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December 2010
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February 2011

"The transformation of the foreign into the familiar"

"Translation expands our ability to explore through literature the thoughts and feelings of people from another society or another time. It permits us to savor the transformation of the foreign into the familiar and for a brief time to live outside our own skins, our own preconceptions and misconceptions. It expands and deepens our world, our consciousness, in countless indescribable ways."

from Why Translation Matters, by Edith Grossman. Yale University Press, 2010. A paperback edition comes out next month.

The American Library Association sponsors a prize that honors translation (into English) in children's literature. The 2011 Mildred A. Batchelder Award went to the publisher of A Time of Miracles, written by Anne-Laure Bondoux and translated from the French by Y. Maudet. Honors were awarded to the publishers of Departure Time, written by Truus Matti and translated from the Dutch by Nancy Forest-Flier, and Nothing, written by Janne Teller and translated from the Danish by Martin Aitken.

The most recent kids' works in translation that we've read are probably the middle-grade novels of Cornelia Funke's Ghosthunters series.  In very small type on the copyright pages you'll see that Helena Ragg-Kirkby translated the books from the German. I noted a while back that the Ghosthunter books are good read-alouds, and I'm now more aware, after reading Why Translation Matters, that part of the credit, at the minimum, must go to Ragg-Kirkby. Edith Grossman points out, "[w]hat should never be forgotten or overlooked is the obvious fact that what we read in a translation is the translator's writing."

Maple Syrup, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Snow

Reading this post from March 2007, I remembered how much fun it was making maple candy. We have the syrup, we have the snow, maybe we'll try this again. Meanwhile, I'm going to have to hitch up the team of horses to the sleigh to fetch Jr. at school today. The flakes are really coming down right now at 11 a.m.

Laura Ingalls Wilder Inspires Kitchen Mess

Img_0126 Our house smells so good right now, like maple syrup, because we did it! We made maple candy just like Grandma Ingalls did in Little House in the Big Woods. The weather cooperated by providing us with fresh snow this morning. We boiled up maple syrup into the "soft ball" stage, which candy makers evidently know about, and which, by luck, we managed. Junior was great about stirring the syrup and then, when the big moment came, running outside for plates of snow. Because the mixture was so hot, I (not Junior) drizzled it onto the fluffy snow. And, lo, there was candy! The taste is subtle, a gentler maple flavor than I expected. Perhaps that's attributable to my store-boughten syrup; I don't know.

Our plan was to follow Grandma Ingalls's example and make maple sugar when our caImg_0128ndy syrup started to "grain." That was not to be; the potion burned. No flames, don't worry.  I should have turned down the heat, or congratulated myself on the first success and stopped.  Still, it was fun, and a good activity for a snowy day.  And our kitchen got very messy and sticky.

Img_0123 Here is the picture of a modern-day sugar house, at a local organic farm. You can click on the photo to enlarge it. Yesterday I wrote about some great books for children on maple sugaring, in addition to Little House.

From the Easy Reader Archives: Houndsley and Catina

From the archives, a 2009 post about Houndsley and Catina and the Quiet Time (Candlewick, 2008), written by James Howe and illustrated by Marie-Louise Gay. With more snow on the way, it seems like just the thing.


HounsleyimageDB.cgi  A small gem of a book that celebrates winter, friendship, and being in the moment. In James Howe's beginning reader, two chums—a dog and a cat—are practicing at Houndsley's house for an upcoming concert when a snowstorm begins. Catina is antsy.

"It is too quiet," she said.

"Oh," said Houndsley. "But that is why this is my favorite time of year. In the quiet time, everything stops. I think we may be snowed in."

Houndsley's example helps Catina learn to enjoy the change of pace as they bake cookies, play music, and read. (Young readers will glean many ways to avoid cabin fever on a day when they're confined.) The animal pals generously include a third friend, Bert the goose, in their cozy good time. Marie-Louise Gay's watercolor/pencil/collage illustrations depict the action with gentle humor and a soul-warming palette of wintertime colors; even the endpapers are lovely.

Not too long at three chapters and 48 pages, Houndsley and Catina and the Quiet Time, the third in the Houndsley & Catina series, makes a good choice for first and second graders as well as the read-aloud crowd. All classroom libraries in the snowy states ought to have a copy!

