Archive for the ‘Publishers’ Category

Talking with Tang Yaming: Crossing Borders with Picture Books

By Deborah Iwabuchi, Maebashi, and Andrew Wong, Tokyo

On February 26, 2022, SCBWI Japan hosted editor, author, and translator Tang Yaming, who spoke to us from his home in Tokyo. Born in Beijing, Tang worked as an editor for 35 years at Fukuinkan Shoten Publishers, one of Japan’s top children’s book publishers, until retirement. He continues editing and making picture books, collaborating with Japanese and Chinese writers and artists, and publishing through Chinese publishers. Many of the works he mentioned struck us as deserving of translation into English, and his talk had much to offer everyone in children’s books.

 

Some of the many works Tang Yaming has nurtured, in Chinese and Japanese

 

In “Crossing Borders with Picture Books,” Tang Yaming drew on his experience of bridging the Japanese picture book industry with the world. With thoughts of the war in Ukraine hanging over us, Tang first reminded everyone that borders do in fact exist, however much we may hear in the kidlit industry that they don’t. Whether they are natural, national, or cultural, they exist. And Tang recognizes that it is his job as a publisher to cross (or bridge) those borders and help children gain a broader perspective of the world.

In 1983, Tang happened to serve as an interpreter for a group of representatives of children’s books visiting Beijing from Japan, and in this position, he spent a week with Tadashi Matsui, then president of Fukuinkan Shoten.

 

On the Great Wall of China: L to R, Tang Yaming; illustrator Satoshi Kako; former president of Fukuinkan Shoten, Tadashi Matsui

 

Before returning to Japan, Matsui offered Tang a job in Tokyo. Tang had no experience in children’s books and wasn’t sure how serious Matsui was, but decided to go to Japan to find out. He told us that he showed up at Fukuinkan Shoten totally prepared not to have a job, but was determined to stay and study in Japan, even if it meant working as a cook at a Chinese restaurant. It turned out the job was his for the taking. He became the first foreign full-time editor in Fukuinkan Shoten and in Japan’s publishing industry, and thus began his career as an editor of children’s books. Japanese society was just entering the era of globalization, and Matsui’s goal in hiring Tang from China was to bring cultural diversity to children’s literature in Japan.

Taking examples from Japanese long-seller picture books such as Sūho no Shiroi Uma (Suho’s White Horse) and Ōkina Kabu (The Gigantic Turnip), Tang explained that Japanese creators who had deep personal connections to Mongolian and Russian culture were central to the creation of both books, and this was even before Japan underwent a phase of internationalization in the 1980s.

Tang then shared his tale of crossing borders during the production phase of Shika yo Ore no Kyodai yo (Oh Deer, My Brother Deer! 2004), for which he sought a Japanese writer and Russian artist to shape a poetic ode to the circle of life through the lens of the indigenous people of Siberia. This story had been percolating in him for decades since being captivated by the beauty of Siberia’s harsh natural landscape as a young soldier sent to the Soviet border.

 

Picture book Shika yo Ore no Kyōdai yo (Oh Deer, My Brother Deer! 2004)

 

In 1969 during China’s Cultural Revolution, Tang had been sent from Beijing to Siberia during the Sino-Soviet border conflict. He’d managed to avoid fighting, and was instead deeply impressed by Siberian flora and fauna. Decades later at Fukuinkan, he decided that the beauty of the nature of Siberia was what he wanted to create a book about. In searching for an author, he found Toshiko Kanzawa, a writer who had spent her childhood on Sakhalin, one of the Kuril Islands north of Hokkaido. Kanzawa had the background Tang was seeking. She knew about the native people on the island and the cultures of people of the northern territories. To write the book, Kanzawa traveled to Siberia to learn about the indigenous tribes on the continent, and it was about them that she wrote. Tang was delighted with Kanzawa’s story and writing. He pointed out that she had even included native language in the text.

The next job was to find an illustrator. Until the 1980s, we learned, Japanese picture books were illustrated almost exclusively by Japanese artists. Yet Tang was convinced that no artist could draw Siberia unless they had actually seen it. He eventually discovered an artist by the name of Gennadiy Dmitriyevich Pavlishin who lived in Siberia and was devoted to portraying indigenous peoples. Pavlishin agreed to illustrate the book, and Tang was excited when the artist finally contacted him to say that illustrations were ready.

