Posts Tagged ‘Mariko Nagai’

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

AFCC 2014 (Part 1): A Japanese-English Translator in Singapore

Paul Quirk, Ena City, Gifu Prefecture

AFCC logoEarly this month I attended the Asian Festival of Children’s Content (AFCC) at Singapore’s National Library. As a translator of children’s literature, I found much to interest me.

I’ve broken up my report into three parts. The first is a general overview of the festival and the relevance of an event like this for translators of Japanese literature (from my personal point of view). The second is a summary of Cathy Hirano’s presentation on translating children’s literature. The third is my report from presentations by Bill Belew, a professor in social media marketing, who had some useful tips on how to get more people to come and visit your website.

Smiles at AFCC 2014

Smiles at AFCC 2014. From left: translator Cathy Hirano, translator Paul Quirk, Yuuki Hasegawa, author and SCBWI Japan Assistant Regional Advisor Mariko Nagai, SCBWI Japan Regional Illustrator Coordinator Naomi Kojima, author Evelyn Wong

1. Overview of AFCC 2014

The Asian Festival of Children’s Content (AFCC) is an annual event held in Singapore. It’s a place where authors, illustrators, translators, publishers, agents and others find out what is happening in the publishing world, share ideas, and find partners for their new projects. There are also events for librarians, teachers and parents, and so consumers and advocates of content for children can talk directly with the people creating content, giving them feedback as well as ideas for their next projects.

But to be totally honest, during the first day at the festival I was wondering whether it was such a good idea to be there. There were a lot of great authors and illustrators about, it was true, but I found myself asking, “As a translator, what can I get out of this?”

SCBWI Singapore books on display

I began translating children’s stories from two classic Japanese authors—Kenji Miyazawa and Nankichi Niimi—over two years ago, and publishing them online under the name of Little J Books. It’s still early days, but it’s something I really enjoy doing. My motivation is to create a way of introducing the kinds of stories that I like to other people who might be interested in Japanese literature. In future it would be great if I could get more translators involved, translating different authors, and get the books (with illustrations) into shops as well as online. But how do you go about doing that?

Well, I didn’t find the answer to this problem at AFCC 2014, but I did hear a lot of good ideas that could put me on the right track. I also got a lot better at explaining what I was trying to do. I realized that meeting people at an event like this is a great way to test out your ideas on people who share a lot of the same interests. It is also a great way to find out about all of the different authors and illustrators from around Asia, and listen to how their experience working with children’s books has changed their lives, as well as the children who’ve read their stories.

One more thing that I realized from attending the AFCC was that translators are well positioned to be promoters of content. Because we are bilingual, we can introduce (in the case of Japanese translators) our favorite Japanese authors and illustrators to the rest of the world, while at the same time introduce the rest of the world to Japan. Could anyone be better qualified to do that?

I had a terrific time at AFCC 2014, and in the end I got a lot out of it. A lot of ideas, a lot of contacts, and a lot of new friends. I hope I can make it back there again soon.

Hardworking volunteers at the SCBWI desk

Hardworking volunteers at the SCBWI desk

Here is a sampling of some of the presenters that spoke this year.

Sally Gardner, an award winning English author who has sold over two million books, spoke about how important it was to write from the heart. Don’t think about what kind of story sells, but ask yourself what kind of story you want to tell, and then write that story.

Fazeila Isa, a lecturer in early childhood and special education at the Sultan Idris Education University in Malaysia, used the example of the picture book Arabella by Wendy Orr and illustrated by Kim Gamble to demonstrate how a child with a disability can be incorporated into the story without the focus being on the disability.

There is a strong need for more books that incorporate people with handicaps into the story, or have them as the protagonists. Writers (and translators who choose to translate such stories) can help to empower disabled children through storytelling.

Mahtab Narsimhan (children’s author) and Cristy Burne (children’s author) gave a talk on how to create spine-tingling scary stories. One tool that both of these authors use to create tension is folklore. Mahtab uses fearsome characters from Indian folklore such as the Goddess Kali and Lord Shiva, and Cristy uses zany characters from Japanese folklore, such as an umbrella that comes to life and runs around on one ‘leg.’

Scary stories are an important tool for enabling children to overcome their fears.

Mariko Nagai, a poet, prose writer and author of Dust of Eden—and the Assistant Regional Advisor of SCBWI Japan—spoke about the topics of improving literacy and promoting cross-cultural understanding. She also pointed out something that is easy to forget, which is that poetry is an integral part of a child’s early education. Children may not understand the meaning of the poetry, but they love the rhythm and rhyme, and are quick to commit poetry to memory.

Mariko launched Dust of Eden during the AFCC. Dust of Eden is an important story that has been written with great sensitivity, about how a thirteen-year-old Japanese American girl and her family are placed in an internment camp during World War II. With so many children spending years inside refugee ‘institutions’ in countries such as Australia, it is a story that still has great relevance today.

Watch this blog for two more posts (Parts 2 and 3) about my favorite speakers at AFCC.