Picturing La Familia: From the Archives

This morning I went riffling through the files, and found this post from five years ago. "Oh, these books. I love them," I thought. (The first grader mentioned is now a sixth grader.) I'm taking out the papel picado scissors for the next dia de la nieve, forecast for Friday. This time I'm gonna be ready. There's going to be art! fountain pens! Harry Potter 3 on audiobook! cookies! full bird feeders! wacky outdoor sculptures! I hope this will keep at bay the grouch who just yesterday came up with the title "Snow Day. Again."

Review: Family Pictures, and Magic Windows

Family Pictures/Cuadros de Familia          
by Carmen Lomas Garza 
Children's Book Press, 1990, 2005                        
ISBN: 0-89239-206-1                                          

Magic Windows/Ventanas mágicas
by Carmen Lomas Garza 
Children's Book Press, 1999
ISBN: 0-89239-157-X

Children's Book Press recently published a 15th anniversary edition of Carmen Lomas Garza's Family Pictures. One of the San Francisco-based publisher's most popular titles, the bilingual picture book won a Pura Belpré honor some years ago for its art work.  (The Belpré awards are given biannually to Latino writers and illustrators.)

Garza paints vivid, colorful pictures of her growing-up years in South Texas and pays tribute to the closeness of her Mexican American family all along the way. Her style is in the folk-art tradition; think Grandma Moses meets Frida Kahlo. The text, taken from interviews with the artist, tells what is going on in each picture: the fair in Reynosa, picking oranges with grandparents, the birthday party complete with a piñata, a cakewalk (I remember cakewalks! I thought as I read about this one), making tamales, and more. Lots of details and lots of people populate each piece of art.

Having read both editions of Family Pictures (1990 and 2005), I note that the publisher has  made some nice improvements to an already-interesting book. The well-known author Sandra Cisneros wrote a new introduction, for one thing.  The colors are punched up, the page design is more attractive, and a wonderful painting of a quinciañera celebration is now included. (Quinciañeras are for girls' 15th birthdays.)

My first-grader liked Family Pictures, although he was content to hear it read aloud only once. I enjoyed leafing through it over and over. Both of us looked at another  book of Garza's, Magic Windows, with interest; in this one (which won the Belpré award), Garza uses papel picado, a traditional Mexican cut-paper art form, for the illustrations. (Her subjects here are Mexican traditions and  family life; again, Spanish and English text is on each page.)  Since we're big snowflake-cutting aficionados, I may order the companion workbook,  Making Magic Windows. Garza's books are sure to inspire art projects, as well as discussions about one's own family rituals.

Snow Day. Again.

Between the snow days and school holidays around here, I have been totally disorganized, although I did manage to read Somerset Maugham's Cakes and Ale. From Maud Newton's talk about the satirical novel on her blog last year, I thought I'd like it and I did. The first two chapters were indeed "bitchily insightful about the hypocrisies of literary culture,"and I had to laugh. Somewhere in our house is another book by Maugham, The Razor's Edge, which might tide me over during today's ice storm—between games of Bananagrams and episodes of "The Other Siders," a TV show about paranormal activity and a favorite of my son's. I'm too marshmallow-headed right now for Sarah Bakewell's How to Live: Or a Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer, a Christmas present that the New York Times called a "delightful conversation across the centuries." Cabin fever does not lend itself to conversing across the centuries, at least today.

What are you reading?

2011 Caldecott, Newbery, Coretta Scott King Awards, and More

The most prestigious prizes for American children's books were announced this morning at the midwinter meeting of the American Library Association. For more details, more awards, and the titles of the honors books, see this press release from ALA.

Here is a partial list of winners:

Caldecott Medal: A Sick Day for Amos McGee, illustrated by Erin E. Stead and written by Philip C. Stead

Newbery Medal: Moon over Manifest, by Clare Vanderpool

Coretta Scott King Book Awards

  • Author Award: One Crazy Summer, by Rita Williams-Garcia
  • Illustrator Award: Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave, illustrated by Bryan Collier and written by Laban Carrick Hill

Geisel Award: Bink and Gollie, by Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee; illustrated by Tony Facile

Morris Award: The Freak Observer, by Blythe Woolston

Printz Award: Ship Breaker, by Paolo Bacigalupi

Pura Belpre Award (author): The Dreamer, by Pam Muñoz Ryan; Pura Belpre Award (illustrator): Grandma's Gift, written and illustrated by Eric Velasquez

Schneider Family Book Award

  • The Pirate of Kindergarten, written by George Ella Lyon and illustrated by Lynne Avril (ages 0 to 10)
  • After Ever After, by Jordan Sonnenblick (ages 11-13)
  • Five Flavors of Dumb, by Antony John (teens)

Siebert Informational Book Award: Kakapo Rescue: Saving the World's Strangest Parrot, by Sy Montgomery, with photographs by Nic Bishop

Stonewall Book Award: Almost Perfect, by Bryan Katcher

YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults: Janis Joplin: Rise Up Singing, by Ann Angel

Coffee Talk, 1.6.11: "Culture is a conversation..."

