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Five Translated Books for Children

Olivia Snaije By Olivia Snaije Published on September 13, 2016

By Olivia Snaije

As the UK translator Danny Hahn has often said, reading books that are translated from other languages makes you see things differently. Stories for children should be as varied as possible and offer unexpected discoveries, stretching the mind and sympathies. Moreover, with a good translation you have no idea you're reading one. Don't hesitate to expand your children's horizons with these five wonderful books:

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The French illustrator, Barroux, was walking down a street in Paris one day when he discovered in a rubbish heap a diary of a soldier in the First World War. Taking inspiration from the diary, which recounts the first two months of the war, Barroux created a graphic novel adaptation of a tremendous historical event that transformed the world we live in today. Line of Fire is a moving account suitable for Middle School children and skillfully translated by Sarah Ardizzone.

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This adventure series by Timothée de Fombelle, (another masterful translation by Sarah Ardizzone) is set Europe-wide and interweaves fantasy, mystery and historical events. The young Vango leapfrogs across Paris rooftops, over Sicilian islands, through Stalin's Moscow, Nazi Germany and Scottish castles, encountering along the way an incredible cast of characters. Vango, Between Sky and Earth is the ultimate adventure story for children age 12 and up. 

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The Day I Became a Bird  by Ingrid Chabbert and beautifully illustrated by Raúl Nieto Guridi, is a child's first love story. A little boy falls in love on his first day of school. The object of his desire is a girl who loves birds. In an attempt to attract her attention he decides to go to school dressed as a bird, braving his classmates' teasing. But following his heart, as the reader will see, is worth a little discomfort...Ages 4-7

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The Cat who Came in off the Roof  by the celebrated and late Annie M. G. Schmidt, wittily translated from the Dutch by David Colmer is the story of a timid newspaper reporter and a woman who used to be a cat. Working together they collaborate on news items, with other cats feeding the reporter the news he needs for his job. The book, which was actually written in 1970 but was only translated in 2014, is absolutely relevant today in this tale of bravery in the face of personal fears and challenges. It was also made into a film called Miss Minoes. For ages 10 and above. 

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One might think that In the Sea there are Crocodileswritten  by Fabio Geda and translated from Italian by Howard Curtis, is a new YA novel, given the most recent refugee crisis. It was published, however, in 2011 and takes place in 2000, when a ten-year-old boy's village in Afghanistan comes under the rule of the Taliban. A true story, it recounts the boy's harrowing 5-year odyssey from the Pakistani border, where his mother leaves him, through the Middle East and finally to Europe, and Italy, where he seeks political asylum. Despite all the hardship, the story is told from the perspective of a child, with much humor and hope. For ages 10 and above.

    Olivia is a Paris-based journalist and editor.


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