YALSA’s upcoming YA Literature Symposium will explore the future of young adult literature. The symposium begins on November 2nd, but we wanted to get a head start here at The Hub, so we’re devoting October to 31 Days of the Next Big Thing. Each day of the month, we’ll bring you forecasts about where YA literature is headed and thoughts on how you can spot trends and predict the future yourself.
Everyone has their favorite award, the one that celebrates stories you always seem to love. I enjoy the books that win the Mildred L. Batchelder Award. Its an ALSC award, and yet it’s a little obscure compared to the big winners in children’s literature like the Caldecott and the Newbery. The award was the optimistic vision of Mildred L. Batchelder, who wanted “to eliminate barriers to understanding between people of different cultures, races, nations, and languages.” Batchelder was devoted to the belief that through books, we could learn not to exclude people based on regional differences.
I imagine Batchelder’s ideals were based on a globalism we have not yet achieved, a world and a microcosm, a library with everyone represented. The first time I visited Jungle Jim’s International Market, I was overwhelmed and excited to try so many new things. I hope the next big for thing literacy is a more universal library where books that are translated are unique to some and familiar to others, but wonderful to all. Lately I’ve been reading a lot of multi-genre novels that combine a great many elements; I hope some of these new elements are the traditions and languages of other countries.
Every year since 1979, a committee has honored a book that will “encourage international exchange of quality children’s books by recognizing United States publishers of such books in translation.” One of my favorite tenants of the committee is this failsafe: “Unless no book of that particular year is deemed worthy of the honor.” In other words, a committee may choose not to select a winner if no book is judged to have met the terms and criteria established for the award. I find it encouraging that they don’t feel compelled to choose if a year lacks a true standout. I think its a wonderful and powerful message to the publishers that we can and will hold them to higher standards, even if only for the purposes of this one award. I know I’m on my soapbox, but it’s important to be passionate about presenting multiculturalism fairly and accurately to all age groups, especially juvenile and young adult readers.
Here are some of the winners that you may not have realized were translated works.
- Winner: The Lily Pond by Annika Thor, translated from the Swedish by Linda Schenck
Having left Nazi-occupied Vienna a year ago, thirteen-year-old Jewish refugee Stephie Steiner adapts to life in the cultured Swedish city of GÃ¶teborg, where she attends school, falls in love, and worries about her parents who were not allowed to emigrate.
- Winner: A Time of Miracles by Anne-Laure Bondoux, translated from the French by Y. Maudet (2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults)
In the early 1990s, a boy with a mysterious past and the woman who cares for him endure a journey across the war-torn Caucasus and Europe, encountering other refugees searching for a better life.
- Honor: Departure Time, written by Truus Matti, translated from the Danish by Nancy Forest-Flier
There is the girl in the hotel with the fox and the rat. And there is the girl with a father who travels a lot and who suggests writing a story together — a story about talking animals. But she doesn’t want to. She is angry with him because he can’t make her birthday in time. Again. The two stories slowly start to intertwine and come together in a surprising ending.
- Honor: Nothing by Janne Teller, translated from the Danish by Martin Aitken (2011 Printz Honor)
When thirteen-year-old Pierre Anthon leaves school to sit in a plum tree and train for becoming part of nothing, his seventh grade classmates set out on a desperate quest for the meaning of life.
- Winner: A Faraway Island by Annika Thor, translated from the Swedish by Linda Schenck
In 1939 Sweden, two Jewish sisters wait for their parents to flee the Nazis in Austria, but while eight-year-old Nellie settles in quickly, twelve-year-old Stephie feels stranded at the end of the world, with a foster mother who is as cold and unforgiving as the island itself. Her main worry, though, is her parentsâ€”and whether she will ever see them again.
- Honor: Moribito II: Guardian of the Darkness by Nahoko Uehashi, translated from the Japanese by Cathy Hirano
The wandering female bodyguard Balsa returns to her native country of Kanbal, where she uncovers a conspiracy to frame her mentor and herself.
- Winner: Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit by Nahoko Uehashi, translated from the Japanese by Cathy Hirano
The wandering warrior Balsa is hired to protect Prince Chagum from both a mysterious monster and the prince’s father, the Mikado.
- Honor: Tiger Moon by Antonia Michaelis, translated from the German by Anthea Bell
Safia tries to escape her fate as the wife of a cruel merchant by telling stories of Farhad the thief, his companion Nitish the white tiger, and their efforts to save a kidnapped princess from becoming the bride of a demon king.
In addition to Batchelder Award winners, there are many translated novels for teens that are popular but don’t measure up to the more rigorous standards the award committee is looking for. New titles for teens regularly find homes on our shelves without us even realizing the work that went into making them accessible to an English-reading, American audience.
- Erebos: It’s a Game: It Watches You (2012) by Ursula Poznanski, translated from the German by Judith Pattinson
When sixteen-year-old Nick Dunmore receives a package with a mysterious computer game called Erebos, he hopes it will explain his classmates’ strange behavior. He is quickly drawn into the cryptic world of the game, where players must obey a strict code. Erebos watches its players and begins to manipulate their lives in frightening ways. It soon becomes clear the game has a deadly agenda. When Nick sets out on a dangerous mission, reality and the virtual world begin to blur.
- 172 Hours On the Moon (2012) by Johan Harstad, translated from the Norwegian by Tara F. Chace
In 2019, teens Mia, Antoine, and Midori are selected by lottery to join experienced astronauts on a NASA mission to the once top-secret moon base, DARLAH 2, while in a Florida nursing home, a former astronaut struggles to warn someone of the terrible danger there.
- The Prince of Mist (2010) by Carlos Ruiz ZafÃ³n, translated from the Spanish by Lucia Graves (2011 Best Fiction for Young Adults)
In 1943, in a seaside town where their family has gone to be safe from war, thirteen-year-old Max Carver and sister, fifteen-year-old Alicia, with new friend Roland, face off against an evil magician who is striving to complete a bargain made before he died.
Some of my favorite books are translations: The Never Ending Story by Micheal Ende was originally written in German (translated by Ralph Manheim), just like another favorite, the Inkworld Trilogy (2008 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults) by Cornelia Funke (translated by Anthea Bell). And as an avid reader of manga, my shelves would be bare were it not for all the translated novels from Japan, China, and Korea. I don’t want my library shelves to be like the traditional supermarket with the foods from around the world crammed into the International Aisle. New foods, like new books, should be presented in a smorgasbord.
Translated titles have a great value for any readers who thinks they’ve tried it all. When works like The Dream Merchant by Isabel Hoving, a Dutch translation (translated by Hester Velmans), are available, a singular fiction experience awaits. Thanks to the Batchelder Award, I can find books to expand my world view just by checking out the young adult department.
— Laura C. Perenic, currently reading The Boy Who Couldn’t Sleep and Never Had To by D.C. Pierson (2011 Alex Award winner)
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