Tang flew from Niigata, on the Japan Sea side of Honshu, to Khabarovsk on the Eastern edge of Russia, and then traveled to Pavlishin’s home, where Tang discovered, after a night of obligatory drinking with the artist, that only three pictures had been completed. When he finally got a look at the art, however, Tang knew he’d chosen the right artist because the illustrations were exactly as Tang remembered Siberia.

 

Tang Yaming in Siberia; Left: Tang Yaming and far right: illustrator Gennadiy Dmitriyevich Pavlishin with a woman in traditional clothing

 

The story of Oh Deer, My Brother Deer! made a powerful impression on attendees. The story was from ages that have come and gone; Kanzawa’s childhood home of Sakhalin was lost to Russia after World War II. Tang had begun working in Japan when Sino-Japanese relations were at their best. He traveled with ease from China to Japan, and from Japan to post-Cold War Russia, where he had no problem finding his artist at home. He showed us a photo of himself with Pavlishin and a woman from an indigenous tribe of Siberia in native costume.

For attendee translators, writers and illustrators, many of us who live and work in a culture different from the cultures we were born in, cultural diversity is what we thrive on, so the explanation of how Tang produced this book was especially interesting. In the credits at the back of the book are further notes of diversity: acknowledgments of two translators who must have helped out in translating the book for the sake of the illustrator and ironing out other details. One was Kazuya Okada, a Japanese living in Khabarovsk, Russia, and the other Valentina B. Morozova of Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine.

Once-retired after 35 years with Fukuinkan Shoten, Tang has continued to be involved in the publishing business in China, initially by translating Japanese picture books on China so that Chinese children can read about their culture in picture books in their own language. After explaining that in China picture books are sometimes considered wasteful—too much space on the page lacking text—Tang also offered an astute observation that a country’s picture book industry usually starts blossoming when the economy starts growing, opining that that occurs when people start having deeper pockets and the idea of education shifts toward a more holistic one.

Still, Tang noted that an understanding of the market’s tastes and needs is crucial in publishing. For example, while he strives to make picture books that both adults and children can enjoy, he demonstrated how a deeply rooted mindset that children should be educated by adults and that good manners are important drove the China sales figures for a series on manners and etiquette to 900,000 copies—over ninety times the sales figures in Japan where originally published. He also shared how books concerning nature and social issues are selling well because people can relate to them as more young families move to cities in search of better wages.

 

Chinese editions of the Kaisei-sha picture book series on manners

 

However, Tang also noted some misses, such as a carefully crafted informational series on toilets, which covers the history of their development. We might have thought that the pandemic would have boosted sales of this somewhat niche but important topic about the most visited hygiene facility. But Tang heard parents say that their children are busy learning other things and they don’t have time to learn about toilets.

Returning to Tang’s comment connecting economic growth and the picture book industry, it struck blogger Andrew that that reality could have been the reason behind his own lack of exposure to picture books and local literature during his youth a few decades ago when his country was caught up in climbing all sorts of world rankings.

Besides further discussion on making books that venture into foreign places, during the Q&A, Tang also acknowledged the importance of portraying and handing down local history and culture to future generations. Both lines of thought seemed to converge toward finding the stories or voices that need to be heard before they are lost to marginalization, poverty, modernity, and urbanization. This is an idea that echoes strongly with the translator in both of us bloggers, along with the fact that it’s only natural that some stories are more suited to certain markets—which is one more reason to admire and celebrate the work behind successful translations!

Decades ago, when Fukuinkan Shoten president Tadashi Matsui hired Tang Yaming to create some diversity at Fukuinkan Shoten, it was a hopeful era. Matsui could never have foreseen the changes occurring in the current global situation. For us at SCBWI Japan, Tang Yaming’s talk was the perfect moment to be reminded of the wealth of culture we inherit in a book like Oh Deer, My Brother Deer!, as well as the importance of our role as writers, illustrators and translators in ensuring this attention to culture endures.

 

Editor, author, translator Tang Yaming

 

Deborah Iwabuchi runs Minamimuki Translations in Maebashi, Gunma. Have a look at her high-tech operations at Minamimuki.com.

Andrew Wong is a freelance linguist and translator of The World’s Poorest President Speaks Out. The happy introvert also keeps a text-heavy blog on books and other stuff at Tales from 2 Cities (or more).

This post first appeared on the SCBWI Japan blog.

Crediting the Translator: These Books Do It All!

By Avery Fischer Udagawa, Bangkok

Yes, it’s possible to do it all!

