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Archive for the ‘Books from/about Japan’ Category

For the topic of international young adult literature there are not very many subject guides, and the ones that do exist are not recent. Hazel Rochman’s excellent guide, Against Borders, only provides suggestions for titles up until 1993; Carl Tomlinson’s related Children’s Books from Other Countries (which includes young adults under the umbrella of ‘children’) was published in 1998; and finally, Susan Stan’s more recent The World through Children’s Books (which also includes young adults under ‘children’) stops at 2000.

A lot has changed since 2000 in young adult literature. Manga, and graphic novels now dominate our shelves, and fantasy and humor have experienced resurgence. Not only this, but globally things have changed too.

Given changes since 2000, what does international YA look like today?

To try and answer this question (on a small scale), I have updated the site with a list of 25 new and recent titles from 2000-Present. Some are award winning, some are popular, and some are hidden gems, but I think they are all worth considering as new and notable international YA reads to add to our bookshelves.

Titles come from all regions (Africa, Asia, Australia/NZ, Europe, Latin America, and Middle East), most are category #3 and #4 selections only (titles originally published abroad in translation or in English), and the list also reflects emerging trends in international YA with selected graphic titles – like Shaun Tan’s The Arrival (below) – alongside a broader range of subjects, like fantasy and humor, than might normally be found on many international booklists.

Each annotated entry includes:

  • author
  • country of origin
  • country/region of story setting
  • domestic publisher
  • plot summary
  • recommended age ranges for readers
  • * lastly, if relevant, there is also a note on format – i.e. all graphic novels in this list are marked with a ‘GN’

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theArrivalmain_061108050946837_wideweb__300x460Arrival, The (GN)

Tan, Shaun. (2007). New York: Arthur A. Levine Books. ISBN: 978-0439895293. 128 p. (12+). Country/Language of Original Publication: Australia; English. Setting: Australia/NZ (Australia)

Winner of numerous awards and accolades in Australian and internationally (including the New South Wales Premier’s Literary Award and the New York Times Best Illustrated Book 2007), this picture book describes the story of immigration told through the eyes of immigrants. There are no words in  this work; instead amid the fantastical cityscapes that Tan creates through artfully rendered sepia tone drawings, there are unusual symbols that mirror the initial frustration and confusion upon immigration to a new place. The Arrival beautifully captures the loneliness, excitement, fear, and wonder of moving to a different place that is sure to resonate with any reader.

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Want to see more titles? Check out International YA Today: 25 New and Recent Titles….

…and for even more titles check out my Retrospective and Expanded International YA (organized by region and country) that goes beyond this list of 25 ‘International YA Today’ titles.

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Moribito cover Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit

Nahoko Uehashi

New York: Arthur A. Levine Books, 2009

230 pgs, hardcover, $20.00 (CAD)

ISBN: 978-0670069651

A long time ago in the land of New Yogo, the Yakoo people believed that once every hundred years, the cloud spirit, Nyunga Ro Im, picked a guardian to protect its egg. If this egg survived, the weather would be good and crops would flourish; if the egg or the host dies, however, the Yakoo believed that drought and famine would strike the land. But, people do not believe this myth any longer – not since the ascension of the Torugaru royal family to rule New Yogo. The old Yakoo ways are considered outdated and superstitious, even radical. And then something most unexpected happens….

For 30-year-old Balsa, mystical and fantastical concerns are far removed from her day-to-day life. A bodyguard for hire, Balsa lives by her sword and trusts what she can see before her eyes. Then, by chance, Balsa saves the life of a boy falling from a bridge and begins a surprising and unexpected journey. Because this is no simple boy. He is crown prince Chagum, 12-year-old second son of the Royal Mikado—and guardian of the spirit, egg bearer for Nyunga Ro Im. To protect this boy, Balsa must learn to trust beyond the physical and accept that the intangible –the magical – is real. She must also fight the entire royal guard who has been directed to kill Chagum on the orders of his own father, the King. Because if the Nyunga Ro Im is shown to be real, if Chagum survives, then the whole ideology of the royal family, of the ruling power structure in New Yogo, could fall.  The magical beliefs of the Yakoo, dominated by the Yogo people for two centuries, would be revealed as true – not backwards or superstitious.

Winner of the 2009 ALA Batchelder Award for best children’s book published in translation, Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit is at once an adventure story with a unusual heroine, a wayward prince and vicious monsters, as well as a fictional re-imagining of medieval Japan full of magic, mystery and cultural transition. This is a recommended title for any YA library collection. It is exciting, engaging and – the best part – there is more Moribito to come. After the novel was originally published in Japan in 1996, it spawned several manga incarnations, a very successful anime series, and nine subsequent volumes in a Guardian series. The second volume in this series, Moribito II: Guardian of the Darkness, was recently translated in English with more volumes on the way.

