The Marsh Award for Children’s Literature in Translation 2015 was presented yesterday evening at the English Speaking Union in London. It was particularly exciting for me to be invited to the presentation because this time round I knew two people on the shortlist, Chantal Wright (Anton and Piranha), who was my MA colleague at UEA, and Laura Watkinson (The Letter for the King). I also found myself sitting next to another shortlisted translator, Adriana Hunter (My Brother Simple).
For full details of the shortlisted books and comments from the judges see: booksforkeeps.co.uk
The award was presented by author, translator and all-round literary giant Kevin Crossley-Holland, who spoke amusingly about his introduction to translating bawdy Anglo-Saxon riddles, and passionately about the need to boost the number of children’s books from other languages coming into English. Preaching to the converted, yes, but with an eye to his words being reprinted by Books for Keeps (as Daniel Hahn’s speech was two years ago) and hence reaching the audience who really need to hear. As President of the School Library Association, he also held out the hope of an issue of their Riveting Reads journal being devoted to books in translation, which would be marvellous.
After this, without further ado, the winner was announced: Margaret Jull Costa for The Adventures of Shola, by Basque author Bernardo Atxaga, illustrated by Mikel Valverde and published by Pushkin Children’s Books. (Pushkin, incidentally, had three titles on a shortlist of six, which says a lot about the strength of their new children’s list.) According to the judges’ description, the book is:
‘A very satisfying collection of stories, great for reading aloud with a translation which successfully portrays the delightful characters. Each story is very accessible and full of humour, even for older readers, whilst also containing real philosophical moments. A book which truly comes alive with great sound effects throughout.’
Margaret then read from her translation, which was indeed very funny. I look forward enormously to introducing the boys to the opinionated yet lovable Shola – a small dog with big ideas.
Then there was more wine, more canapés and more socialising… It was a wonderful evening and anything that boosts the profile of international children’s books in the UK can only be a good thing. Many thanks to the organisers and here’s to be the next award having an even stronger field to choose from.