When I published the post 3 Cs for Translators: Copyright, Compensation, Credit in 2016, I gave examples of crediting the translator from several books, because no one book named the translator in all the places I mentioned. Essentially, the translator should be credited wherever the author is, both on and in the book and in its metadata, which circulates to retailers and beyond.

But last year and this year, the U.S. editions of 獣の奏者 by Nahoko Uehashi, translated as The Beast Player and The Beast Warrior by Cathy Hirano, proved it’s possible to do it all! Published by Godwin Books at Henry Holt and Company (Macmillan), The Beast Player and The Beast Warrior both feature the translator’s name on the cover, copyright page and title page and include a translator profile in the back. Cathy Hirano is also clearly credited on the publisher’s website and by online retailers, which shows that she was included in the metadata.

Bravo to Godwin Books/Holt/Macmillan! The standard of naming the translator wherever the author is named appears in PEN America’s A Model Contract for Literary Translation (#11) and The Authors Guild’s Literary Translation Model Contract (section 11). Recent movements to ensure that crediting happens, and information about why it matters, can be found via the hashtags #NameTheTranslator and #TranslatorsOnTheCover.

Have you spotted other translations of children’s literature (picture books through YA) that do it all?

Examples of appropriate translator crediting from The Beast Player and The Beast Warrior:

Cover

Copyright page (The Beast Warrior)

Title page

Profiles

Publisher’s website (us.Macmillan.com)

Online retailer (Bookshop.org) / Metadata

Meet Master Editor Akiko Beppu

By Avery Fischer Udagawa, Bangkok

Akiko Beppu has edited many iconic works of Japanese children’s literature that are known in other languages, including English—books by Naoko Awa, Sachiko Kashiwaba, Yuichi Kimura, and 2014 Hans Christian Andersen Award winner Nahoko Uehashi, among others. Recently retired from Kaisei-sha Publishing Company, where she had been editor for some 42 years, Beppu-san has also supported SCBWI Japan since its very first event.

Earlier this year, the regional team invited Beppu-san to a special lunch in Ginza. Our write-up of this gathering includes an introduction to her many works.

Ready to meet a master editor? Join the Thank You Lunch for Akiko Beppu over on the SCBWI Japan blog.

Save the Date! SCBWI Japan Translation Day on October 20, 2018

It’s back! The biennial SCBWI Japan Translation Day will take place on October 20, 2018, in Yokohama—and feature as workshop leader Louise Heal Kawai, translator of Ms. Ice Sandwich by Mieko Kawakami. A “quixotic and funny tale about first love” for a boy in his fourth year of primary school, Ms. Ice Sandwich was published in English by Pushkin Press (UK) and Penguin Random House (US), and appeals to middle grade readers up. Publisher Adam Freudenheim will speak by prerecorded video about the novel and about Pushkin, home to several landmark translations about and for the young. In addition, speaking by prerecorded video from Seattle, translator Takami Nieda will discuss her rendering of Go by Kazuki Kaneshiro, an intense coming-of-age story featuring a Korean teen raised in Japan. Watch this space for the full program, and plan to join us in Yokohama!

Prior Translation Days: 2016 / 2014 / 2012 / 2010

Kamishibai, a Storytelling Form for the Digital Age

By Avery Fischer Udagawa, Bangkok

Kids distracted? You might try kamishibai.

Last month at the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) 3rd Asia Oceania Regional Congress in Bangkok, I co-presented on kamishibai with Etsuko Nozaka, a founding member of the International Kamishibai Association of Japan (IKAJA). The best part was watching Nozaka-san captivate the audience.

Etsuko Nozaka (right) performs the kamishibai Grow, Grow, Grow Bigger by Noriko Matsui.

Kamishibai (“paper theater”) involves presenting a story by sliding a series of cardstock sheets into and out of a small stage. The text of the story is printed on back of the sheets.

The sliding motions, bold illustrations, and shape of the stage elicit such strong concentration that Nozaka-san has seen her cat focus on a kamishibai story.

The publishing house Doshinsha has a video of toddlers focusing on kamishibai as well.

Video source: www.doshinsha.co.jp/product/kamishibai.php

The IBBY Regional Congress was themed “Children’s Books in the Digital Age” and featured sessions on promoting literacy in an era of screens and fast-paced entertainment. Kamishibai seems tailored to imparting story schema and nurturing focus, even amid distractions. It also elicits a strong sense of shared feeling, or kyokan, as a group enjoys a story together. (This can be difficult to achieve when reading a picture book to a large group.)

