July is a great time to celebrate children’s books from around the world. Not only is it Foreign Language Month in the United States, the Summer Olympics — which foster a spirit of international cooperation among nations — begin on July 27. Our Guide to Locating Foreign Language Children’s Books may be helpful, but finding English-language translations of international children’s books can sometimes be tricky. This guide provides information about related organizations and awards, search tips for finding English-language translations in the library catalog, and a short bibliography of relevant books.
Children’s Literature Review has articles about several related topics, including “International Children’s Literature,” “Translation of Children’s Literature,” and children’s literature in specific regions. Information about accessing these articles can be found in our forthcoming guide Subject Essays in Children’s Literature Review.
Organizations, Booklists, and Awards
IBBY (International Board on Books for Young People)
An international organization that promotes international understanding through children’s literature, children’s access to books, and to support communities of adults who work with children’s literature. IBBY sponsors the Hans Christian Andersen Awards, presented biennially, which honor the lifetime achievements of children’s authors and illustrators from around the world. IBBY also publishes the biennial IBBY Honor List, which honors the best of its member nations’ recently published children’s books, andBookbird, an international journal that publishes peer-reviewed articles about children’s literature around the world.
USBBY (United States Board on Books for Young People)
The U.S. chapter of IBBY, USBBY uses children’s books to foster international understanding and goodwill among nations. USBBY publishes the Outstanding International Books (OIB) List that honors books “published or distributed in the United States that originated or [were] first published in a country other than the U.S.”
Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award
Presented annually by the Swedish government in honor of the woman who created the beloved Pippi Longstocking books, the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award is the largest children’s literature award in the world. It honors authors, illustrators, storytellers, and reading advocates of any language or nationality who promote “children’s rights at the global level” through their work with children’s literature.
This award is presented by the Association of Library Services to Children (ALSC) and honors the publisher of “the most outstanding children’s book originally published in a language other than English in a country other than the United States, and subsequently translated into English for publication in the United States.” The award was named for children’s librarian and former ALSC president, Mildred L. Batchelder, who promoted international children’s books in translation in the U.S. and worldwide.
Finding translated books in the catalogs can be challenging. There are several ways to find English-language translations of international books. It may take a little digging and some creative Googling to find them
Option 1: Do an Advanced Search using “translat*” as a keyword AND “juvenile literature” or “juvenile fiction” as a subject.
Option 2: Do a basic search using “bilingual books” AND “juvenile fiction” or “juvenile literature” as subject words.
Option 3: Do a basic search using “children’s books in translation” as a keyword.
Option 4: Do a basic search using “children’s literature — translation into English” as a subject.
To find books originally published in a specific language or country, combine one of the search terms listed above with the name of the language or country (e.g., “Chinese” or “Germany”) as a keyword.
Not all of the results produced by these searches will actually be international children’s books translated into English. Some results won’t be relevant to your search, some will be books about translation, and some will be children’s books that have been translated into English from other languages. It’s important to look at the results carefully to make sure the items are the kind of resource you’re looking for.
Once you find a book that’s been translated into English, it can sometimes be tricky to determine the book’s original language and country of origin. Sometimes the original language will be mentioned in the catalog’s full description of title and author information. It may also be available under the “More Details” tab. A Google search for the author or publisher may also provide answers, especially if you can find their official web sites.
Children’s Picture Books in Translation
Time to Pray. 2010. [Arabic]
When young Yasmin goes for a visit, her grandmother teaches her a Muslim’s daily prayers, makes special prayer clothes, and gives a gift that will help Yasmin remember when to pray. Includes facts about prayer customs.
[S Collection Q. SE. Ad21t]
Minji’s Salon. 2008. [Korean]
While her mother is getting her own hair done, Minji tries out every step of the process on the dog, using the articles at hand–including ice cream for hair dye.
[S Collection SE. C458m:E]
Hout, Mies van.
Happy. 2012. [Dutch]
Happy shows all the emotions a young child encounters. Each double page spread is devoted to one fish, showing a particular emotion with its name in lettering that expresses the same feeling.
