Read translated children's books and discover the world

Published on: 28 February 2018 Author: Adam Freudenheim

Publisher Adam Freudenheim explains why it's vital that Pushkin Children’s Books translates fiction from all over the world. He also goes through some of the exciting, page-turning books that your child will love...

In 2013, I set up Pushkin Children’s Books because I wanted to create an imprint dedicated to publishing children’s books in translation, from all over the world.

As my own children began to read, I was struck by how few titles – other than some obvious classics – were available in translation. Nearly five years on, over three quarters of the imprint’s books are in translation, and encompass the best of classic and contemporary children’s writing for middle grade, teen and YA readers.

We’ve published translations from German, French, Italian, Icelandic, Japanese, Danish, Swedish, Russian, Polish and many other languages, and we’re constantly on the lookout for overlooked gems from any country at all that comes our way. We’ve published new translations of classic books long out of print, such as Erich Kästner’s The Parent Trap, alongside the first-ever translations of other classics like Holland’s beloved The Cat Who Came in Off the Roof by Annie M G Schmidt, as well as titles only just recently published in other countries.

I continue to believe that one of the great ways that children discover the world – expand their horizons – is through reading books, so to me it seems essential that such reading includes books from other languages and cultures.

That is, in short, the mission of Pushkin Children’s Books.

Memorable and life-changing books

I love all our books, but most recently I’ve been particularly excited with our publishing (for the first time in English) three classic Polish children’s books about a detective and his talking dog – the Detective Nosegoode series by Marian Orlon. The three titles are Detective Nosegoode and the Museum Robbery, Detective Nosegoode and the Music Box Mystery and Detective Nosegoode and the Kidnappers, all of which also have striking, amusing black-and-white illustrations by the great Polish illustrator Jerzy Flisak. Readers aged 7+ will find it heard to resist Ambrosius Nosegoode and his dog Cody! It's been translated from the Polish by Eliza Marciniak.

Tonke Dragt, who will be 88 this year, is undoubtedly one of the greatest living children’s authors anywhere in the world, yet until a few years ago none of her books was available in English.

Born in Jakarta in 1930, she later returned to her parents’ native Holland. From around 1960, she carved a hugely successful career as a children’s author and illustrator. Most recently, we published her delightful The Song of Seven, which followed our translation of her most famous work The Letter for the King and its sequel The Secrets of the Wild Wood.

The Letter for the King was recently voted the Best Dutch Children’s Book of the last half century in the Netherlands and has been adapted for the big screen. It's for or 9/10+ readers (and thrilling to read aloud, as I can personally attest), with suitably short, cliffhanger chapters! It's been translated from the Dutch by Laura Watkinson.

Most recently, we published a new translation of one of the bestselling Brazilian books of all time – My Sweet Orange Tree by José Mauro de Vasconcelos. This 1968 novel has captured the hearts of readers in Turkey, Iran, South Korea and Thailand, yet remains virtually unknown in English. The coming-of-age story of a young impoverished boy is as moving as it was 50 years ago. That one has been translated from Portuguese by Alison Entrekin.

Closest of all to my heart at the moment is the hugely original and page-turning adventures of Sally Jones (never just "Sally"; always "Sally Jones"), the gorilla heroine of The Murderer’s Ape by Jakob Wegelius, which also includes over 100 illustrations by the author.

This book, set between the wars, follows Sally Jones from Lisbon to Cairo to India – and back again – in her quest to pardon her friend and mentor. A memorable, life-changing kind of book by a Swedish writer and illustrator. Perfect for 10+ readers, it's been translated from the Swedish by Peter Graves.

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In Other Words

In Other Words is a BookTrust project to promote the translation and UK publication of outstanding children's literature from around the world.


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