IMG_0117 Susan Wyndham, the literary editor of the Sydney Morning Herald,  compiled a list of ''15 Australian books - and some extra suggestions - that every Australian can enjoy if they want to understand our literature, our country and ourselves. Culture is a conversation and knowing these books enables us to talk to each other." You can read Wyndham's list here.

As a followup to Wyndham's list, journalist and children's book expert Judith Ridge rounds up the "15 Australian picture books that everyone should know." She's planning to do the same for middle-grade and YA books, too. Ridge writes, "It is a list that, if you read them all, would go some way towards an understanding of. [...] the preoccupations Australian children's literature, and what those preoccupations say about Australian childhood and adolescence (or perhaps our adult perceptions of and ideas about Australian childhood and adolescence)."

The prolific children's book author Dick King-Smith died earlier this week. King-Smith's book The Sheep-Pig (published in the U.S. as Babe: The Gallant Pig) was the basis for the movie "Babe." Obituary at the Guardian. (news via @pwkidsbookshelf)

Jason Wallace's debut novel, Out of Shadows, won the UK's Costa Children's Book Award. The Herald Scotland reports that Out of Shadows, based on the author's experiences in post-independence Zimbabwe, was turned down by more than 100 agents and publishers before Andersen Press picked it up. The book will be published stateside by Holiday House in April.

Back to the States, Rita Williams-Garcia's middle-grade novel One Crazy Summer has won the Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction. Details at Read Roger, the blog of The Horn Book's editor, Roger Sutton.

Will One Crazy Summer go on to win the Newbery? We'll see soon. The Newbery, Caldecott, Coretta Scott King, etc., are announced on Monday morning, January 10th. The American Library Association provides more information.

Speaking of the Coretta Scott King Award, author Kyra E. Hicks offers some thoughts on potential winners of the prize  for "outstanding books for young adults and children by African American authors and illustrators that reflect the African American experience." See Hicks' blog, Black Threads in Kid's Lit. Good list!

Book Links just published "Lasting Connections of 2010," the magazine's "favorite books of the last year for K–8 classrooms and libraries. The 30 titles...are all outstanding, with a multitude of possibilities for use in the core content areas." (Hat tip to The Miss Rumphius Effect for the link.)

Science-resource alert: Dr. Tricia Stohr-Hunt, who blogs at The Miss Rumphius Effect, has started Teaching Elementary Science, a new blog for this semester's class. The U. Richmond prof already posted links to lists of kids' science books and more.

Happy Three Kings Day! Usually I'd be hanging out with second graders today, but they have the day off of school. For the read-aloud next week,  Miss B's class requested How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Yay for extending the holidays.

Added 1.8.11: don't miss a fantastic roundup of "best book of 2010" lists at SCC English, the blog of the English Department at St. Columba's College, Dublin. Lots of UK links. (via Choice Literacy)

Yo, There's a Camel in the Humvee

9780061772023 ...[M]y convoy was a rolling menagerie conisisting of three agitated rhesus monkeys, a drowsy hyena, an angry swan, several pigs, a number of goats, three porcupines, a full-grown pelican, a collection of underfed dogs, and a camel named Lumpy, who was strapped down in the back of one of our troop carriers. Everyone was tense, and Lumpy was no longer amused by his personal tour through the heart of Baghdad...

—Major William Sumner, in Saving the Baghdad Zoo: A True Story of Hope and Heroes, by Kelly Milner Halls and Major William Sumner (Greenwillow Books/HarperCollins, 2010)

Can you imagine? Transporting zoo animals through a war-torn city! A 64-page picture book for readers nine and up, Saving the Baghdad Zoo documents the successful 2003 efforts by the U.S. Army, local residents, and international helpers to preserve part of Iraq's national heritage. 

The "exercise in compassion," as Major Sumner termed it, makes a strong photo essay, and the authors include a thorough bibliography, source notes, and an index. It's a great choice for the many readers interested in animal welfare.

On Mondays a number of children's literature blogs feature nonfiction books. Charlotte's Library rounds up today's Nonfiction Monday posts.