TSS: Some serious thoughts

It has been an interesting week, both in blogging land and in my personal life with the start of a new semester and it seems that I really have had a lot to think about.  I’ve been somewhat silent on many of the issues at hand, at least on my blog, I have been vocal in the comments, but it is important to me to publicly say what I think, because adding one more voice to the crowd is important.

There is first, of course, the question of whitewashing on book covers.  Magic Under Glass is a book I have not read, but it is clear that Bloomsbury made another big mistake.  I do not condone this and while I will not be boycotting the publisher (though I completely support those who are), I want to make it very clear that this is not okay.  It is completely unacceptable and I have a responsibility, as a reader, a reviewer, a purchaser of books, to make it clear to all publishers that yes, I (a white, middle class 20-something) will read and review and love books by POC.  This is not about liking a book just because an author has skin darker than mine, because no, I will not like every single book by or about a POC that I read and I will be completely honest about that, because to do anything less would be just as bad.  This is about reading about and becoming aware of  different cultures, and trying to understand.   With understanding, comes respect.  Thankfully, the blogging world is quick to respond to such things, and several new resources have arisen in the past week to help readers like me, who want to diversify their reading and make a point to put POC authors and books about POC characters in the spotlight.

Readers Against Whitewashing
Diversify Your Reading
POC Reading Challenge

Join one, join two, join three.  Or don’t join any, but do something if this is important to you.  Because no matter how small your voice is, and I know that in this big publishing world my voice is very small, you have the opportunity make someone listen.  So take advantage of that, use your blog for good.

But it is not all about POC.  It is about reading books that make a difference.  No, reading is not always about making a statement, but sometimes it is.  Why was I embarrassed when I was reading Twilight in public?  Why are some adults embarrassed to be reading a young adult book in public?  Because the book you choose to read says something about you, it informs the observer about you, whether you like it or not.  It just might get someone else reading the same kinds of books you are.   Not every single book I choose to read will make a difference, but I should make a point to tell you about the ones that will.  That is my philosophy and that is what I plan to keep doing this year.  One of my new years resolutions was to use the reading challenges I have joined (Women Unbound, GLBT Challenge, POC Reading Challenge) to make my reading more diverse and to raise awareness about people and cultures and issues that are different from my own.  Or even to explain, in the best way I know how, things that make my experience unique: by giving you a book to read.

Other thoughts on Magic Under Glass: Chasing Ray, Reading in Color, Color Online, 1330v.

Thoughts on the publisher’s decision about Magic Under Glass: Chasing Ray, Reading in Color, Color Online.

More thoughts on diverse reading: A Striped Armchair, Shelf Love.


In other news, I have some giveaways to announce the winners of!  Chosen by random.org:

The winner of René has two last names/René tiene dos apellidos by Rene Colato Lainez is:


The winner of Under the Ceiba by Silvio Sirias is:


The winner of a button from The Strand New York is:


Email me your addresses to regularrumination@gmail.com and they will be on their way!

Translation, multiculturalism and children’s books

I have a slightly different fare for you today, here at Regular Rumination.  As avid readers and promoters of books here on our blogs, we have the opportunity to bring to the forefront books that can make a difference, especially books that can inform readers about different cultures and different types of people.  I was recently given the opportunity to sign up to be a host for the Bronze World Latino Book Tours.  I have never participated in book tours before and I’m really excited for this opportunity to bring to the spotlight Latino authors.  One of the first books I received was René has two last names/René tiene dos appellidos by René Colato Laínez, a bilingual children’s books explaining the importance of having two last names in Hispanic and Latino culture.

As most of my regular readers know, I’m not latina, but I am getting my Master’s in Spanish and have worked a lot with the latino community in Virginia.  From working with women in crisis at a rape crisis center to teaching English on the weekends, it’s a community that has embraced me and I am thrilled to be working with Bronze World.  For my senior thesis, I wrote about the importance of bilingual education and having picture books like René has two last names/René tiene dos apellidos is an integral part of bilingual education.  What bilingual education can do, outside of language education, is cultural education.  When there is more understanding cross-culturally, we are a better society.  Understanding and education is the key to ending prejudice, especially among children.  That is why I started learning Spanish in the first place and why I continue to learn Spanish today.

René Colato Laínez  generously agreed to write a guest post for Regular Rumination.  In a bilingual education class, it’s possible that children would read the same book in English and Spanish, so an interesting topic of conversation is the translation of those books.  In this article, Colato Laínez discusses the difficulty of translating certain texts such as the popular Amelia Bedelia books.

The Art of Translation by René Colato Laínez

Due to high demand for Spanish literature in the United States, many books written originally in English have been translated into Spanish. However, translating a book into another language is not an easy task. Problems with names, idioms, rhyming text, and too literal word for word translation complicate the process. What does a translator need to take into consideration? What are the necessary elements to do a great translation and make everyone happy? Let’s look at the English and the Spanish versions of AMELIA BEDELIA by Peggy Parish.

AMELIA BEDELIA is a classic in children’s literature. Amelia Bedelia is a housekeeper who takes her instructions quite literally. She works with Mr. and Mrs. Rogers. The Rogers make a list of chores and tell Amelia to just do what the list says. She does everything she is told but the wrong way.

