Posts Tagged ‘Totto-chan’

Inspired at AFCC 2015

By Avery Fischer Udagawa, Bangkok

Last month I attended Asian Festival of Children’s Content (AFCC) 2015 as a delegate. I enjoyed exploring Chinese literature for children, as China was the country of focus.


Cover of Chinese picture book about a laborer’s holiday reunion with family in the countryside. Published in English by Walker/Candlewick as A New Year’s Reunion by Li Qiong Yu, illustrated by Zhu Chen Liang.

At AFCC 2015, I learned of intriguing Chinese picture books in a talk by author Mei Zihan. I learned at publisher Zhao Wuping’s talk that Japanese children’s books have fans in China: Tetsuko Kuroyanagi’s Totto-chan: The Little Girl at the Window ranks near J. K. Rowling titles in international bestsellers.

English translation of Totto-chan: The Little Girl at the Window by Dorothy Britton, published by Kodansha USA. Cover illustration by Chihiro Iwasaki.

English translation of Totto-chan: The Little Girl at the Window by Dorothy Britton, published by Kodansha USA. Cover illustration by Chihiro Iwasaki.

I learned of a project by publishers in China, Japan and Korea to create picture books about World War II. Many listeners hoped that the books will become available in English.


Hide-chan to yobanai de (Don’t Call Me Hide-chan), a Japanese picture book by Makoto Obo about the occupation of Taiwan. Published by Komine Shoten.

As a translator, I appreciated a debate about how to make the cultural bridge between West and East a “two-way bridge,” with Asian stories reaching non-Asian audiences. I drew inspiration from English > Chinese translator Chang Tzu-chang (Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin, The Tiger Rising by Kate Dicamillo) who fervently believes that children in the “global village” need world literature.

I heard Chinese > English translator Teng Qian Xi describe translating for a new anthology:


Lion Heart, Painted Thoughts: Children’s Literature from Singapore and China, a bilingual anthology published by Pan Asia.

Teng Qian Xi’s talk showed me that Chinese > English translation involves similar challenges to Japanese > English, such as handling reduced “compactness” when ideograms become long phrases.

Finally, I saw friends and colleagues! Watch the SCBWI Japan blog for a combined AFCC 2015 wrap-up by author Suzanne Kamata, illustrator Naomi Kojima, and myself of SCBWI Japan.

AFCC 2016 will feature Japan as country of focus. A large cohort of Japan-based speakers will appear, so plan a getaway to Singapore in 2016!

AFCC 2016 country of focus

Click to visit AFCC website.

In Memory of Dorothy Britton and Miyoko Matsutani

By Deborah Iwabuchi, Maebashi, Japan

Totto-chanInai inai baa

Recently the world of Japanese children’s literature lost two important figures. They are not connected—except perhaps in our hearts—but I would like to note their passing here and express great appreciation for their long careers.

Translator Dorothy Britton (February 14, 1922–February 25, 2015)

The Girl with the White FlagDorothy Britton was a translator known for her renderings of bestseller Totto-chan: The Little Girl at the Window by Tetsuko Kuroyanagi (above left), as well as The Girl with the White Flag by Tomiko Higa (left).

Britton was British but born in Japan, a survivor of the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake while an infant. She spent much of her life in Japan. The Japan Society in London had planned a launch (fully booked!) this month for Britton’s memoir, Rhythms, Rites and Rituals: My Life in Japan in Two-step and Waltz-time, but it was learned days beforehand that Britton had died. The launch became a memorial gathering. A Japan Society page provides more information on Britton’s eventful life and many accomplishments.

Author Miyoko Matsutani (Feb. 15, 1926–Feb. 28, 2015)

Little MomoAnyone who has raised a child in Japan since the 1950s will have read at least one picture book—and probably many—by prolific author Miyoko Matsutani. The titles perhaps most mentioned in Japanese media are Tatsu no ko Taro (Taro the Dragon Boy) and Chiisai Momo-chan (Little Momo, left), but many, many Japanese were introduced to reading as infants with Matsutani’s Inai inai baa (Peek-a-Boo, top right of post), published in 1967. My own children were! The Miyoko Matsutani Official Website offers photos and information about this beloved author, and the Goodreads website includes an English bio.

Matsutani enjoyed a writing career of some six decades, and dedicated herself to children’s literature. She opened up part of her home in Tokyo as a lending library, which she named Hon to ningyo no ie (The House of Books and Dolls). She was often on hand to read books to young visitors. The House of Books and Dolls remains open to the public on a regular basis.

A quick check online shows that many of Matsutani’s books have been translated into English. Many are no longer in print but available secondhand.

The works of Dorothy Britton and Miyoko Matsutani will enrich children’s lives for generations to come.

Dorothy Britton memoirThe Crane Maiden