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A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

31 Days, 31 Lists: 2018 Translated Picture Books

I guarantee you won’t find this grouping of creative characters anywhere but here, my friends.

Americans, I ask of you, do you know how lucky we are? We have access to a world of children’s books from all over the globe! Insight into the hearts and minds of other countries’ creators. Yet all too often we discard these titles as “weird”. Sometimes they are, I won’t deny it (see: Hiznobyuti) but open yourselves up to the possibilities people! It’s like I always say. Windows and mirrors are great but what’s the use of having a window if all you can see is your own back yard?

Note again that the bulk of what I’m seeing here is from Europe. Not really a surprise, but in the future I sincerely hope that we see a marked increase in titles from Asia, South America, Africa, and the Middle East. Let’s get some variety in here, people.

For the adventurous:


2018 Translated Picture Books

Ayobami and the Names of the Animals by Pilar López Ávila, ill. Mar Azabal

Translated From: Spanish


If this book strikes you as looking a little familiar, you may have seen it on the New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Books list this year. Or perhaps it was on a different “Best” list somewhere. Weaving together elements of folktales, a girl avoids being devoured by a hippo, a crocodile, a leopard, a snake, a spider, and a mosquito by promising them that she’ll give them their names on paper when comes home from school. And you know me. If you can make a book sound a bit like a folktale, I’ll follow it to the ends of the earth.

The Barber’s Dilemma and Other Stories from Manmaru Street by Koki Oguma and Gita Wolf


I kept putting this book aside this year but it kept coming back. Forbidding me from forgetting about it. Set on Manmaru Street in Tokyo, these are thoughts and doodles with tangential connections to one another. Kirkus kept comparing the magical realism on these pages to Shel Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends, which has got to be one of the goofiest, and most appropriate, comparisons this book is likely to get. Personally, I’d say that this is a book suited for older readers. Because it’s so funny and because it’s so strange, this is going to be for that kid liable to page through it again and again, getting something out of it that you don’t understand and, quite frankly, that they don’t really understand either. They’ll just like it. I sure do.

The Crocodile and the Dentist by Taro Gomi

Translated From: Japanese


The other day a fellow parent at my kid’s school told me he’d been asked to speak to his daughter’s second grade class. Did I have any picture book recommendations out there about doctors? And darned if my first thought wasn’t this book. Naturally I dismissed the notion since this is a story of a dentist, not a doctor, and I suggested Zog and the Flying Doctors (which was a big hit, apparently). Certainly if you’re a dentist who has to speak to a class, this book would be an excellent option. In it, a crocodile fears going to the dentist as much as a dentist fears helping the crocodile. Yes, there’s a bit of Doctor DeSoto to it, but ain’t nothing wrong with that. I heard a rumor that this came out an extraordinarily long time ago in Japan. If so, I just feel lucky we finally acquired it now.

The Fishing Lesson by Heinrich Böll, adapted by Bernard Friot, ill. Emile Bravo


Not to put Heinrich Böll in a corner or anything, but I wasn’t exactly expecting a droll, witty little book like this when I picked it up. Emile Bravo’s the one to credit to a large extent. Not everyone can adapt a 1963 fable with such effortlessness. Are you a fan of TinTin at all? You’ll see the influence of Hergé (purposefully) referenced here. At its core the title is about a tourist mansplaining all over a fisherman how he could expand his business. It has a clever denouement at the end that practically had me slow clapping in the break room where I was reading it at lunch. It’s actually one of my favorites of the year. Shh! Don’t tell the other books!

The Forest by Riccardo Bozzi, ill. Violeta Lopíz & Valerio Vidali, translated by Debbie Bibo

Translated From: Italian


You ever see that old episode of Will & Grace (I’m saying too much about myself with this) when Grace gets herself a blooming onion and finds herself incapable of leaving it alone. At one point Will it takes it from her as she says, “But I just found out it’s good with sugar!” That’s how I am with Bozzi and Lopíz’s The Forest. It’s good with everything. Heck, I opened my PW newsletter yesterday and saw an image of them reading the book to a group of kids when they were in town to accept their New York Times Best Illustrated Award. And, of course, it already appeared on my Calde-nott list earlier this month. The hits just keep on coming!

The Fox on the Swing by Evelina Daciūtė, ill. Aušra Kiudulaitė

Translated From: Lithuanian


My personal curse is that I cannot read the title of this book without immediately humming “Fox in the Snow” by Belle and Sebastian. There are worse curses to accrue in this life, I suppose. I first noticed this title when it received a starred review from PW. This is a more philosophical picture book than you’re likely to find on your average American shelves. It’s not wrong to compare this fox to the one in The Little Prince. She’s prone to the same kinds of ruminations. In the book a boy befriends her but, in time, must leave her. It hangs together better than I’m describing here. Full credit to the translation then. It reads as though it were always in English. Indeed, you’ll have a hard time figuring out how it was ever any other way.

