Although Britain is part of the European Union, when it comes to children’s literature, it makes more sense to regard Britain as standing apart from Europe.

Here’s why.

When you talk about your writing with Europeans, they’re more interested in what you’re saying with your fiction–your themes and influences. Americans tend to be interested in how much it pays, and when the movie’s coming out.

– Olen Steinhauer

Could this mean that Europeans have more interest in themes and messages in kidlit, also?

  • In European countries that remained as dictatorships after WW2 (like Spain), the production of children’s books remained very much under state control and didn’t flourish.
  • With the exception of Britain, translated books are seen to have an important educational and hence ideological function, fostering mutual understanding and European unity.
  • With the exception of Britain, in European countries up to 35% of their published children’s literature has been translated from another language. (Britain’s rate is 1%.)

Britain, like America is not translating enough European children’s literature.

Walking around at Bologna [International Children’s Book Fair], there is so much good work from so many countries (as well as a lot that is, well, market driven, to be polite), whether in text or illustration, that you wonder why more of it isn’t represented in Britain. Take the Andersen and Astrid Lindgren award winners for instance. [Argentinian writer] Andruetto isn’t published at all in English and only two of [Danish writer] Guus Kuijer’s over fifty titles have ever been translated. And this isn’t just about translation, because there’s a lot from other countries that publish in English that doesn’t reach us. … To be at Bologna, then, is to be astonished both by what is published for children internationally, how little of this we see in Britain, and yet how large a presence British children’s books have worldwide.

Books For Keeps

 

If anyone would like to see this changed, do support small publishers such as New Zealand based Gecko Press who translate some of the best work from (mainly) Europe for English speaking children to enjoy.