[S Collection Q. SE. H8189v:E]
Moominpappa at Sea. 2011. [Finnish]
Feeling his family’s life is too safe and fixed, Moominpappa moves them to a lighthouse on an island to lead a life full of troubles, and indeed they find many mysteries in that lonely place. (These beloved characters, originally created in the 1960s, are so popular in Finland that they have their own theme park: Moomin World.)
[S Collection S. J26m2010]
In the Meadow. 2011. [Japanese]
A little girl hears the sounds of nature all around her when she follows a butterfly into a meadow.
[S Collection SE. K156k:E]
Anton Can Do Magic. 2011. [German]
Anton has a magic hat. A real one. Anton wants to do some magic. He wants to make something disappear… First Anton tries to make a tree vanish, but it’s too big. He manages to make a bird disappear, and even his friend Luke. But where did Luke go?
[Center for Children’s Books SE. K8363an:E]
Big Cat, Small Cat. 2008. [Hebrew]
Illustrations of cats along with rhyming couplets about them require the reader to fill in words demonstrating opposites, like tall and short, nice and mean, young and old.
[S Collection Q. SE. R8249b:E]
No. 2010. [Spanish]
It’s winter and little bear doesn’t want to go to sleep. He’d rather play, and he’s sure he won’t get cold outside, no matter how long the winter is, how deep the snow might get, or how hard the storm might blow. Until, that is, little bear finds himself all alone in a snowstorm.
[S Collection SE. R8362n:E]
Press Here. 2011. [French]
Instructs the reader on how to interact with the illustrations to create imaginative images.
[S Collection SE. T824l:E]
Children’s Novels in Translation
A Time of Miracles. 2010. [French]
In the early 1990s, a boy with a mysterious past and the woman who cares for him endure a five-year journey across the war-torn Caucasus and Europe, weathering hardships and welcoming unforgettable encounters with other refugees searching for a better life.
[S Collection, Center for Children’s Books S. B641t:E]
Samir and Yonatan. 2000. [Hebrew]
Samir, a Palestinian boy, is sent for surgery to an Israeli hospital where he has two otherworldly experiences, making friends with an Israeli boy, Yonatan, and traveling with him to Mars where Samir finds peace over his younger brother’s death in the war.
[Education Storage S.C212s:E]
De Mari, Silvana.
The Last Dragon. 2006. [Italian]
Struggling to survive in a post-apocalyptic world after his village is destroyed, Yorsh, the earth’s last elf, must embark on a perilous quest to decipher a powerful prophecy and find the last dragon, who holds the key to saving the world from the Dark Age that has begun.
[S Collection, Center for Children’s Books S. D391l:I]
Reckless. 2010. [German]
Jacob and Will Reckless have looked out for each other ever since their father disappeared, but when Jacob discovers a magical mirror that transports him to a warring world populated by witches, giants, and ogres, he keeps it to himself until Will follows him one day, with dire consequences.
[S Collection, Center for Children’s Books S. F964r:E]
Departure Time. 2010. [Dutch]
A tale of a girl in two stories, one involving a fox and rat, the other involving her constantly-traveling father.
[Center for Children’s Books S. M434d]
Nothing. 2010. [Danish]
When thirteen-year-old Pierre Anthon leaves school to sit in a plum tree and train for becoming part of nothing, his seventh grade classmates set out on a desperate quest for the meaning of life.
[Uni High Fiction, Center for Children’s Books S. T238i:E]
A Faraway Island. 2009. [Swedish]
In 1939 Sweden, two Jewish sisters wait for their parents to join them in fleeing the Nazis in Austria, but while eight-year-old Nellie settles in quickly, twelve-year-old Stephie feels stranded at the end of the world, with a foster mother who is as cold and unforgiving as the island on which they live.
[S Collection S. T39f]
Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit. 2008. [Japanese]
The wandering warrior Balsa is hired to protect Prince Chagum from both a mysterious monster and the prince’s father, the Mikado.
[S Collection, Center for Children’s Books S. Ue3m:E]
Zafón, Carlos Ruiz.
The Midnight Palace. 2011. [Spanish]
When a mysterious threat reenters the lives of twins Ben and Sheere, separated as babies and reunited as teenagers in 1930s Calcutta, the siblings must confront an unspeakable terror, with the help of their secret society of fellow orphans.
[Center for Children’s Books S. R8598m]