Get On Your Bike by Joukje Adveld, ill. Philip Hopman, translated by Laura Watkinson

Translated From: Dutch


There are a lot of reasons why I love this book, not least of all the fact that it’s basically about a couple that fights, takes some time off, clears their respective heads, and apologizes afterwards. Did I mention that the couple involves two male characters? It’s subtle but if you look in the background photographs in their home you’ll see that they are far more than the “friends” some reviews of this book said they were. Now this is a surprisingly tall book for your shelves. You may find you have a devil of a time fitting it anywhere. Fortunately, it’s a charmer. Page after page reveals a wide assortment of creatures bicycling in the city, the countryside, and elsewhere. This title really sucks you into each scene. For more than just bike-enthusiasts.

Grains of Sand by Sibylle Delacroix, translated by Karen Li

Translated From: French


If you plant a seed you get a plant. If you plant grains of sand, what will that grow? There aren’t many books that are best read when a family has just ended a big vacation at the beach, but if that were a genre then this book would dominate it. It captures that let-down feeling you get when you have to return to your real life, as well as the way kids have of grabbing onto the fantastical in any situation.

The Grand Expedition by Emma Adbåge, translated by Annie Prime

Translated From: Swedish


And speaking of vacations, how about an adventure of camping in your own backyard? Quick question for you fellow Yanks out there, but is this something we do at all? I’ve seen it portrayed in a lot of imports over the years, but never once in an American children’s book. Surely we must do it too, right? Of course, I’m also grateful that it shows camping at all. Until recently, if a person walked up to my reference desk and asked for picture books about camping, I’d be flummoxed. Now we’re seeing a real uptick in titles. This trend, I like.

Hiznobyuti by Claude Ponti, translated by Alyson Waters

Translated From: French


When Ponti’s My Valley was published last year it was probably difficult to read near me, what with all my rapturous sighs and all. To my mind, it is the truest form of artistic expression, wrapped up in a sweetly surrealist story. Ponti’s return to the American stage came in the form of this translation, and boy is it one-of-a-kind! You ain’t seen nothing like this tale in your library before, folks. It’s a quest tale, of a sort, and an ugly duckling tale of another sort, and a hands down fever dream of yet another another sort. It’s also deeply charming and unlike anything else out there.

I Need All of It by Petra Postert, ill. Jens Rassmus


I was surprised by the degree to which I fell for this book, hook, line and sinker. It’s pretty simple on the outset. A kid explains to his dad why the objects in his pockets are of the greatest of importance. As the child imagines different situations behind the objects’ origins, the art changes significantly from the plain old black-and-white of reality to far more romantic fare.

It’s Springtime, Mr. Squirrel! by Sebastian Meschenmoser

Translated From: German


He’s baaaaack! You know I’m not including a list like this without my favorite red squirrel in tow, right? Someone mentioned the other day in a comment on my funny picture books list that they didn’t know a new Squirrel book was out. I have good news for them then. Another is slated for 2019. Oh wonderful, wonderful, most wonderful.

Jerome By Heart by Thomas Scotto, ill. Olivier Tallec, translated by Claudia Zoe Bedrick & Karin Snelson


Just a second . . . just a second . . . I know I have the description we wrote up for this book when we included it on the Evanston Public Library’s 101 Great Books for Kids list of 2018 around here somewhere. Lemme just . . . AHA! Here it is. I’ll just dust it off a second here . . . beautiful.  Ah-ah-ahem! “A remarkably sweet tale of two boys that love each other, and how just holding hands can sometimes feel like an act of resistance.”

The Most Beautiful Village in the World by Yutaka Kobayashi


At first kids reading this book aren’t going to find much happening. It’s the view of an Afghan village, and a nice one at that. There’ s a lot of life and variety at work, and for the most part this feels like one of those how-people-around-the-world-live types of titles. It’s only when you get to the end that you realize that this village is no more. The war happens. The people flee. There are a lot of anti-war books out there, but this may be one of the most effective because it shows rather than tells. The beautiful art doesn’t hurt matters much either.

My Little Small by Ulf Stark, ill. Linda Bondestam, translated by Annie Prime

Translated From: Swedish


Stand aside, Hiznobyuti! There’s a new peculiar book in town and it’s going to try to oust you from your odd little throne. From the land of Astrid Lindgren comes a story about loneliness. A Creature dreams of having something to care for. When a sun spark ends up in her cave she thinks her prayers are answered. The spark isn’t there to stay, though, and the Creature must, in time, let it go. It’s not really a motherhood tale and not really a friendship tale either. But it feels oddly honest about what it’s trying to say, and for that I found myself oddly impressed. I recommend giving it a whirl.

The Old Man by Sarah V., ill. Claude K. Debois, translated by Daniel Hahn

Translated From: French


The homeless in America are the visible invisible. We pretend to not see what’s right in front of our eyes. Maybe that accounts for how few stories about them for children there are. The Old Man is sympathetic to its protagonist, but that sympathy never turns into paternalistic pity. It’s forthright about what it’s like to live on the streets. In the book an old man has forgotten his name and is too ashamed to tell anyone. When he makes a chance encounter with a child, she gives him a little food, and, even more importantly, a name that he can remember. And we could go back and forth all day about what it means to name something and to give it dignity and pride, but I’ll save that for the upcoming “Message” list on Thursday.