Highly Recommended.

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translation

The Batchelder Awards are amongst the most popular and widely utilized awards for international YA – especially in North America, due in large part to the general prominence afforded the American Library Association (ALA)’s list of yearly awards (including the Batchelders, the Alex Awards, the Printz Awards and others). The Batchelder Award is awarded annually to the 1 children’s book considered to be the most outstanding of those books originally published in a foreign language in a foreign country, and subsequently translated into English for publication in the United States (Batchelder Awards, 2009). The award is also given to the American publisher who published the book in translation.

The Batchelder also nominates 1 to 3 ‘honor books’ and publishers each year for their noteworthy achievements. The Batchelder Awards are named after Mildred L. Batchelder, a former executive director of the Association for Library Service to Children, and 30 year member of the ALA who believed that the promotion of international books in translation could better foster understanding and acceptance across national and cultural borders (Batchelder Awards, 2009).

The ALA established the Batchelder Award in 1968, but prior to 1994 the award was only given solely to the American publisher of the book in translation — not to the book or original author. This precedent of awarding American publishers was part of an effort to support and encourage the publication of books in translation that can be a costly and time-consuming process for publishers—issues that still result in a lack of books in translation (Batchelder Awards, 2009). As noted by educator Gretchen Schwarz in 1996, “finding [international YA] titles is easier than obtaining books…[e]specially [because] books in translation may never come out in paperback, and they go out of print very quickly.” The scarcity of titles that Schwarz’s comment refers to is also found in recent publishing statistics: in a 2006 review of Publishers Weekly and other publishing resources, authors Maczka and Stock estimated that at any given time, the number of translated titles on US shelves may account for only 2-6% of total books (pp. 49-54).

Given these challenges, what books and publishers are the Batchelder Award honoring? This year’s award was given to Arthur A. Levine Books, an imprint of Scholastic Inc. for Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit, by Nahoko Uehashi and translated from the Japanese by Cathy Hirano (click here for my review of Moribito). This title was originally released in Japan in 1996, and was later made into a successful Japanese anime in 2007 (Anime News, 29 April 2009).

This is the 2nd time in 2 years that a Japanese novel has won this award—in 2008, Brave Story by Miyuki Miyabe also won the Batchelder. Brave Story is about a 10 year old boy who tries to change his destiny by undertaking a magical journey. Like Moribito, Brave Story was very successful in Japan upon its original publication and spawned a popular anime film (Anime News, 16 January 2008).

However, prior to Moribito and Brave Story winning in 2009 and 2008 respectively, the 27 previous Batchelder award winners and honored books of the past 10 years (since 2000) have almost exclusively been from Europe, save for 2 winning entries in Hebrew from Israel—2001 Batchelder winner Samir and Yonatan and 2004 Batchelder winner Run, Boy, Run. Beyond this, representation from Europe disproportionately favors Germany and France, which have 8 nominations/wins each since 2000. Furthermore, since the awards inception in 1968 there has been only 1 Spanish language entry (a 1994 win for The Apprentice by Pilar Molina Llorente) and one Turkish entry (a 1995 honor book for Sister Shako and Kolo the Goat by Vedat Dalokay).

Given these oversights, it is useful to remember that ‘the best’ that the Batchedler recognizes is very culturally and linguistically defined.

It does not cover international countries that originally publish in English such as Australia, India, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa and many others.

It also does not cover a broad range of countries or regions.

Since the award’s inception in 1968, only the following countries have been nominated or received the ultimate prize (# in parentheses indicates how many times the country has been nominated and/or won the award):

* Denmark (2)
* France (10)
* Germany (23)
* Greece (3)
* Holland (6)
* Israel (5)
* Italy (2)
* Japan (4)
* Norway (2)
* Russia (1)
* Spain (1)
* Sweden (5)
* Turkey (1)

No countries from Latin America, Africa or Asia (save Japan) have ever been nominated — and Germany has won and/or been nominated 23 times since 1968 — or roughly 35% of the time.

Given these oversights, as well as the Batchelder Awards lack of range within language and country groups (of the 5 times that a Hebrew language book has won or been honored, 4 of those books have been the work of author Uri Orlev), I think that any library should use this list as a good starting—not ending—point to compiling a list of great international YA.

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References

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