Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Batchelder Awards

In anticipation of the American Library Association awards announcement on January 14, Wizards Wireless has been discussing various ALA awards. So far, I've written about the Caldecott, the Newbery and the Printz.

Now, let's talk about the Batchelder. The Mildred L. Batchelder Award is presented to children's books that have been translated into English and published in the United States. The book has to have been previously published in another country and another language. Since 1979, the award has been presented to the publisher... not to the author. Part of the idea is to encourage publishers to translate books from other languages.

I had the pleasure of attending the 2007 Batchelder awards ceremony. Here was the list of winners and honor books:
  • Delacorte Press, for The Pull of the Ocean written by Jean-Claude Mourlevat and translated from the French by Y. Maudet.
  • Delacorte Press, for The Killer's Tears written by Anne-Laure Bondoux and translated from the French by Y. Maudet.
  • Hyperion/Miramax, for The Last Dragon written by Silvana De Mari and translated from the Italian by Shaun Whiteside.
I read both The Pull of the Ocean and The Killer's Tears and was struck by the fact that the same publisher Delacourte Press (and in fact, the same translator, Y. Maudet) received both a Batchelder award and a Batchelder honor. I was also impressed by the effort and skill of the editor (again the same person- although I can't seem to find her name anywhere). She was obviously fluent in French and English and had discovered both The Pull of the Ocean and The Killer's Tears and worked for years to bring them to press in the United States.

I think effective translation is a real art form and I'm delighted that the Batchelder exists. In all honesty, I wouldn't have read either book had it not been for the awards, and I would have been poorer for it.

The Pull of the Ocean is a creative and unique modern retelling of Tom Thumb, and it's one of the best books I read last year. The story is told from a variety of viewpoints, which I think creates a striking and memorable effect. Click here for an excerpt of the book.

The Killer's Tears is the chilling, surprising and eventually breathtaking story about the relationship between a young boy and the murderer of his parents. It stayed with me long after I finished reading it. Click here for an excerpt.

Here's a complete list of the Batchelder award winners and honor books from 1968 to 2007. Stay tuned for the announcement of the 2008 Batchelder Awards on January 14.


  1. I loooooooooooooooooooved Pull of the Ocean. You should also check out The Last Dragon-- I really liked the language in that.

    But I'm not keen on the publisher getting the award instead of the translator. Translators are so shafted by the industry... (I've read books that I've known were translations, but with no mention of who did the translating anywhere in the book!)

  2. Jennie- I'm so glad to find someone else who read and loved Pull of the Ocean!

    Actually, I did read The Last Dragon... I should have mentioned that in my post. You're right... very intriguing language.

    I agree with you you that the Batchelder award should go to the translator.