historical novel J-Boys: Kazuo’s World, Tokyo, 1965 by Shogo Oketani. Her work has appeared in Kyoto Journal, Literary Mama, and Tomo: Friendship Through Fiction—An Anthology of Japan Teen Stories. She coordinates the SCBWI Japan Translation Group and is SCBWI International Translator Coordinator.