For those who wish to try kamishibai, the Doshinsha kamishibai page lists titles available for order in English and French, as well as the regulation kamishibai stage (butai). The IKAJA Kamishibai Newsletter, which I help translate, offers information about performance techniques, suggested works, and kamishibai activities in different countries. The digital newsletter can be accessed by all IKAJA members, and membership is dues-free. For details, contact: kamishibai@ybb.ne.jp 

In closing, here is a blog post about the kamishibai workshop in Bangkok, written by a participant who tried kamishibai for the first time that day:

Using Storytelling to Engage by Sara Khamkoed

Many thanks to ThaiBBY Secretary General Pornanong Niyomka Horikawa (below left), Etsuko Nozaka (below right), JBBY, IKAJA, and all who explored kamishibai with us in Bangkok!

Kamishibai workshop, 3rd Asia Oceania Regional IBBY Congress, May 2017. Photos courtesy Etsuko Nozaka.

Publishers Weekly Features Poet Misuzu Kaneko

By Deborah Iwabuchi, Maebashi, Japan

Are You an Echo: The Lost Poetry of Misuzu Kaneko has been featured by Publishers WeeklyIf you are still trying to decide whether to reserve a copy of this picture book from Chin Music Press, due out in late September, be sure to read this in-depth introduction and have a look at a few of the beautiful illustrations. Poetry by Misuzu Kaneko, text and translation by David Jacobson, Sally Ito, and Michiko Tsuboi. Illustrations by Toshikado Hajiri.

Screen Shot 2016-07-25 at 8.06.03

 

 

 

Japanese Children’s Literature “Dream Team” to Speak in Singapore

By Avery Fischer Udagawa, Bangkok

Pinch me! I cannot believe that next month, I’ll be at the National Library in Singapore for Asian Festival of Children’s Content 2016, rubbing shoulders with . . . AFCC 2016 Speaker Highlights

 

These are just a few speakers set to appear in the Japan: Country of Focus track at this year’s AFCC. A full list of Japan presenters is here. This dream team includes:

Akiko Beppu, editor. Ms. Beppu nurtured the Moribito fantasy novels by Nahoko Uehashi, which became bestsellers and the basis of manga, anime, radio and TV versions (the TV dramatization is airing in Japan over three years). In a show of confidence and initiative, Ms. Beppu commissioned a full English translation of the first Moribito novel. This move helped overseas publishers read the novel in its entirety and appreciate its true quality. Result? Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit and Moribito II: Guardian of the Darkness were published in English and other languages, won a Mildred L. Batchelder Award and Batchelder Honor, and paved the way for Uehashi to win the 2014 Hans Christian Andersen Award for Writing—a biennial award also dubbed the Nobel Prize for children’s literature.

Cathy Hirano, translator. Originally from Canada, Hirano has spent her adult life in Japan and become a leading translator of children’s and YA books from Japanese to English. She translated the middle grade realistic novel The Friends by Kazumi Yumoto, which won a Batchelder Award and a Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for Fiction. She translated Moribito and Moribito II, leading to Uehashi’s Andersen Award, a Batchelder, and a Batchelder Honor—becoming one of few translators to produce multiple Batchelder winners in different genres. Her first translation of the fantasy novel Dragon Sword and Wind Child by Noriko Ogiwara won so many fans that when it fell out of print in the U.S., it became a collector’s item and got republished, with a sequel. She is translator of Hanna’s Night by beloved printmaker-illustrator Komako Sakai.

fuji-2_320_320Kazuo Iwamuraauthor-illustrator, created the long-selling Family of Fourteen picture book series. This series—partially translated into English for the Japan market by the amazing Arthur Binard, and order-able from anywhere—portrays a clan of fourteen mice who bathe, sleep, cook, sing and play in ways quintessentially Japanese. It’s impossible to watch them savor their homemade bento lunches, doze off in their snug communal sleeping area, or view the full moon (from a special platform in a tree) without admiring Japan’s best traditions around family, nature and childhood. Mr. Iwamura’s books will make you want to move to Japan.

Kyoko Sakai, editor, shepherded the Family of Fourteen books and many works of kamishibai, for which her company Doshinsha is known worldwide. Yumiko Sakuma, translator, has brought famous children’s titles into Japanese, including the Rowan of Rin series from Australia and the book Of Thee I Sing by U.S. President Barack Obama. Dr. Miki Yamamoto, manga artist, has created stunning works such as How Are You? and Sunny Sunny Ann, and the wordless picture book Ribbon Around a Bomb. Satoko Yamano, singer,  is well-known for performing children’s songs in Japan, as is Toshihiko Shinzawa, singer. 

