Over the past year, there have been some great new releases of children’s books translated from French. Here are just a few of my favourites.
The Acrobat Family by Anouck Boisrobert and Louis Rigaud, translated by Kevin St John (Little Gestalten, 2019). Ages: 3+
This book is a feast for fans of pop-up. As you turn each page, more pop-up acrobat family members join a human tower. The bold colours on a dark-blue background are really striking. If you’re a fan of pop-up, this pair have also created In the Forest (Tate Publishing) for slightly older children.
The House of Madame M by Clotilde Perrin, translated by Daniel Hahn (Gecko Press, 2019). Ages 5+
Following the incredible Inside the Villains, Clotilde Perrin returns with another papercraft masterpiece. This large-format, lift-the-flap picture book takes a look inside Madame M’s haunted house. There’s so much to look at and explore on each page, each flap leading to more flaps to discover what’s lurking behind. This is really is something special. (You can watch Clotilde read an extract here.)
The Flops by Delphine Durand, translated by Sarah Klinger and Delphine Durand (Enchanted Lion, 2019). Ages 6+
This book is a parody of a science textbook, telling us all we need to know about the fictional and somewhat ridiculous species the Flopus classicus, commonly known as the Flop. A mixture of laugh-out-loud silliness and fun drawings, it is also a masterclass in translating humorous wordplay and alliteration.
Akissi: Even Tales of Mischief by Marguerite Abouet, illustrated by Mathieu Sapin, translated by Judith Taboy and Marie Bédrune (Flying Eye Books, 2020). Ages 6+
Akissi is back with her third graphic novel detailing her laugh-out-loud adventures. Hailing from Côte d’Ivoire, Marquerite Abouet aims to show us ‘an Africa that is full of life, rather than sorrow’. Akissi is a gutsy little girl who gets up to all sorts of mischief. She refuses to let anyone, especially boys, tell her what she can or can’t do. She climbs trees, plays football, makes friends with animals (mice, rabbits and even tapeworms!) and she loves to get her older brother Fofana into trouble. Bright and colourful and good fun.
The Garden of Inside-Outside by Chiara Mezzalama, illustrated by Régis Lejonc, translated by Sarah Ardizzone (Book Island, 2020). Ages 7+
It is 1981, the early days of the Iranian Revolution. On one side of a wall, in the abandoned paradise of an embassy compound, lives an Italian girl who is quite disconnected from the frightening world outside. That is, until a local boy appears over the wall – Massoud, a new friend from the outside. This beautifully illustrated, large-format graphic novel is a remembered story from the childhood of the author. It is a story of childhood defiance and testing barriers. But above all, it’s a book about the need for friendship, even when there is no common language. (You can watch an online reading here.)
By Claire Storey
Claire Storey is a literary translator based in the UK. She works from German and Spanish into English and has a particular passion for children’s books. Claire also works as a private tutor for the University of the Third Age and runs a fortnightly Spanish group for toddlers.