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Translators spread picture books about COVID-19 to kids worldwide
By:Wu Qiong   |  From:english.eastday.com  |  2020-04-15 12:16

Coming from Mexico, Laura is a Spanish interpretation teacher at Shanghai International Studies University (SISU). Other than preparing classes at home for the new semester, she has also been busy recently revising some picture books (translated from Chinese to Spanish) about COVID-19. “I like reading children's books, but I have never translated them,” she said. In her opinion, the fresh experience is interesting and meaningful. “It is also our responsibility to pass the anti-epidemic power to the next generation. As knowledge is power, these children's books can offer them a powerful weapon of knowledge.”

So far, Laura and her Spanish translation team have translated 11 picture books, which have been published on a website called “Life Tree Books” free to all readers around the world. “Life Tree Books” originates from a translation and reading program named “Picture Books about COVID-19 for Children Around the World” initiated by Zhang Mingzhou, president of the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) and an alumnus of SISU.

80 member units of IBBY have participated and promoted the website. The picture books will also be added by OverDrive into the archives of 45,000 libraries in 78 countries.

(The poster of the website is designed by Roger Mello, the 2014 Hans Christian Andersen Award Illustrator Winner)

Languages convey confidence

Around 200 translator volunteers at SISU took part in the program, helping to translating the Chinese original picture books into over ten foreign languages. The team members are mostly from the Graduate Institute of Interpretation and Translation (GIIT), while the others are faculty and students at the School of Asian and African Studies and the School of European and Latin American Studies.

(The English edition of “A Special Spring Festival”)

Professor Wu Gang, deputy dean of GIIT and vice chairman of the Shanghai Translators association, is responsible for coordinating with translators for this program. As he said, introducing Chinese picture books about COVID-19 is spreading love and positive energy to children worldwide. As the Chinese translator of “The Hobbit” and “The Call of the Wild”, Prof. Wu is experienced in translating children’s books. This time, he and his students wanted to utilize their expertise to instill confidence into global kids: “We are family. As long as we know more about COVID-19, strengthen multinational cooperation, and be confident in combating the coronavirus, we will prevail and usher in a bright future.”

(The Japanese edition of “Waiting for Father’s Return”)

(Prof. Wu Gang)

As project manager of the SISU translation team, Yu Yiling, an English Translation major at GIIT, has been busy dealing with plenty of deadlines. But she believes that all are worth it, as she can put what she has learnt into practice. “My perspective on translation has become subtle and unique after participating in the coordination of multilingual translation teams. In the past, my experience was limited to English translation, but this time I have to deal with so many languages. As such, my understanding of translation has been enriched,” said Yu.

As the program raised the attention and anticipation of more people, translator Ma Ainong (who translated the Chinese edition of Harry Potter), and other universities like Dalian University of Foreign Languages also volunteered to join the SISU team, according to Yu.

(Yu Yiling)

Books inspire kids

“I will definitely share the books with all the children in my family,” shared Laura, who gradually fell in love with these original Chinese anti-epidemic picture books when revising the translated editions. “The stories are interesting, with the lovely illustrators. I guess not only will children love them, but parents may feel that they are learning something new.”


Laura shared a story when she was revising the book “Agan Will Win” (“¡Vamos Agán!” in Spanish) which tells a story about how Agan (Wuhan’s well-known street food “hot dry noodles” personified as the protagonist), fights against the virus and finally wins. “One paragraph is very funny: After a few days of rest, Agan had his appetite back and ate a small bowl of hot dry noodles. Then he thought to himself: I even had a small bowl of hot dry noodles today. Don’t ask me why I eat hot dry noodles.”

(The Spanish edition of “Agan Will Win”)

After the translated books were released on “Life Tree Books”, Prof. Wu Gang shared the website with his twin sons. He was happy that they are interested in it. “Sometimes they go online to read the books. They can learn more about the pandemic, while improving their English reading comprehension ability.” Wu said, “They think their father is doing something meaningful by joining in this picture book translation program.”

The “Picture Books about COVID-19 for Children Around the World” program has so far obtained donated copyrights of books from more than 50 publishers and authors. Eleven books in multiple languages are now available on “Life Tree Books”, with an accumulative viewership of nearly 20,000.

Meanwhile, Wu Gang and Zhang Mingzhou are also promoting the website to more people and have received positive feedback.

Mr. Ahmad Jawad, who is in charge of the information department of the Movement for Justice Party in Pakistan, has also agreed to act as the international promotion team leader for the website. Jawad himself is a fan of children’s picture books, according to Wu. When the situation in Wuhan, the epicenter of COVID-19, was serious, Jawad sent his messages of encouragement with other Pakistanis to support Wuhan and China.

Besides, the Ministry of Culture of Iran has also recommended a picture book about COVID-19 and renditions in multiple languages can be shared with the program team and be published on “Life Tree Books”.

More people are now nourishing the “Life Tree” with love, to help children worldwide understand and brave the pandemic.

(Images courtesy of SISU, “Life Tree Books” website and interviewees)