This is a difficult book to translate because it uses idioms that are very hard to translate from English into Spanish. The editors picked the well-recognized translator Yanitzia Canetti. Because Yanitzia had to change entire phrases in the Spanish version, the editors also hired a new illustrator, Barbara Siebel Thomas.

Yanitzia begins her changes on the first page. She changes the names of Amelia Bedelia employers. Mr. and Mrs. Rogers are now Señor and Señora López. This make sense, López is a very common last name in Spanish, just like “Smith” in English. Children will relate more to López than Rogers. However, Amelia Bedelia remains the same, because Amelia is a name used in Spanish. Yanitzia keeps Bedelia because it rhymes with Amelia. The combination of both names Amelia Bedelia sounds good in Spanish as well as in English.

The text at the beginning of the story is very similar in both versions. There is only a change in the illustration. In the English version Mr. and Mrs. Rogers get into the car and drive away but they are not alone, they take their dog with them. In the Spanish version the dog is missing. This does not make sense at first. The new illustrator has to eliminate the dog from the car because the dog will appear later in the story.

The text is similar in both versions until Amelia Bedelia reads the first thing on the to-do list.  In the English version, Amelia Bedelia reads, “Change the towels in the green bathroom” . Amelia changes the towels by cutting them with scissors.  It would be very easy to translate the original text  “Change the towels” to  “Cambia las toallas,” but in Spanish there is no confusion with this phrase. It only means, “take the towels and put new ones”. Yanitzia changes the text to “Cambia la cama” . This phrase can have two meanings, “Change the blankets” or “Move the bed to another location.” Amelia Bedelia moves the bed next to the door.

The same happens with the second item in the list, “Dust the furniture”. In Spanish it is used to say “desempolva los muebles”. An employer would never say “empolva los muebles,” because it means literally “dust the furniture.” Amelia Bedelia can make the mistake in English of dusting the furniture with dusting powder but in a Spanish it will not work at all. Instead, Yanitzia writes “Busca el periódico”. Amelia looks for the newspaper everywhere in the house and makes a mess. This phrase does not work very well in the Spanish version because it does not have a double meaning, but it works better than “Dust the furniture.”

Yanitzia does a great job with the next item in the list. Perry Parish writes, “Put the lights out when you finish in the living room”. You cannot translate this literally in Spanish. The best you can do is “Apaga las luces cuando termines en la sala”. The confusion in Spanish does not exist.  In the Spanish version the dog comes back into the story. Amelia Bedelia reads “Dale una vuelta al perro” .  This phrase can mean two things, “Take the dog for a walk” or “Flip the dog around.” Amelia Bedelia gets the dog that is sleeping in a sofa and flips him upside down.

For the last item on the list, the illustrator does not create a new illustration; she just alters the existing illustration.  “And please dress the chicken” will have no meaning in Spanish. “Rellena el pollo,” does not have a double meaning. Instead Yanitzia writes, “Y ten listo el pollo para la cena de gala de esta noche”. Amelia Bedelia prepares the chicken by dressing him with an elegant tuxedo, a bow tie, and black shoes.

AMELIA BEDELIA was very hard to translate. Luckily this will not happen with every book. If the book in English is written without wordplay or rhymes, it will not have to go through all this process. The translator only needs to use the right words because a word that is funny in English is not necessarily funny in another language. Sometimes an innocent word in English can be a bad word in another language.

I had the opportunity to translate my picture books from English to Spanish. I started WAITING FOR PAPA with “I wish Papá could be here with me.” I translated it literally to, “Deseo que Papá esté aquí conmigo”. I showed it to the bilingual children’s literature author Alma Flor Ada. She told me that it did not sound so good in Spanish. She suggested changing it to “Como quisiera que Papá estuviera aquí conmigo.”  Both sentences in Spanish are very similar. The first one is closer to the English version but the second one has more child’s language. “Deseo” (I wish) is a word for an older child. Instead small children say “como quisiera”.  Also, “como quisiera” has a more emotional impact in Spanish and it works better as the first line of the story.

Alma Flor Ada told me, “The best translation is the one not similar to the original text.”  I understand this to mean that when you translate something you have to have a clear understanding of both languages. You cannot translate word for word because you change or lose the meaning of the text. There are syntactical rules in languages that have to be followed, and you have to be sure that you are honoring those rules in both languages.

Parish, Peggy. Amelia Bedelia. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1963.

- – -. Amelia Bedelia. Trans. Yanitzia Canetti.  New York: HarperCollins

Publishers, 1992.

René has two last names/René tiene dos apellidos is a perfect addition to any children’s book collection because it introduces children to a culture that they may or may not be familiar with, explains an important aspect of that culture and is also an introduction to Spanish.  The whimsical art and educational narrative make this book definitely worth the read!

René has two last names/René tiene dos apellidos will be making stops at the following blogs on this tour: Joylene Nowell Butler, Tartamunda, Devourer of Books, Chronicle of an Infant Bibliophile, Latino Book Examiners, One Person’s Journey Through a World of Books, The Sol Within.

Other reviews: Orlando Latino.

René’s blog.

You can purchase René has two last names/René tiene dos apellidos on Amazon.  I received this book for review from the publisher as part of the book tour.