Naomi Kojima, illustrator, created the classic picture book Singing Shijimi Clams. Chihiro Iwasaki (1918-1974), artist, illustrated the novel Totto-chan: Little Girl at the Window, which is one of the world’s most-translated children’s titles. Iwasaki will be discussed by staff of the acclaimed Chihiro Art Museum, located in Tokyo and in Azumino, Nagano Prefecture.

Holly Thompson, Mariko Nagai, and Trevor Kew, authors who write from and about Japan in English, will speak about their vocation of writing between cultures.

Staff of the extensive International Library of Children’s Literature, part of Japan’s National Diet Library, will speak—as will representatives of Bookstart Japan, which provides picture books for newborn babies in more than half of the cities and towns in Japan.

I get to speak too, and I am quaking in my boots.

These folks have created a treasury of Japan children’s content, and helped to build the publishing world and literate society that support it. If you can be in Singapore on May 25-29, 2016, come hear this incredible dream team. Such a line-up of speakers is rare to see even in Japan!

Illustration © Naomi Kojima

Upper right: Logo for AFCC 2016 Japan: Country of Focus. Above: Illustration from Singing Shijimi Clams © Naomi Kojima

Andersen Award Sparks Interest in Nahoko Uehashi’s Moribito Series

Nahoko Uehashi (Goodreads)By Avery Fischer Udagawa, Bangkok

Author Nahoko Uehashi has smiled out from many a feature article, sales display, and book obi (advertising “sash”) in Japan since receiving the 2014 Hans Christian Andersen Award for Writing—a biennial award sometimes dubbed the Nobel Prize for children’s literature.

This past New Year’s Eve in Kamakura, I watched Uehashi help judge the TV special Kohaku uta gassen (Red and White Singing Contest)a celebrity sing-off as famous in Japan as New Year’s Rockin’ Eve in the U.S. Uehashi judged alongside figure skater Yuzuru Hanyu and other stars. Already a bestselling author, Uehashi is now a household name.

Her acclaimed Moribito novels have been adapted for radio, manga, and anime, and the first novel will become a four-part TV drama aired beginning this March in Japan. Overseas, rights to the full book series have sold in China, with rights to individual books sold in Brazil, France, Italy, Spain, Indonesia, Taiwan, the U.S., and Vietnam. In the U.S., the first two Moribito novels—translated by Cathy Hirano as Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit and Moribito II: Guardian of the Darkness—have won the Mildred L. Batchelder Award and a Batchelder Honor for publisher Arthur A. Levine Books, an imprint of Scholastic, Inc.

Haruka Ayase as Balsa (NHK)

Above: Haruka Ayase stars as Balsa in the upcoming NHK TV dramatization of Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit. 

Many readers of English long to see more translations of books in the Moribito series—as shown in comments to the 2014 post on our blog announcing Uehashi’s Andersen Award. Since 2014, this post has ranked among our blog’s top-three most viewed.

Have you treated yourself to a reading of Moribito and Moribito II? If not, both books are worth adding to your 2016 reading list. Happy reading, and Happy New Year!

Moribito I and Moribito II (Goodreads)

Above: Click to read more about Nahoko Uehashi and the Moribito series at Goodreads.

 

 

Publishing with Translators in Mind: Bento Books

bb_logo_full_largeBy Wendy Uchimura, Yokohama

An in-depth interview with the three founders of Bento Books, a publishing company that focuses on Japanese contemporary fiction, is now up on the SWET website.

Bento Books: A Translator-Driven Publisher

Alexander O. Smith, Tony Gonzalez, and Joseph Reeder talk about how they set up their company, spurred by dissatisfaction at the issues translators face in the publishing process, as well as the company’s acitivites in the market and its vision.

Titles available from Bento Books include the Math Girls and Math Girls Talk About… series, Cage on the Sea, and Avatar Tuner, Vol. 1. Click here for an interview on this blog with Gonzalez, the translator of Math Girls.

Museyon Releases Picture Books from Japan

Gon, The Little FoxNew York-based publisher Museyon has released several picture books translated from Japanese. These include Timothy and Sarah: The Homemade Cake Contest by Midori Basho and Gon, The Little Fox by Niimi Nankichi, illustrated by Genjiro Mita, both translated by Mariko Shii Gharbi and edited by Richard Stull. The publisher is Akira Chiba.
For an interview with Chiba and Gharbi, see Misa Dikengil Lindberg’s June 2015 post on the SCBWI Japan main blog: