It was a pleasure once again to be invited to Books In Translation at Europe House, the culminating event of The Children’s Bookshow, now in its 15th year.
Nicolette Jones was in conversation (discussing “What makes a book a good candidate for translation and what are the steps needed to launch it into the world”) with
- Ulla Saar and Kätlin Vainola (Estonian illustrator and author team)
- Adam Freudenheim, publisher at Pushkin Press
- Jen Shenton, manager of Waterstones Trafalgar Square
- Emma Langley, from Arts Council England
In the second discussion, which I attended, Sara Dugdale, poet & translator, was in conversation with
This was a delightfully “baggy talk” (Dugdale’s own description) with each of the participants given space to contribute. Ostashevsky, who has lived in America since the age of 10, told us his experience of Soviet literature was as a Soviet child, and that when he was growing up the offerings were old-fashioned and traditional. He remembered versions of Don Quixote and (this surprised the audience) Rabelais. These he conceded were recreations and abridgements rather than true translations.
Alexis Deacon, unsurprisingly, said his taste as a child had already been visual. He particularly enjoyed the French comics Lucky Luke, despite not having a clue what the words said.
Ostashevsky said that in Russia children’s literature has historically provided a source of income for poets and artists unable to sustain themselves by their adult-related endeavours.
Timo Parvela, who painted a gloomy picture of children’s literature in Finland (plummeting sales, an audience more interested in games than books) said that he has been writing for 30 years but that it was only two years ago that his work was first translated into English, for a New Zealand publisher (Bicycling to the Moon Gecko Press).
The Children’s Bookshow, headed up by Sian Williams, is an organisation that arranges an annual tour of children’s authors and illustrators. The tour takes place in the autumn and coincides with Children’s Book Week. It is funded by Arts Council England and private trusts, including the Unwin Charitable Trust.
Niolette Jones, speaking after the talk sessions, told those assembled the good news that the Bookshow has received Arts Council funding for a further four years.
The aim of The Children’s Bookshow is to foster a lifelong love of literature in children by bringing them the best writers and illustrators to inspire and guide them. The first Children’s Bookshow came about as a way of celebrating some of the books and authors that were featured in a book entitled Simply the Best Books for Children, published in 2003 by the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education. The event was such a success that, the following year, a second tour was organised. And now the fifteenth.