Heroes in International Literature

And another report from the YA Lit Symposium!

Today’s YALSA YA Lit Symposium program being highlighted is Heroes In International Literature, November 6, presented by Rosemary Chance and Teri Lesesne.

What attracted me to attending this panel was the focus — not books published in the US about other countries, but rather books from other countries published in the US.

Chance and Lesesne (whose presentation and book list appear at the bottom of this post) began with resources for finding these books: the IBBY (The International Board on Books for Young People) (whose website has a ton of resources about international publishing, including awards and booklists) and ALSC’s Batchelder Award, which is awarded to a publisher for the best children’s book published in another language in another country and translated into English and published in the United States. From the Batchelder website: Mildred L. Batchelder’s “life’s work was “to eliminate barriers to understanding between people of different cultures, races, nations, and languages.”

I really appreciated the explanation of how the Batchelder works and why. It values that translated stories are important for children to read. Why is the American publisher is honored? Because this honors and rewards publishers who acquire these titles. Chance and Lesesne pointed out the additional steps (so additional costs and time) a publisher has to take: yes, the book is acquired, but then there is the process for getting a translator and then also editing the translated work.

A question was asked: should YALSA expand the Batchelder to include teen books? (As an ALSC Award, it’s for books up to age 14.)

Another resource mentioned was USBBY, the United States Board on Books for Young People, which is the US section of IBBY. (Yes, by the end of the presentation I wanted to join and go to all their conferences and meetings!) USBBY supports international literacy (and as a note from me, wow, it’s got some great resources!)

The presentation then highlighted some translated books. I love when presentations highlights books — I like the affirmation of books I like being included, I like learning about new books, I like hearing how others present the books I’ve enjoyed. A series of booktalks in person is terrific, especially when (as in this presentation) it’s balanced with information and resources.

The books mentioned are in the link below. Titles ranged from Cornelia Funke’s Reckless to Nothing by Janne Teller (which is in my to be read pile).

Finally, editors of some of the books mentioned spoke and answered questions (Kaylan Adair, editor of Winter’s End (Candlewick), Francoise Bui , editor of A Faraway Island (Delacorte), Diane Landolf, editor of The Century:  Ring of Fire (Random House);  and Susan Van Metre, editor of Fell and Tiger Moon (Abrams)).

It was a fascinating discussion, about the translation and acquisition process. One person noted that one of their authors said they felt that American editing is more thorough and hands on than their European counterparts. They also spoke about the reluctance of chains to buy translated works. Since the author usually isn’t available to tour, because of expense and language barriers, it impacts the types of promotion that a publisher can do. Because of this, recognition of the book is review driven and the Batchelder is very important.

Translators aren’t included on the cover of the book, because it’s believed to be a turn off for readers.

Someone said that the marketing dollars aren’t put behind these books, but also, marketing money isn’t put behind literary books.

In response to some questions, the editors also pointed out that the US publisher are buying English language rights for the United States, so they aren’t also selling the book in the original language.

Final comments: included pointing out the USBBY/IBBY publication, Bookbird. And save the date — the 9th IBBY Regional Conference will be October 21 – 23, 2011 in Chicago! CORRECTION: From Jenny Schwartzberg, in the comments:  “One correction. This past year’s regional USBBY conference was outside Chicago, in St. Charles. The 2011 USBBY conference is in Fresno, CA on the campus of California State University.”


Presentation at SlideShare

Booktalk List

Interview with presenters at YALSA Ning

Thanks again to RIF!

4 thoughts on “Heroes in International Literature

  1. I’ve been enjoying your series of highlights from the YALSA symposium. International literature appeals to my reading tastes — I’m always looking for a fresh perspective and I love to read about people living in situations and settings different from my own. I agree with the person who said that “American editing is more thorough and hands on than their European counterparts.” This is not a good thing. It’s an insult to the intelligence of American readers. In the example of Malice by Rebecca James, the setting is shifted from Australia to the USA and the integrity of the storytelling is lost through heavy-handed editing. It’s a shame.


  2. It sounds like it was a great panel. I’m very envious! One correction. This past year’s regional USBBY conference was outside Chicago, in St. Charles. The 2011 USBBY conference is in Fresno, CA on the campus of California State University.


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