On the Other Side of the Garden by Jairo Buitrago, ill. Rafael Yockteng, translated by Elisa Amado

Translated From: Spanish


How many of you are familiar with or remember the picture book Jimmy the Greatest? Released in 2012, that was the first time I encountered a book by Jairo Buitrago, and I was impressed. This book is far more meditative than that one, but the same sense of quiet acceptance permeates the pages. In this story a girl is spending a night with her grandmother and it’s the first time she’s been away from her parents. There’s something going on in her life that she doesn’t reveal to us at first, and with the aid of an owl, a frog, and a mouse she begins to find a kind of comfort in this new, unfamiliar situation. For older child readers, I think.

Queen Panda Can’t Sleep by Susanna Isern, ill. Mariana Ruiz Johnson, translated by VeroK Agency

Translated From: Spanish


Do you have kids that find going to sleep difficult? Meet Queen Panda. She can’t sleep either. In fact, I’d say that if you had to choose any animal to be wracked with insomnia, a panda is a pretty darn good choice (just check out the natural circles under those eyes, eh?). The story is peppy and fun, but the real standout here is, as you can see from the cover, the art by Johnson. It won’t cure your kids’ insomnia, but at least it’ll give them something to look at while they’re awake.

Time for Bed, Miyuki by Roxane Marie Galliez, ill. Seng Soun Ratanavanh

Translated From: French


And speaking of kids that have a hard time going to bed, meet Miyuki. She may be the greatest bedtime delayer the world has ever seen. Asking for another cup of water? To be tucked in? Child’s play. Miyuki shows you how it’s done. Before she can go to bed she has to “gather the whole Snail family together,” and “dance the last dance of the day,” amongst other things. Ratanavanh’s art, as you can see from the cover, gives it all the impression that you’re dreaming anyway. Imaginative and beautiful by turns.

The Truly Brave Princesses by Dolores Brown, ill. Sonja Wimmer, text edited by Eva Burke and Rebecca Packard

Translated From: Spanish


Like I wasn’t going to include this little wonder. You know what I may like the most about it? Its sense of humor. I’ve seen loads of books celebrating strong women this year but how many did it with a goofy smile? I give a lot of points out for goofy smiles. I give a lot of points to this book.

The Visitor by Antje Damm, translated by Sally-Ann Spencer

Translated From: German


Another book that’s appeared on a previous list. I was so gratified when it started getting a lot of attention from the gatekeepers. I can only hope we’ll see what Damm has coming out in the future.

Water by Subhash Vyam with Gita Wolf from the Hindi oral narrative

Translated From: Hindi


 You know, Baker & Taylor (my library’s distributor) categorizes this book as “Young Adult Nonfiction” and says the text is for teens as well. Can’t say as I necessarily agree, though I understand the instinct to catalog it that way. I’d say it was a picture book for older readers, certainly, but better suited to the 10-14 year-olds than those high schoolers. In it, we are asked, what is the price of water? The traditional story of seven sisters who bargain with the lake for water is contrasted with the very real contemporary story of small villages that have to pay the price for what the big cities do to them. The pictures, as you can tell, are ink-on-paper illustrations of Gond art. Environmental messages don’t often get such beautiful packaging. It helps that it’s written to appeal widely as well.

Interested in the other lists? Here’s the schedule of everything being covered this month. Enjoy!

December 1 – Board Books & Pop-Ups

December 2 – Board Book Reprints & Adaptations

December 3 – Wordless Picture Books

December 4 – Picture Book Readalouds

December 5 – Rhyming Picture Books

December 6 – Alphabet Books

December 7 – Funny Picture Books

December 8 – CaldeNotts

December 9 – Picture Book Reprints

December 10 – Math Books for Kids

December 11 – Bilingual Books

December 12 – Translated Picture Books

December 13 – Books with a Message

December 14 – Fabulous Photography

December 15 – Fairy Tales / Folktales / Religious Tales

December 16 – Oddest Books of the Year

December 17 – Poetry Books

December 18 – Easy Books

December 19 – Early Chapter Books

December 20 – Comics for Kids

December 21 – Older Funny Books

December 22 – Fictionalized Nonfiction

December 23 – American History

December 24 – Science & Nature Books

December 25 – Transcendent Holiday Picture Books

December 26 – Unique Biographies

December 27 – Nonfiction Picture Books

December 28 – Nonfiction Chapter Books

December 29 – Fiction Reprints

December 30 – Middle Grade Novels

December 31 – Picture Books

About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.


  1. Have I said how much I LOVE these lists? I look forward to every single one of them. I enjoy discovering new titles as much as I enjoy finding some of my personal favourites on the lists. And my year-end book cart orders are full of new beauties. THANK YOU a million.

    • Elizabeth Bird says:

      Aww. Thanks, man. They tucker me out but they’re fun to do. I appreciate the kind words.